Client Reviews Custom High Performance Door Made by Hammer & Hand

chicago-ph-door-01“This is a premium door,” said H&H customer Ronald recently. “The door is beautiful to look at. I’m impressed with the quality of the construction and functionality. And its thermal performance rivals that of the surrounding walls.”

Like most of our clients, Ronald approached us to create something special for his home. He was in the midst of a comprehensive remodel and energy retrofit of his Naperville, Illinois home and wanted a premium entry door that combined great design with great thermal performance.

Finding the perfect door became a labor of love. With an electrical engineer’s curiosity about how things work and a design aficionado’s eye for elegant solutions, Ronald dove into research. He pored through Houzz and other design sites to help develop his vision for what the door should look like and how it should operate. He learned about high performance building approaches, like Passive House, and the advanced building components that make them work.

During this research Ronald stumbled upon Hammer & Hand’s video about the Passive House inset door that Woodshop Manager Dan Palmer built for our Karuna House project. And a unique, client-builder collaboration was born.

“I knew Dan had experience doing a thermally high performing door,” Ronald said. “So I asked him, ‘How about doing an overlay version?’”

(Visit our High Performance Doors page for more about our approach, including videos and specs.)

Here’s what Ronald shared about working with Hammer & Hand:

“My baseline objectives for replacing the entry door on my house boiled down to two key concepts: aesthetics and thermal performance. Aesthetically, I wanted a modern style door that fit in with the exterior color scheme and look of my house. On the interior, I wanted to use wengé – a beautiful, exotic wood – and the entry door was a great place to employ it. Wengé is a wood type that is far from desirable from a thermal performance perspective, so you would not want to build a door from solid wengé, but in this application it works well because it is being used as veneer on a super-insulated door.

The story of how I came to contact Hammer & Hand began with my attempts to procure a modern-styled entry door. At first, I thought that I had to use a European-built door to achieve my aesthetic and performance objectives. Most US door manufacturers do not make doors in the modern style that I desired. Those few US distributors who do sell modern-styled entry doors offer solid doors, not the high performance insulated ones available in Europe.

After encountering a number of challenges when attempting to procure a European-built door, I eventually contacted Hammer & Hand. What drew me to Hammer & Hand was the Passive House door that Dan Palmer built for the Karuna House project. And while that door was an inset door rather than the overlay door style that I was after (and is common in European Passive House doors), I could see that Hammer & Hand had the in-house engineering and construction competence to build the high performance door that I sought. I contacted Dan and asked if he would consider applying his knowledge to the construction of an overlay style door, and Dan took the challenge! In the end, the team at Hammer & Hand did a great job on the door; I would be surprised if you would get a better built door from a European manufacturer.

Another really nice aspect to having my door built by Hammer and Hand was that I was able to utilize Hammer & Hand’s competence in furniture manufacturing and expertise in grain-matching of wood. This expertise produced a stunning result in the furniture-grade presentation of the wengé on the interior side of the door.

I am not seeking Passive House certification for my remodeling project. I simply want to improve the appearance and thermal performance of the existing building envelope. I emphasize both because I was willing to make tradeoffs to achieve a balance; you ultimately have to live in your house, and aesthetic appeal is an important component in one’s sense of well-being while living in the house.


My remodeling approach has been to address the weak points in the building envelope; typically that’s the doors and windows. My house was built in the mid-1980s, and for a house built 30 years ago it actually had pretty good thermal detailing: 2×6 exterior framing with batt insulation and triple-glazed windows, although the triple-glazed windows of 30 years ago are probably more in line with the performance of today’s double glazed windows. But my bottom line was to make the doors and windows less of a weak point in the building envelope.

While I could have ordered a stock door from a European manufacturer, the Hammer & Hand door is fully customized. I was a bit apprehensive about undertaking a full custom door project because I was concerned that I didn’t have the expertise to make it work, but the project turned out great. Hammer & Hand had the knowledge to take care of the engineering details, which allowed me to focus on the design and appearance of the door. This, in turn, allowed me the freedom to specify the door that I wanted. On a project like this, you want good communication with the door builder and Hammer & Hand was great at keeping me updated throughout. I would have never been able to achieve this level of communication had I attempted to order the door from a European manufacturer.

You never know how a project like this is going to turn out; you start out with a vision and hope that the end result meets with your vision. In this case, the end result did not disappoint! I was so glad to have worked with Hammer & Hand on this. I was also impressed with the care and craftsmanship with which Dan approached this project because it was a project that was personally quite important to me. Dan is now my go-to guy for doors!

Having looked at a lot of doors, it is my opinion that Hammer & Hand completely obliterates the need to get European doors because Hammer & Hand has the competence to engineer and build high performance doors here in the United States.

I really believe that people who are going to Europe for their Passive House doors need to rethink their beliefs.”

P.S. Check out this video about Ronald’s Passive House door:

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