External doors: practical vs. pretty

We know that when building or renovating your home, the style and feel of your home is the top priority. And it should be! Colour choice is an easy way to embody your selected style – we’ve talked about it many times before, in regards to curb appeal, in case studies and even how to use a pop of colour to liven up your home. But, when choosing colours for your external door you need to ask yourself: does your colour work? Is it practical? And what’s the supplier’s warranty on paint colours?

When faced with the age-old question of pretty vs. practical – which do you choose? Is it possible to have both?  

Definitely! However, it is important to know that the colour you paint your external doors can affect the performance and the lifespan of your door. So, while considering the colour of your door, and how it can change the aesthetic and feel to the exterior of your home, there are a few more factors to think about beyond colour. And even more so when you are thinking about painting your door a darker colour.

Our doors and the Australian climate

Summer in Australia can be brutal. Some days the thermometer can approach 40°C with ease! When buying and choosing the colour you will paint your external door, where you live should be considered.

Climate, coupled with excess light exposure, can affect the composition of your door. Combine these factors with dark colour paints and you’re attracting even more heat to your door! And products in hotter locations, with excess sun exposure, are at a greater risk. Too much heat can warp your door, and its paint will degrade over time.

Light and heat exposure

Whether it is a front, back, or side entrance door, your external doors will always encounter some type of light. Be it direct sunlight or ambient light, there’s no escaping it! There is a bit of science behind light, so let’s break it down.

When light encounters an object, it can do three things: reflect, transmit or absorb. When it comes to doors, we deal with reflection (light bouncing off the door) and absorption (taking the light in). While we manufacture our doors to minimise reflection and absorption of light and heat, exposure to the elements is a factor to be considered as no timber door is weather-proof. However, light is more attracted to darker colours such as deep blues and reds. So your paint colour can help minimise the risk of sun damage!

Reds and blues form the base of some popular dark colours – some you may even be considering for your own external door (e.g. dark greys and blacks). It’s important to do your research by reading blogs like this, and looking into each brand’s warranty on paint colours, before making a purchase. Due to the light-to-colour attraction of dark colours, your external door could absorb too much light.

So, why does it matter if your door absorbs too much light? Well, Hume Doors are

Hume Doors are manufactured using different timber components that maintain an approximate 9-12 per cent moisture level. While this percentage is quite low, excess light absorption can still heat up the door and change the moisture level. This will cause your door (and paint!) to dry out, resulting in cracks and warps. In some cases this can even cause the door to expand – leaving you unable to close it neatly into the doorframe! These effects can also be accelerated or worsened by temperature variances from indoors to outdoors.  

Customer scenario:

It’s a hot summers day. It is 45°C outside. Your front, north-facing door has seen a lot of light today, but you aren’t worried. You are inside with the air conditioning on at 20°C. Lucky you! But not so lucky for your front door. It’s suffering from temperature variance issues.

The heat and light outside affect the external-facing side of your door, drawing out moisture from both the timber and paint. The internal-facing side of your front door remains cool, moist and unaffected. With the variance between both sides, it warps. Unfortunately, your beautiful, black front door is now out of shape. Oh no! Is your door covered by warranty? Does paint colour affect the warranty?

The importance of overhead protection

It may seem like these factors are beyond your control. But, while you can’t control the weather, you can protect your door from it! By providing adequate overhead protection, you are safeguarding your investment. It is important to provide protection for your door. This can be done by:

  • planning coverage for your entryway in your new build,
  • adding a verandah to your front entry, or
  • building a shelter above your door.

This overhead protection will minimise the amount of light and heat exposure your door receives. By simply planning, and being aware of a brand’s warranty on paint colours, you can prevent the warping, bowing and cracking of your new door.

Overhead protection also has the added benefit of shielding against rain and other extreme weather conditions. Be sure to check out our overhead protection guidelines. Here, we provide a formula for how much protection your door will require based on your location and which way the door faces. Overhead protection is often overlooked, but it’s a contributing factor when a door fails – especially when your door is painted a dark colour.

What do we think about door colours?

We think your house (and front door) will look great in any colour! But an ideal choice for door colour lies in its light reflective value (LRV). All paint colours have a LRV. The LRV tells you how much light is expected to reflect away from the paint, based on its colour. A door with a semi-gloss exterior, which has an LRV of 50-100, is ideal for an external door. This is because most of the light is bounced off the door, and not absorbed by it.

A screenshot of a cell phone

Description automatically generated
Figure 1: LRV Scale.

Throughout our 60 year history, we have found that dark paint colours (LRV<50) negatively affect our doors. Doors painted in these colours do not perform as well as those with lighter colours (LRC>50). This is even the case when tested in the same environmental conditions!

The fine print

All doors will suffer from wear and tear. We use them so often, it’s only natural for this to happen!

However, Hume cannot control timber beyond leaving the factory. We do all we can to ensure our doors are high quality, but the customer also plays a part. It is because we understand the science of doors, paint and their interaction with the environment, that we are unable to guarantee warranty for doors which are painted in darker colours (e.g. LRV<50). Familiarising yourself with the fine print of our warranty on paint colours could save you a lot of heartbreak and wasted money!

We want you to get the longest life out of your door as possible. Doors that have been correctly sealed and installed will help achieve this. And, by painting with a high LRV paint, and ensuring you have adequate overhead protection, you will be giving your brand new door the best care and ensuring it is covered by our five year guarantee! This will leave you to enjoy your home’s external appearance, without the worry of warping or paint fading.

So, when considering a new external door for your home, and comparing notes of pretty vs. practical, please read through our Guarantee and Care and Maintenance guidelines. That way, you can ensure you make the right choice for your home.