The Entrance Door

One of the most important, yet overlooked, areas in the rent-ready process is the entrance door. The entrance door is the imaginary line that separantes the common area from the resident's space. It is very important that the entrance door be well maintained and attractive at all times. A well-maintained entry will minimize future repair expenses, keep existing residents happy, and attract future prospects.

There are two groups of people to consider when addressing the condition of the entrance door. The first being the prospective or existing resident and secondly, visitors of the resident. Let's discuss the visitors first. When a visitor of your resident or a prospective resident stands in front of that entrance door a very important impression is made. The appearance and condition of the entry into the unit makes a strong statement as to how other areas of maintenance are addressed and the concern the owner has for the residents' safety. Residents want their visitors to feel good about the place they have chosen as their home. Usually that impression has been formed before they even walk into the unit. A poorly maintained entrance door can leave a bad impression that's almost impossible to dismiss, even if the inside of the unit is perfect.

The existing resident has just as much concern, if not more, about their entrance door. It provides the first line of defense against someone breaking in.

There are several areas to consider in order to provide the safest, easiest to maintain and most attractive entrance door.

1. Door Material - What type of door should be used?

    Hollow core doors are mainly used as interior doors. [They are inexpensive and lightweight, but do not provide much security.] A hollow core door is simply a wooden frame covered with some sort of veneer or Masonite. Hollow doors can be penetrated easily.

    Exterior doors should always be solid. Solid wood doors with panel construction are the best. The solid slab door, used mostly in apartment, is made of two outer faces of plywood or Masonite, with an inner core of solid particle board and only one inch of real wood around the edges. Solid core doors cost more and are much heavier and stronger than hollow core doors, therefore providing more security.

    The door should be cut properly to provide a good tight fit on both sides, top and bottom. If the weather stripping and threshold are in good condition, you should be able to "feel the door close." Gaps at the top or bottom that allow the weather to get in should be unacceptable. Residents do not like to pay higher utility bills due to a poorly installed entrance door. If you can see light where the door meets the jamb or threshold, air can pass through.

2. Hardware - Are the hinges and lockset working properly?

    Hinges are what allow the door to swing freely. If hinges are improperly installed the door will bind. Proper installation of hinges will increase the life of the door and minimize future repairs. I have seen many maintenance men sand a door or door jamb when in fact the hinges were the cause of the problem.

    A good quality, tight-working lockset/deadbolt is very important on the entrance door. Remember that anything the resident must touch every day is very important to keep in good condition. Residents sometimes won't tell you about a problem, but will think negatively about you every time they touch or use what's causing that problem. That type of negative impression only hurts your credibility.

    Entry locksets and double cylinder deadbolts should always be used on entry doors. The lockset and deadbolt should line up perfectly with the strike plates so that they keys work easily when turned.

    If there are any previous holes in the door jamb, fill or patch them. Most residents prefer one key for both locks. Locksets should always be either re-keyed or changes every time a resident moves out. All locksets and deadbolts should be installed at a uniform height throughout the complex.

3. Finish - Does the finish on the door look new and provide protection from the elements?

    It's easy to keep the entry door / door jamb always looking new. A fresh coat of paint or shellac should be applied during the turnaround unless the door was recently refinished.

    Do not allow residents to place any type of sticker on their door. This takes away from the uniformity of your complex and usually peels the paint when they are removed, if you can get them off. I have also seen pretty offensive messages on some of those stickers. Always have paint or shellac on hand in order to quickly remove graffiti or touch up scratches as they occur. Immediate walls surrounding the door jamb should also be freshened, if necessary.

4. Identification numbers or letters - Are they doing the job?

    Most apartment entry doors have a number or letter to identify the unit. These unit designations should all match in style and color. They should be easily read by the resident, visitors, and fire department. If the unit cannot be identified, the owner could be liable in an emergency situation.

5. Miscellaneous - Some other items to consider.

    If doorbells or doorknockers are used, be sure all are uniform in both type and location.

    A great number of apartment communities provide peep holes on their entry doors. Peep holes are a good idea because they allow a resident to see who is at the door before opening it. They are just one more precaution you can take to provide a little more security to the property and the resident. They are inexpensive and like other locksets, should be installed at the same height on each door.

    Kick plates installed at the bottom of the outside of the door are attractive. They can be used to prolong the life of the door that needs repairs to the exterior face of the bottom of the floor.

    Some apartment communities provide screen doors for their units. Screen doors usually require extra maintenance that's hard to charge off to the residents. I have seen some complexes allow the resident to install their own screen door at their own expense, providing they use only a pre-approved type and color and maintain it themselves.

Remember that the entrance door leaves a lasting impression. It just may be the one thing that makes the decision for the prospect to rent or keep looking.

Lou Hager is Directory of Property Maintenance for Advanced Management Company 714-951-6000

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