Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.
The front door is the entrance to your castle. It not only has to look presentable to your guests, but it also has to be sturdy enough to keep any invaders from entering your house. Therefore, you will need a door that fulfills both purposes. However, depending on your situation, the type of door you choose will vary. Standard options to choose from are doors made out of steel, wood, and fiberglass.
What are the advantages of steel, wood, and fiberglass doors? Steel doors tend to be the cheapest, most secure, and most low maintenance doors. Wooden doors are the easiest to repair and the most fashionable. Fiberglass doors tend to be the best at insulation and withstanding the effects of weather and wear.
In summary, all of these doors have their unique advantages, and they each have a place in different situations. However, in order to determine which door is the best for you, we need to take a more in-depth look at each door, including their respective advantages and disadvantages.
What to Look for in a Front Door
As previously stated, your front door is the first impression not only to your guests but also to any intruders looking to enter your house. They are also a barrier between the inhabitable spaces inside of your home and the elements of the outside. Therefore, the features to look for in a front door are insulation, durability, maintenance, cost, and style.
Insulation refers to a door’s ability to contain and block temperatures from inside and outside your house. The way doors can achieve this is through the properties of their respective materials, such as absorption and density.
Most homeowners in hot climate areas look for doors that can keep the intense heat outside their house while keeping the cold air, usually from air conditioning, inside. On the other hand, homeowners from colder regions will want to keep the warm air inside while keeping the cold wind out.
Durability refers to a door’s ability to withstand damage such as wear and tear, but most importantly, the ability to withstand the elements such as heat, cold, moisture, etc. with as little damage as possible.
Another critical factor that we’ll be looking at is how easy it is to break a door down since this aspect is essential when thinking about preventing or hindering home invasions.
Maintenance refers to the frequency that a door needs to be repaired or taken care of and also how easy it is to carry out. It includes operations such as repainting, replacement of components, cleaning, etc.
Maintenance is necessary primarily due to damage from the elements. But this will also include preventive maintenance to keep your door in good shape and avoid further costs so that it can last for as long as possible.
Cost and how it affects your budget is perhaps one of the most essential factors to pay attention to. It not only refers to the initial price that you have to pay for purchasing your door, but it will also relate to long-term fees from owning the door (such as part replacement and maintenance) to determine if the price paid for purchasing and owning the door is justified.
The style will possibly be the most challenging aspect to rate due to its subjective nature since it heavily depends on the user’s situation and preferences. However, some objective values that we will be looking at are a variety of customizations, such as colors, and how well they can replicate a wooden texture since all three doors seem to aim mostly for that style specifically.
Now that we have outlined the elements that we will be looking for in each door, in order to rate, compare, and contrast them, let us move on to how each individual entry goes about fulfilling them.
Steel doors tend to be the most common doors available in the market. They are typically used in commercial applications. However, they are also seen in modern style homes and, more recently, in tiny home designs.
When it comes to insulation, most steel doors tend to do a great job of keeping the air from inside your home and the air outside separated. However, some steel doors can get incredibly hot to the touch under high temperatures and possibly warm up the area around them.
Doors are the most and possibly the least durable and, although this sounds ironic, it is due to two main reasons. The reason why steel might not be the most durable type of door is that they are very prone to seeing damage from the elements, especially moisture. Dents and rust might prove fatal for your steel door if not properly taken care of.
On the other hand, steel doors are the most durable when we are talking about home invasions. Sure, the outer layer may be easily dented and compromised due to the elements. However, if the objective is to completely go through it, you might need something a little more powerful because this door will not break down easily.
Steel doors need one type of maintenance, and this is simply to avoid rust. In order to prevent rust, make sure you do not get your steel door wet when using a hose and make sure to keep it dry. Also, any scratches will possibly create rust, so they must be repainted. Dents are the only other maintenance, but they are incredibly difficult or even impossible to fix.
Steel doors are, on average, the cheapest doors available in the market. However, when it comes to the costs of owning a steel door, be ready to spend money on paint to avoid rust, and, in the event you happen to get a dent on one, you might have to purchase a whole new door.
Regarding style, steel doors tend to be very dull and neutral unless they are embossed with a wood grain-like pattern in order to make them look like wood. They can also be painted in a variety of colors. However, a type of paint different from that of wooden doors might be needed.
Wooden doors are the oldest and most traditional type of entry used in residential homes. They are generally what comes to mind when thinking of a door. Wood doors have a unique warmth and feel, making it the preferred choice for many people.
Regarding insulation, wooden doors are perhaps the worst at keeping the air from inside your house and outside separated. And not only that, very high temperatures can cause your wooden door to split and or crack.
Wooden doors are perhaps the most sensitive since, as previously stated, high temperatures could cause severe damage to them. They are also susceptible to damage from moisture. What’s worse, is that a wooden door is relatively easy to break down by a home invader. However, wooden doors have a redeeming factor for their lack of durability.
Wooden doors are the easiest to repair since they are made of different parts made out of the soft and universal material that is wood. They can be easily repainted and can withstand wear and tear pretty well. However, they do require constant repainting and varnishing in order to make them last at their highest potential throughout the years.
