Janet Combs (copy)

Janet Combs

The next time you walk through an exterior door, please pause a moment and think about how that door got there. Run your hands over the frame and hinges that work so perfectly together, then get down on the floor and marvel at how solid the threshold is, and how it’s precisely the right height for a comfortable step. Open and close the door a few times and let yourself be astonished that you can’t see sunlight through the edges or feel wind gusting. The seal is everything in a door — if you don’t have a good one -- you’ll be forever stuffing cheesy little hand-sewn snakes up against it when the temperature drops.

Try to summon up a spark of door gratitude, people! Because that door that you walk through probably wasn’t always there — somebody decided it would be a fulfilling Saturday activity to cut a hole in the wall and put one in. At least, that’s what happened to us. And installing a new door is a lot more involved than it looks.

Early years of playing with “Colorforms,” skewed my idea of how easy it would be to put in a new door. If you are reading this column to your visiting grandchildren, just skip over this paragraph as it will take you an entire half day to explain the concept of this creative activity to the digital generation. Colorforms, as some of you will recollect, were a fantastic toy that let you use your imagination to decorate what was basically a thin cardboard box preprinted with an ordinary scene like a home, a field or a school with flimsy plastic cut-out figures and items.

Putting in a door on a Colorforms home was as simple as peel-and-stick. How much harder could it be in three dimensions? Cut out a hole, pop in a door and you're done. But first you have to visit the home improvement store’s vast hall of doors, which is just as dizzying as a carnival’s hall of mirrors. There are wood doors, fiberglass doors, metal doors, doors with no glass, decorative glass, half-glass, three-quarter glass, full glass, blinds between the panes, no blinds. Now multiply that list by 19 to the 10th power, which is approximately way too many doors, because the doors that are not on display are pictured in the voluminous catalogs of various vendors.

After a couple of hours, narrow it down to “Do we have any Advil in the car?” and go home exhausted. Order any old door online -- when it is delivered you will be ecstatic -- mostly because you got out of the home improvement store’s hall of doors alive. Warning: never open the last door on the aisle — it is the "Tomb of the Unknown Homeowner," who deliberated too long over argon versus krypton gas fills between the door’s window panes.

Speaking of a crypt-like ambiance, my husband has a workshop in our new home. It’s a really a long, narrow, dark, enclosed space between the supporting piers below the house. It had one solid door and a couple of florescent lights. Since we were not planning to do any international spy interrogations down there, we thought it would be a distinct improvement to allow some natural light in by adding a second door with windows.

My husband has put in hundreds of doors throughout his career. Therefore, he makes putting in a door sound like, well, playing with Colorforms. The reality is, it will take you a full day. You are going to have to put some muscle into it with a sledgehammer, and there are also many painstaking, precision measuring and fitting tasks involved, but I don’t know what they are because I went upstairs to get some iced tea.

The door is installed now and we walk through it all the time, remarking about how it has transformed the workshop space from claustrophobic to comfortable. Call it an open-and-shut case on the power of home improvement.

Janet Combs is a freelance writer living in Georgetown County. Contact her at www.janetfrickecombs.wordpress.com.