One of the biggest decisions you will face when shopping for a new entry door is what type of material your door will be. There are many options to choose from, including wood, fiberglass and steel.
Wood doors come in two varieties; solid core and solid wood. A solid core wood door is typically composed of high density fiberboard with a thin piece of plywood or laminate on each side. The core is an energy- efficient polyurethane designed to insulate and the panels are typically done with thicker plywood and wood pieces, similar to the way cabinetry is constructed. This door will need maintenance over time, and will eventually need refinished due to exposure to outside elements. Many times the thin laminate and plywood will absorb moisture behind the protective clear coat finish, and as a result, will peel or bubble out.
The second type of wood door is a solid wood door. This type of door is 100% wood, and is the heaviest door on the market. While shifting and expanding is always a risk with this type of door, this problem can usually be minimized by purchasing a door produced by a high-quality manufacturer. A solid wood door must be maintained annually to preserve the finish, but these doors can be sanded and refinished if needed. A solid wood door is the most expensive door you can buy, sometimes costing as much as 10 times the price of a steel door.
Despite which type of wood door you choose, sun and humidity are a wood door’s natural enemies. Wood will also start to show its age and use, including scratches and cracks; and can warp when exposed to high moisture. If you decide a wood door is the right choice for you, expect a hefty investment. You get what you pay for and a cheap wood door will simply not stand the test of time.
A fiberglass door isn’t entirely fiberglass. The core of a fiberglass door is composed of a framework of wooden or composite stiles and rails, with a surface of compression-molded fiberglass. The framework’s voids are filled with CFC-free polyurethane foam insulation. While some cheaper fiberglass doors are obviously distinguishable from wood, high-quality fiberglass doors feature the appearance of deep wood graining that is virtually identical to the real thing in feel and appearance.
Performance between these doors varies. Stay away from cheap fiberglass doors if possible, as they may crack and fall apart (especially in cold weather). Additionally, their finished may deteriorate quickly and the inner cores could rot. If your budget only allows for a cheap door, consider investing in an inexpensive steel one first.
Most steel doors have surfaces of heavy-gauge galvanized steel that has been embossed with a wood-grain pattern. Some types feature a wood-fiber coating that allows them to be stained and some high-end doors may even have real-wood veneer laminated to their surfaces.
Conventional steel doors are factory primed with a baked-on polyester finish; they generally require periodic repainting. Some have a vinyl coating for greater weather resistance. All of them have an inner frame made of wood or steel. The gauge of the steel indicates its strength; the higher the number, the thinner the steel . While 24-gauge steel doors are common, they should be considered temporary, due to the fact that they can rust and fall apart. For a long-term fix, look for at least a 22-gauge door, which offers thicker steel that won’t bend or flex and holds paint well.
If security and durability are your top priorities, a steel door might be your best choice, a steel door is far stronger than either fiberglass or wood and it won’t crack, warp or fall apart.
Despite which option you choose, there are both well-built and poorly-constructed versions of any door. To ensure a durable door, be sure to choose a reputable manufacturing company whose products have received good reviews. If you plan to stay in your home long-term, select a reputable contractor to work with rather than opting for an inexpensive door from the big box store.