Wooden doors tend to be the most expensive. However, the costs of owning one may or may not even out depending on your situation. If properly taken care of, they are very cheap to maintain. However, wooden doors are sensitive. If any severe damage occurs to them, then buying another one could be costly.
Wooden doors are the most customizable and possibly the best-looking since they own the warm and welcoming wooden texture that most doors try to achieve. They are very easy to paint with a wide variety of colors available for them; this is undoubtedly the main factor that justifies their price.
Fiberglass doors are the newest addition to the door market. They tend to be good choices for custom applications since they come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be individually customized if needed.
When it comes to insulation, fiberglass doors are possibly the best at keeping the air from inside your house and outside separated. This is thanks to their non-porous and non-absorbing material, and because the interior is filled with insulating foam.
Fiberglass doors can resist all temperatures without suffering any damage. They can withstand wear and tear moderately well and will not dent. Their foam core protects them from absorbing moisture and its consequential damage.
However, they can crack if they take a severe impact, which makes them non-ideal when dealing with preventing home invasions.
Fiberglass requires very little maintenance or perhaps none at all. They have pretty long lifespans since not much can affect them other than severe impacts. However, in the event that your fiberglass does happen to crack, repairing them will be difficult if you wish to make it seem like the damage never happened. Perhaps buying another door might be needed.
Fiberglass doors are moderately expensive to purchase. However, the real highlight is in the price of owning one. Since a fiberglass door requires such low maintenance or none at all, perhaps the only money that will be spent after purchasing it will be on painting it another color if you wish to do so.
Fiberglass doors can be either plain or designed to imitate the texture of a wood grain pattern. They can be painted in a variety of colors.
Now that we have thoroughly dissected the advantages and disadvantages of each door, let’s take this information and compare and contrast each door type with one another. We will be comparing two at a time to go into detail at a deeper level.
Wood vs. Steel
- Insulation – In terms of insulation, steel seems to be the clear winner since its material is non-porous and less absorbent than wood, also since high temperatures can crack and even break wooden doors.
- Durability – A steel door is ideal when dealing with home invasions since they are virtually impossible to break without the use of heavy equipment. However, wooden doors are more resistant when it comes to wear and tear since steel doors can bend, and a scratch might cause rust, which could prove fatal to the steel door. Steel doors are a bit better at surviving the elements.
- Maintenance – Wood seems to be the better option since, despite wood requiring more periodic preventive maintenance, they are pretty easy and low-cost to repair and maintain. On the other hand, steel doors must be checked continuously for moisture, repainted, and are difficult to repair in the event of a dent.
- Cost – Steel is better for your wallet as long as it is adequately taken care of. The average purchase price for a steel door is definitely much lower than that of a wooden door. However, a steel door is more prone to receiving damage that could force you to purchase a new one.
- Style – Wood is the winner since it offers a broader variety of readily available paint colors, and it has the original wooden door look that some steel doors seek to aim for and is much better than the plain style of other steel doors.
Steel vs. Fiberglass
- Insulation – When it comes to insulation, fiberglass and steel tend to be equally capable of separating the air from inside and outside. However, fiberglass would win over steel due to the simple fact that fiberglass doors do not absorb high temperatures as much as steel does.
- Durability – In terms of strength, it really depends. Fiberglass can definitely resist the elements and wear and tear far better than steel does. In fact, fiberglass is almost unscathed by the elements, moisture being the big one. However, a steel door is much more resistant when it comes to home invasions. A fiberglass door could easily crack while a steel door is almost impenetrable.
- Maintenance – A fiberglass door is usually ahead of steel in this department since they require little to no maintenance at all. On the other hand, steel doors need to be continuously repainted and searched for any signs of rust.
- Cost – Steel doors are cheaper to purchase than fiberglass doors. However, the price of owning one over the long run is lower for fiberglass doors. They require much less maintenance than a steel door and have pretty long lifespans.
- Style – Regarding style, steel and fiberglass doors are on more or less similar standing since they both try to imitate the color and texture of a wooden door. However, some steel doors go for a plain pattern, making them mostly unattractive.
Fiberglass vs. Wood
- Insulation – Here, a fiberglass door is better since it is not as porous, and it does not absorb as much temperature as a wooden door does; this is thanks to the foam interior of fiberglass doors.
- Durability – A fiberglass door wins in strength since it is basically immune to the elements and wear and tear. In contrast, a wooden door is so susceptible to the weather that high temperatures could crack it. However, there is no clear winner in terms of withstanding home invasions since they are both just about as capable of being broken down.
- Maintenance – When it comes to maintenance, fiberglass is better since it requires little to no maintenance. On the other hand, a wooden door not only requires repairs for any damage caused from wear and tear and the elements, but it also has to be repainted and refinished almost annually as a protective measure and to make it last longer.
- Cost – Regarding price, fiberglass is, once again, the winner since, on average, they tend to be cheaper than wooden doors. Additionally, the cost of owning a fiberglass door is basically non-existent since they do not require as much maintenance as a wood door does.
