Summer showers bring tons of mud tracked into the house. A good doormat can stop dirt at the door. But grime-busting is not the only consideration.
"You want a nice presentation," said Shaun Gordon, manager at Westlake Ace Hardware in Shawnee, Kan. "When someone comes up to your door, the doormat is the last thing they see before they come in your house, because you always look at your feet when you go over the threshold."
Todd Dean, owner of Loma Vista Hardware in Westport, Mo., agreed. "The front porch or entryway sets the tone for the rest of the home," he said. The doormat should be as attractive as possible and harmonize with the rest of the entryway. At the same time, it has to stand up to the weather conditions to which it will be exposed.
"It's a balancing act," Dean said.
Many doormats are made from natural fibers, such as coir, derived from coconut husks; sisal, which comes from a fleshy native Mexican plant; and jute, a fibrous Asian plant used for making rope. These materials handle dirt and mud well but can rot if exposed to excessive moisture.
Rubber, also a natural material, is used alone in industrial doormats or as a non-skid border or backing on fiber mats. It can take a beating but lacks the refined look of natural fibers.
Newer high-tech choices include woven polypropylene that simulates coir; cheesecloth with a protective coating; and coated cast aluminum. All are tough enough for exposed situations.
The woven polypropylene is better suited to back doors because it looks like plastic.
Coated cheesecloth is a good choice for homes in urban neighborhoods, but it lacks the necessary scale for a supersized house.
Standard-sized mats (18 by 28 inches) fit standard-sized doors. Oversized and double doors need oversized mats. As a rule of thumb, the mat should be about 80 percent as wide as the door.
Coated cast aluminum has a rustic cottage look that fits both the style and needs of avid gardeners. Jackson & Perkins Co. (www.jacksonandperkins.com) carries a cast-aluminum mat that looks like a mass migration of deeply textured frogs and has large spaces between them for dirt clods to fall through.
Gardeners also should consider placing an attractive boot scraper near the door. New ones are sold at the same places that carry doormats, but better sources are flea markets and antique malls. Vintage boot scrapers are unique, charming and often more durable than new ones.
If your entryway is sheltered, such as a screened porch or an interior hallway for lofts and apartments, your options increase. Dean recommended half-circle looped pile rugs similar to those used in front of fireplaces.
Whatever type you choose, replace or recycle it around to the back of the house when it starts looking ratty. "Those things you don't always think about are the things other people notice," Dean said.