Make your own, affordable door-lite kits for your front entry doors

DIY front doorCrestview Doors has temporarily discontinued their door-lite kits. I received a number of emails from readers about this change, and also about the company’s recently announced price increases for fully constructed doors with doorlites. As an example, in May we priced a Nokona door with reeded glass, prehung, delivered, at $769. Last month, the company raised the price for this particular configuration to $2,542. (Prices for Redi-Screens also increased dramatically.)
In the wake of these developments, I wanted to point out that if you were planning to buy a Crestview door lite kit, you likely can get a door-lite(s) made locally — quite affordably. Case in point: In a story about her delightful round house a few months ago, ingenious reader Sarah told us how she added door lites to her doors — for just $30, total (she did the carpentry herself). Read on for Sarah’s instructions:

In the original story, Sarah told us:

As for the door, we replaced a single door with two side lights, for double doors. The double doors were just two plain wood slabs, and we had our local glass company make the window boxes for us.

The dimensions of the windows are 5″ wide x 57″ high with a “cotswold” or “rain” texture. The glass lady tried to convince me not to pick this texture because it reminded her of a shower door, but I didn’t listen LOL. I like it, and I think it looks period.

The round escutcheon is just flat cut steel that a local metals shop cut for us then cut in half. The diameter is 22 in and we spray painted it bronze. The handles are appliance pulls that mimicked the design of the tiles.

Make your own door-lite kit:

To summarize:  Get a wood slab door… Go to your local glass store to make the door-lite (more info below)… Then, get your contractor or a carpenter or a friend or loved one with mad skillz to put the two together.

Because carpentry skills are required, this project would not be an easy peasy DIY. But then, I think you would have needed a carpenter to install the Crestview door-lites, too.

I checked on prices at my own glass shop

I live in a small town and have done lots of business with our local glass shop, Lenox Glass & Door. So I called Carl and asked him about all this. Hardly skipping a beat, he said, yes, he could make “thermo-pane” any size I want. It would be two pieces of glass sandwiched together. The trick, he said, would be getting the carpenter to cut the hole or holes in your door to the correct size — then, give the glass shop the correct measurement for the thermo-pane(s). Thermo-panes in hand, the carpenter would then install them, and then trim them. Each thermo-pane would sit inside (centered in the depth) of a typically 1-3/4″ door, with trim around the thermo-pane,  inside and out, to hold it in.

Perhaps the thermo-pane is also glued in first? This I am not sure of. I am sure a trained professional carpenter would have a good idea what to do for safety and security.

While I was talking to Carl, I went to look at my steel storm door. Yes, it’s pretty easy to see how the glass thermo-pane window fits into the door…

I asked Carl how much he would charge for a thermo-pane made 5″ wide by 24″ tall. He said $75 – and it would be tempered glass.

I also asked Sarah via email how much she spent on the long tall door lites for her two entry doors. She emailed:

It was super cheap… I think like $30? For both! They are double-paned and came as a ‘window box’. We just added the wood trim (scrap we already had) to give it a better looky…

Lesson: Know that costs may very regionally and/or Shop Around.

One more thought: If you want a very very sleek looking entry door, talk to your carpenter about finding molding that sits inside the flat panel of the door yet still can hold the glass in.  That is: Don’t have the molding stick out on top of the door like a picture frame. Surely it is possible for the molding that holds the glass in place minimized, essentially hidden, with the door face itself remaining one flat plane? I don’t know how hard it would be to do this. It seems like it would definitely required more finesse, more patience.

front entry doorUpdate: Over on our Facebook page, Linda added the image above and told us her experience using both Crestview and a local source on two adjacent projects:

Glad to see this DYI article Pam. I installed a Crestview doorlite kit…and felt that I would have had better quality/cheaper/no more hassle to do it DIY with the local glass company that installed the pane of glass next to my door (and sealed the rattly doorlite kit windows). BTW the kit windows are framed out (raised) on both sides of the door.

mid century front doorSecond update: Reader Jen told us about her door DIY project:

In Portland, I had my windows made at 52nd Ave Hardware in SE. They were $63 each, tempered with reed texture. The door was from the The ReBuilding Center of Our United Villages. I had originally planned to go with Crestview, but this was local and cheaper. Happy we can talk about DIY!

Sounds like her doorlite holes were already cut. Jen explains further:

The door had slate tiles in place of the glass (super strange), so we just restored it to its former glory. It did have that amazing escutcheon on it, though! The hardware is from the Schlage commercial line (did split finish with brushed copper inside).