- Style – When it comes to style, wooden doors are better solely because they have the original wooden door look that most fiberglass doors try to emulate. Both types can be easily painted in a wide variety of colors.
To summarize, fiberglass and steel are better than wood at insulating the home. However, steel can be too hot or too cold to the touch under extreme conditions. When it comes to durability, fiberglass is the most resistant to the elements and wear and tear. However, steel is the best at withstanding home invasions.
Regarding maintenance, fiberglass doors require little to no maintenance, but severe damage could be way too challenging to fix. Wooden doors are the easiest and cheapest to fix, yet they require annual maintenance to stay in shape, and steel doors require the most maintenance due to them being particularly easy to rust and dent.
When it comes to price, wooden doors are the most expensive to buy while steel doors are the cheapest. In the long run, a fiberglass door would be the most economical to own if adequately taken care of. And lastly, when it comes to style, wooden doors tend to be the winner since they have the original wooden door look that steel and fiberglass doors try to emulate.
Now that we have outlined each door’s qualities and compared them to each other, let us move on to how these results translate to real-life needs and situations so that you can choose which door is best for you. This will be making vast assumptions about your situation, but you may be able to apply your situation better than anyone else.
How to Choose a Door Depending on Your Situation
The situations we will be looking at will try to give an example of how insulation, durability, maintenance, price, and style translate to real life and which door will be best for each situation.
Based on Where You Live
- If you live in an area that is too hot or too cold, a fiberglass door would be the best option for you due to its superior insulation and, unlike steel doors, they do not get too cold or too hot to the touch.
- If you live in an area where it rains continuously, that is too moist, or that has high temperatures, then a fiberglass door would be the best for you since they do not suffer from damage caused by moisture, and they do not crack like wood. However, if you live in an area where home invasions are a likely possibility, then a steel door will be ideal for defending your house.
- Similarly, if you live in an area that has a lot of moisture and high temperatures, a fiberglass door will save you a lot on maintenance, since they are resistant to wear and tear, and they require little to no preventive maintenance.
Based on Price
When it comes to price, how much you are willing to spend may be affected by how much damage you expect your door to receive over time. A steel door is right if you expect a home burglary that could severely damage it, and you can easily replace it since steel doors are the cheapest of the three types. However, if you don’t expect your door to undergo severe impacts, a fiberglass door is much less expensive in the long run. Yet, this is ultimately decided by your wallet.
Based on Style
Lastly, if your focus is on style, then a wooden door will definitely be the right choice for you. Wooden doors have the original wooden door look that steel and fiberglass doors try to replicate. Additionally, wooden doors can last for many years if properly taken care of.
Other Things to Consider About Front Doors
Note: All of the aforementioned information and conclusions about steel, wood, and fiberglass doors were done thinking only about the panel’s material and without considering other additional factors such as the door’s lock mechanism, hinges, and glass panels:
- When it comes to home invasions, it is imperative to consider the lock mechanism since, no matter what material the door is made out of, the lock mechanism is usually the first part of the door to be compromised. Therefore, if you are going for a steel door for security reasons, make sure you get a lock that is equally or nearly as strong as the door itself.
- Hinges are also a part that could be easily compromised under enough pressure or with special tools, so make sure that not only are strong enough to protect your house, they also need to be strong enough to hold the weight of your door for many years.
- Likewise, if you plan on getting glass panels for your door, they can become a very attractive access point for burglars to go through or to insert their arms to unlock the door from within. Additionally, glass panels decrease a door’s insulation capabilities, so keep that in mind if your objective is insulation.
- Another thing to take into consideration in regard to insulation is to get a door that perfectly fits and covers the areas between the doorframe and the panel so as not to let any air in or out of the house.
These are some of the main things to take into consideration when purchasing and installing a new front door. This information applies to steel, wood, and fiberglass doors equally.
To summarize, there are three main types of front door material to choose from: steel, wood, and fiberglass. Some things to look at in order to qualify each door’s advantages and disadvantages are insulation, durability, maintenance, price, and style.
Fiberglass and steel doors are the best at insulating. However, steel doors can get too cold or hot to the touch under extreme temperatures. Fiberglass doors are the best at managing wear and tear as well as elemental damage, while steel doors are the most resistant to substantial impacts such as in the case of home invasions.
Fiberglass doors require little to no maintenance, which gives them a pretty long life span. Wooden doors require annual preventive maintenance, and they are pretty cheap to repair. However, steel doors require the most maintenance.
When it comes to price, steel doors are the cheapest to buy while wooden doors are the most expensive. However, fiberglass doors are less costly in the long run due to their need for little maintenance. Wood doors are the clear winner when it comes to style due to the other doors trying to emulate the look of wooden doors.
There are some other door features to look out for, such as lock mechanisms, hinges, and glass panels, that can alter how each of these doors performs with each one of the criteria mentioned above; they should be chosen depending on your situation and what you want to get out of your door.
Each door has a place for every different situation. You can judge your situation based mostly on security, environment, and, most importantly, budget. Hopefully, this article has helped you make the best decision when choosing your front door’s material.
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