The first thing that anybody at all sees of your house is the front approach and the front door. So, seeing as first impressions count, neatness doesn’t just start inside the front door – it starts at the front gate.
One of the first things you will have to bear in mind if you are planning out a path or driveway is that it should be obvious which door is the main entrance and exit. In urban homes, this is usually the front door. In rural houses, it’s often the back door. Make it obvious to visitors which one to use – the old-fashioned welcome mat in the right place can help, as does arranging things like boot scrapers, pot plants and the like near the main door. If you’re putting in a path, make sure the path leads to the main door.
The property should be welcoming from the moment your visitor leaves the street and enters your property. If you have a front gate, is your gate easy to open? A gate can and should have a child-proof lock to stop small children running into the road, but this child-proof lock only needs to be child-proof, not adult proof – nobody likes a complicated mechanism that pinches fingers if you don’t get it right. If you have dogs on the property, while it may make sense from the security point of view to have “beware of the dog” on the gate, this can be alarming to innocent meter-readers and postal workers. It may be best to set things up so the dog is running free in the back section, allowing people free access to the front door, but there to do the business if the caller is there for nefarious purposes.
The path should be free from obstacles. Too many people are injured by tripping over items left on paths in the dark. Yes, the front path may be an excellent place for somebody to learn to ride a bike or a skateboard, but skateboards can be lethal left on paths. So can hoses, bottles, garden implements and toy cars. Let’s not even start on unpleasantness like dog dirt.
Sweeping the path should be a weekly domestic cleaning London job (at least), or more frequently in autumn if leaves are about.
The front door itself should be fitted with something so that callers can announce their presence without battering their knuckles or scratching your paintwork with jewellery. Provide a knocker and/or a doorbell. Make sure that the doorbell works and that you can hear it clearly in most parts of the house.
Battery operated doorbells are handy and easy to install, with a range of interesting chime tones, but the batteries do wear out eventually, so have spares on hand. Door knockers should be easy to use, and should be kept polished, especially if they’re brass, and lubricated so they operate smoothly.
A shabby front door makes a bad first impression even before your caller gets inside. Many of us forget to dust around the outside of a door, but this does need to be done, even if less frequently than inside dusting. Peeling paint is an appalling sight on a front door, and should be the first thing painted when you have a painting session. Also make sure that welcome mats are clean enough to wipe boots on. To clean a welcome mat, take it a good way from the house, hold it up and give it a good shaking and banging. You may also need to hose any dirt off – dry it flat before replacing it.
A boot-scraper is a nice touch, especially in winter. Buy one, or make your own out of the head of an old stiff broom – simply “plant” it handle downwards or nail the head onto a board.
The other thing for front doors is more for you than a visitor: security. Install deadbolts on the inside, and have a security chain on the inside so you can half-open the door and see who it is before fully opening the door. Another alternative to a security chain is a peephole or even a security camera. While having a spare key handy in case you lock yourself out is a good idea, don’t put it anywhere obvious like under the doormat or in the pot plant nearest the door. Be more imaginative in where you keep your “secret key”.
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