Give Crestview a break

That said, now I want to talk about Crestview and their decision to move decisively up-market. CEO Christiane Erwin wrote this letter explaining the change. On the company’s Facebook page, I see they also acknowledged mass market competition.

I have seen some strong reactions about this change in some online comments. My main message: Cut Crestview some slack. They gotta do what they gotta do. I can only imagine how difficult it is to run a business like this.

Based on what they’ve said, and from what I know about the market, I can understand what I *think* is the rationale for their decision: Now that mass marketers are coming in to the market, they need to redefine where and how they can compete. Case in point: The recently introduced Therma-Tru doors. A small firm like Crestview likely would have a very difficult time competing against the marketing muscle and distribution network of a mass marketer like Therma-Tru.

Crestview has always been a very hands-on, labor-intensive-sounding enterprise … focused on fine craftsmanship. I only ever heard good things about them. To make a business and survive, you must be able to make money. This dramatic change to their business model — moving “up market” to handle high end customers who can afford what it costs for this kind of service — seems to me, totally understandable.

So, I understand. Let’s all wish them well. They were pioneers. Kind of like this blog, I like to think. Our companies both started right about the same time, before there was a mid mod mad boom, all on the bet that there would be one.

I know the price increase is very aggravating if you were thinking you’d buy a door soon. But let’s be kind, okay? Especially because there are other solutions. Remember, (1) you now can get mid century style doors with door lites in fiberglass or steel from Therma Tru.  (2) As we’ve described today, with some ingenuity, you can source your own door lite kit locally. And (3) shop for vintage at the ReStore. A pain, but can be done.

Finally, I asked Crestview if they wanted to comment on my story, I told them I was doing a story about how to DIY a doorlite kit and sent them my “give them a break” commentary just above. Emily Belyea, Crestview’s marketing coordinator, promptly responded:

The decision to temporarily discontinue the Doorlite Kits and update our pricing was a response to the demand for high-quality hand-crafted, custom projects and the rising costs of sustainable materials. The new changes allow our design team and production staff the time to work closely with customers on transforming their concept into a unique masterpiece. This commitment to exceptional quality and highly-specialized design standards is very important to us and critical to our growth within the door and millwork market.

With that being said, we realize this transition has come to many people as somewhat of a shock and disappointment. We have and will always support the DIY movement. While our DIY options are temporarily unavailable, we encourage you to pursue other alternatives to get the exact look and feel you desire, no matter what the circumstances.

We are happy to say that we stood beside Retro Renovation in pioneering the current mid-century modern boom, and can’t thank you enough for your continued support and appreciation.

Note: Yes, the price changes were steep, doggonit and drats so that party is now over. But, I will not approve, or I will delete, comments that are not “civil”, judged by moi in accordance with the Retro Renovation commenting guideline, “No one can be made to feel bad for their decisions.” Especially when it comes to something like decorating. I very much wish Crestview good luck in this next chapter in their journey.

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  1. Michael Rice says

    I bought a little MC Ranch in San Antonio Back in July, Pink roman brick with pink mortar, Love it.
    One of my first projects was to replace the front door with something period correct from Crestview until I saw and was stunned by there price increase. OK, so they want to go up market, best of luck but they are not getting my money.
    An old and respected Door, Lumber, Veneer Company here in SA is making a custom three lite door to my specs for $255.00. Solid core, birch faced, prehung, solid lumber used in door and frame (no finger joints) pre drilled and ready for glass, finish and with oak threshold.
    This company was making MCM doors in the 50’s, so i don’t think Crestview pioneered anything. Bottom line, thank you Crestview! You saved me alot of money.

  2. Nathanael Kitchen says

    I was so excited when we found our door at the restore here in Beaumont, Tx. We got it for 35$! We had decided against Crestview but weren’t finding a finished product for much cheaper once you factor in shipping or having one custom made. I encourage everyone to keep looking. MCM craze has definitely not reached this part of Tx. So sometimes that means we find great deals. Will keep you updated on the finished cost of glass and labor. We are working with a contractor, so that will be added. Keep looking for those deals!

    • Maureen Bajeyt says

      It seems that Crestview isn’t actively operating their business at the moment. The website is up and there’s a section to leave your information; I guess for when they’re back up and running. It was disappointing not receiving a return email, but I am becoming more creative in how to tackle the problem of finding a new front door.

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