I had a friend who, when asking for directions, would become so enthralled by the respondents’ mannerisms, hair style, or clothes, that they were never able to hear the directions. I have a similar affliction in restaurants. I’ll study the menu, order something, and always be surprised by what’s eventually delivered. In some odd way I enjoy it.

Friends recently purchased an exterior door for a new space they’re building. They had a similar lapse in concentration during the ordering, so were a bit surprised at what was delivered. The door will still work out fine, but it involved a bit of a plan change and getting over some annoyance at themselves. Exterior doors are expensive, and current lead times range from a few weeks to months. In an effort to avoid work slowdowns or needless self-annoyance, let’s look at how to order an exterior door.

When I refer to ordering a door, I’m actually talking about ordering a complete unit. A door slab hung in a frame with threshold and possibly trim. Not just taking one existing door off its hinges and putting a new one in its place. After we decide on the material — wood, steel, fiberglass or another composite — the door profile, and if it will be solid or have glazing, our next concern is size. The door size is not the same as the size of the framed rough opening. It varies, but most doors require a rough opening 212" larger in both width and height. I recently ordered a 3' 0" x 6' 8" exterior door. The rough opening size is 3' 212" x 6' 1012". Next up is handing. Handing is the direction of the door’s swing. Continuing to use my recent door as an example, this is how you establish handing. Stand in the doorway with your back against the side of the frame the hinges will be on. In my case, facing the rough opening from the exterior, I want the hinges on the left. Standing with my back to the left, the hinge side, I raise my hand in the direction of the swing. I want my door to swing into the room, so I raise my left hand. The door is a left-hand inswing. If I wanted it to swing out, I would have raised my right hand, making it a right-hand outswing. So, back against the hinge side jamb, hand raised in the direction of the swing. Into the room is inswing, out of the room is outswing. Now let’s look at the thickness of the jamb. The jamb thickness is the thickness of your wall, from exterior sheathing to the face of the interior wall surface. Mine? 9116". The threshold, which is the base of the frame that you walk on or carry your sweetie over on your wedding night, can be either solid or adjustable. I’m a big fan of adjustable thresholds. They allow a strip of the threshold to be either raised or lowered, making for an excellent seal with the base of the door. You can also up the efficiency of the door by opting for a three point locking system. This is a mechanism that securely draws the door to the frame for added security and weather tightness. These are slick but will double the cost of the door. A bore isn’t just the person at the party talking about how to order a door; it’s also the holes in a door. Single doorknob? Single bore. Door knob and deadbolt? Double bore. Hardware finish. This is when you choose the finish of the hinges. Just like baby names these choices wax and wane in popularity. 30 years ago it was bright brass. 10 years ago, brushed chrome. Now? Rubbed bronze. Exterior trim. You can choose the trim profile, or you can choose to not have trim applied.

There are additional options available, including having the door pre-finished. Here’s what my recent door order looks like.

1 exterior door unit. Fiberglass door, wood/composite frame, Smooth Pro. 3-0, 6-8. Single unit. Inswing. Left hand. Single bore. Square corner hinge. Satin nickel. 91⁄16" frame. Aluminum adjustable sill, mill finish. 54 x 4 trim applied.

The order also has the details of the type of door and color of the weatherstripping. The door has what’s considered a 34 view glass panel, flush glazed in a four-lite pattern, a 2 over 2. The price is just below $1,100 and the lead time is two months.