home & garden

Fiberglass Entry Doors vs. Steel or Wood


By Rebecca Wicks

A new exterior front door can add substantial curb appeal to your home without costing you a fortune. Today, there is an array of door styles in a multitude of price ranges to choose from. Available at home center stores, lumber yards or through contractors or special retailers, viewing and ultimately purchasing a new front door has never been easier. When it comes to exterior doors there are three main choices of materials to chose from – fiberglass, steel or wood.

Fiberglass doors offer the highest durability in any climate. It is virtually maintenance-free and will not warp, rot, dent or split. In some cases fiberglass doors can even be painted or stained. Fiberglass doors also offer an equal or better energy rating as wood but without the high heat transmittance of steel. Fiberglass is ideal for extreme heat or moisture climates or for sunny south-facing uncovered entryways.

When fiberglass first appeared in the market it looked and felt like plastic, the wood-grain an obvious cheap rendition of the real thing. While some fiberglass doors are still distinguishable from wood when a closer look is taken or when tapped on, there are some high-end fiberglass doors which are impossible to tell apart from wood. Like most products, there is a range of prices for fiberglass doors. Performance between these doors is generally close with the exception of extremely cheap fiberglass doors which may crack or its finish deteriorate quickly. Price differences in the category of fiberglass are based mostly on aesthetics.

For some, nothing will beat the warmth and natural rich appearance of a wood door. Most doors can be designed to meet strict code requirements in hurricane-prone areas and are available with fairly high fire ratings.

Natural elements including sun and humidity are a wood door’s natural enemies. Wood will slowly display use including scratches and cracks. Re-finishing is likely necessary, frequency depending on the climate and where the door is situated. Wood doors can also warp when exposed to high-moisture.

There are two types of wood doors – solid core and solid wood. A solid core door is usually comprised of a piece of plywood or laminate with a thicker piece of backer behind it. Refinishing may only be performed a limited number of times especially if the laminate is thin.

A solid wood door is 100 percent wood through and through. It will be heavy, secure and can be always be refinished. A solid wood door will be expensive, possibly the most expensive choice with the exception of some very high-end fiberglass doors.

In many instances steel is a practical choice. It offers high security and resistance to humidity will not warp, is low maintenance and available in a range of styles and colors. Perhaps most appealing, they are very affordable.

On the flip side, steel doors can easily be marked – showing dents and scratches. Because they are constructed of steel they also conduct heat – sometimes resulting in a door hot to the touch – as well as transmit cold.

There is a huge range in quality and price when it comes to steel doors. The gauge of steel door will tell you how strong it is – the higher the number, the thinner the steel. 24-guage steel doors are common, but should be considered temporary as they can rust and fall apart. Look for at least a 22-gauge which offers thicker steel that won’t bend or flex and holds paint well. Gauge numbers lower than 22 are generally used for commercial or industrial applications.