Exterior Doors - The Pro's And Cons Of Fiberglass, Steel And Wood

Sierra Pacific Doors

Wood, Steel, and Fiberglass Exterior Doors Compared

Replacing your front door during your home remodel will not only improve the look of your home, it's a smart energy saving investment. Installing an energy efficient exterior door can save up to 10% on your annual heating and cooling bill. With today's utility bills averaging around $2200 a year nationally, that can mean savings of $220 every year! A new door may pay for itself in just a few years.

So how do you find the perfect exterior door? Let's compare the three most common materials for exterior doors; Fiberglass, Steel, and Wood.

Fiberglass Exterior Doors

Fiberglass doors are available in a wide variety of styles colors and finishes and thanks to advanced manufacturing techniques, today many fiberglass doors accurately mimic the look of natural wood. If you're looking for a maintenance-free material, look no further than fiberglass.

Fiberglass does not react to climate so it will never expand or contract as the weather and temperature changes. In a reasonably protected location, a fiberglass exterior door will never need painting or staining and can last 15 to 20 years. Although it feels lighter than wood or steel, it is extremely durable and features an extremely durable coating that is difficult to breach. Plus, most fiberglass exterior doors have a foam core that is extremely energy efficient.

In terms of price, fiberglass exterior doors fall between wood and steel. Most models that are sold at the big box stores range in price from $150 to $600.

Steel Exterior Doors

In 2016 Remodeling Magazine published an article that installation of a steel cost $1335 on average and when their homes sold, recouped 92% of their original investment. A simple steel door can sell for as little as $200.00 – not including hardware, lockset, paint or labor) and a mid-grade steel door can typically be had for around $500.

Steel will protect your home from intruders, but it is only slightly stronger than a solid wood, or higher-end fiberglass door. While the low cost of a steel entry door is attractive you will have to compromise – then tend to have a shorter lifespan than both wood and fiberglass entry doors.

When exposed to salt air, or overly humid conditions and heavy rains a steel door will typically last only ten years on average. Despite the reputation steel has for durability, Consumer Reports found that under normal day-to-day use, and normal wear and tear, both wood and fiberglass outperform steel.

Steel exterior doors can dent when subject to heavy use. The damage can be difficult and expensive to fix. If your door will experience heavy use, major traffic, or be exposed to weather, you may want to consider fiberglass or wood.

Wood Entry Doors

Wood is still the most popular choice among homeowners, especially for high-quality remodeling projects. A solid wood exterior door has a substantial weight and feels luxurious. If you're seeking to impress with your entrance and quality is important, wood is the material for you.

Wood exterior doors are generally the most expensive choice among the top three with prices ranging from $600 up to $2500 or more excluding custom work. It also requires the most maintenance, although it's easier to sand out a scratch on a wood door than to repair a dent or scratch in a steel or fiberglass door. Basically, maintenance for a wood door consists of repainting or re-staining your exterior door every year or two in order to keep it sealed and protect it from warping or splitting.

If you're working to increase your sustainability, and energy efficiency, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI) offers certification that assures you that the wood used in manufacturing your door was sustainably grown and harvested. For the average homeowner to figure out the environmental impact of their wood door from harvest to manufacturing to shipping, and how much recycled material was used can be almost impossible. That's why an SFI certification is such a great benefit. Another certification to watch for is the doors Energy Star rating. If your door has these two certifications, you can rest assured that you are buying the highest quality, environmentally friendly product.

Choosing an Exterior Door

Finally, when choosing a door based on energy efficiency it's important to understand that the actual efficiency of any door relies on factors other than its composition.  An exterior doors energy efficiency is affected by the way it is framed, its inset windows and the type of insulation is used in steel and fiberglass doors. That's why it's always important to trust your remodeler. Here at Toulmin Cabinetry & Design, we sell Sierra Pacific doors and windows because they exemplify quality and value. Contact us if you have questions about door replacement. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss your project. 

About Toulmin Kitchen & Bath Design - We're West Alabama's award-winning, premier kitchen and bath showroom. We're experts who are known for a design-build process that makes the construction process stress-free. Contact us to schedule an appointment for a design consultation.