Replacing Your Entry Door: Which Material Should You Choose?

By Ellen Rogers


For many consumers, it’s tough to beat the beauty and character that a real wooden front door can bring to a home’s curb appeal. Some of the most common species used include mahogany, oak, walnut or cherry, all of which can be painted or stained a variety of colors and finishes.

But there are other options when it comes to the front door, and wood is not the most common material. Steel, followed by fiberglass, are the primary materials used for entry doors in the residential market, according to the 2015/2016 Study of the U.S. Market for Windows, Doors and Skylights from the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA). Together, these two materials make up 87 percent of all residential doors in the U.S. This gives wood a mere 13 percent of the market.

If you’re thinking about updating your home’s entrance, you’ll want to weigh all the options to decide which material is right for you. There are pros and cons to all of the front door options. How do you know what’s right for you? Here’s a look at some key considerations that can help you make your selection and find the perfect door.

Wood

If aesthetics are important to you, wood doors will be at the top of your list. There are hundreds of options to help you match the look and feel you want for your home. Many wood grains give a home a high-end look. These doors can be stained or painted, and scratches are repaired easily.

Wood doors can also pose a number of challenges. These include continual maintenance as well as a high price tag, with doors ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars. The material can be subject to swelling and rotting, as well as fading from direct sunlight. In addition, they aren’t always as energy-efficient as other material options.

If you still want the look of wood without the hefty price tag there are other options. For example, some doors are constructed of wood-veneer skins over an engineered-wood core, which helps minimize warping.

Steel

Steel is the most common type of material used in today’s residential entry doors. According to the AAMA study, it made up 47 percent of the market in 2016. Many homeowners find it’s a cost-effective selection with plenty of aesthetic options. According to Consumer Reports (https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/entry-doors/buying-guid), steel doors are relatively inexpensive and can offer security and weather resistance comparable to some higher-priced materials. They are also low maintenance, though they can dent easily. As with wood doors, there are some disadvantages. According to a Consumer Reports magazine study, tested steel doors didn’t always weather as well as fiberglass or wood doors in the abuse tests and the laboratory equivalent of torrential rain, strong winds, and a decade of wear and tear.

While these doors typically are considered low-maintenance, the dents may be difficult to fix, and scratches may rust if they aren’t painted promptly. They also conduct temperature, so may feel cold or hot to the touch.

Fiberglass

Fiberglass makes up 40 percent of the entry door market, according to the AAMA study. Many fiberglass-composite options are in the same price range as steel and are insulated with dense foam. They do not dent or rust, and are available with a smooth skin that can be painted or a textured skin that can be painted or stained. They can also come with a wood grain. Because of the foam core, these doors are designed to be an energy efficient option.

According to the Consumer Reports study, fiberglass doors resist wear and tear better than steel. They are also moderately priced and dent-resistant, and require little maintenance. One consideration, though, is that they can crack under severe impact.

Aluminum

Though not a common option for residential doors, aluminum is sometimes used. It doesn’t rust, but the powder coat finish can be damaged. These doors, which are custom-built to your home’s opening, could be an option if you’re looking for a long warranty. These entry doors typically have a 10- or 20-year warranty that covers a range of features and components, such as insulating glass and hardware.

Other Options

Now that you know more about the material choices when selecting a door for your home, there are also some other options and features to keep in mind. Glass sidelites and transoms, for example, can be added to help increase the curb appeal that the entry offers. Some homeowners opt for an adjustable threshold, which can help keep the door weather-tight over time.

Other points to keep in mind:

  • When buying a complete entry system, make sure all components come from the same manufacturer. This helps ensure all parts are in perfect alignment.
  • If the door includes glass panels, look for low-E glazing, which helps improve energy performance and efficiency.

Do Your Homework

When you’re ready to make a purchase, it’s ideal to see the doors in person. Many dealers and distributors have a showroom you can visit so that you can get a close look and feel for what the door will bring to your home.

Also, keep in mind that door installation requires skills and expertise. You’ll want to be sure to work with an expert who will ensure the job is done correctly.

And, don’t forget to read the warranty so you know exactly what’s covered. Also, ask lots of questions to ensure you’re getting the door that’s right for you and that it’s installed by a quality contractor.

Following these steps will help you find the entry door that’s perfect for you and your home. Now that you’re ready to shop, look to Glass.com to start your search for door dealers and distributors near you.

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