Unlocking the Door Dilemma: Your Ultimate Guide to Choosing Between Fiberglass vs. Steel Doors

1. Introduction

Choosing the right material for your door can seem like an overwhelming decision. In this ultimate guide, we have highlighted the main factors to be considered when choosing between a fiberglass and steel door so that you can make an informed decision and the correct one for your home. This decision is an important one; as this is a substantial investment and a decision that you will have to live with for as long as you own your home. Flexibility, durability, maintenance, appearance, security, and energy efficiency are all factors that are taken into consideration when comparing the two materials. These are all important factors to consider although some will be more important than others. We have discussed the advantages and disadvantages of fiberglass and steel doors in order to provide you with information that is not biased to either product. The rest is up to you, and we hope that the information in this guide will assist you in making the right decision.

1.1. Importance of Choosing the Right Door Material

Real estate and building experts agree that the type of door you choose can have a big effect on the resale value of your home. The right door can add to the home’s architectural style, provide security and privacy, and be energy-efficient, all of which contribute to increased home value. In fact, according to a recent article by US News and World Report, upgrading to a steel door at a cost of $1200 and recouped over 100% of its value, and a fiberglass door upgrade recouped about 84%. These are two of the top rates of return for all the upgrades surveyed.

The front door is the first thing people notice about your home. It’s the focal point – the exterior’s exclamation mark. But choosing the right door isn’t just about aesthetics – it’s about value. Whether you are a homeowner looking to add value to your home through an upgrade or an individual building a new home, the type of front entry door you choose can impact the value of your home.

1.2. Overview of Fiberglass and Steel Doors

Cost is another consideration. Many homeowners would be swayed into buying doors that are low in cost and maintenance, but the long-term costs may be higher. Although price is always subject to change, it is typical that a low-end steel door is cheaper than a low-end fiberglass door. Low-end steel doors are also easier to install due to their light weight, but they are not as good for insulating or security and may become damaged from very light impacts. This yields a conclusion that aesthetics and ability aside, a homeowner in a moderate to high-income neighborhood should purchase a fiberglass door and a homeowner in a lower-income neighborhood should purchase a steel door.

Steel doors receive varied mixed verdicts on their performance in protecting a building from the elements. Although it is a fact that they do provide the best security barrier compared to wood, they are subject to dents and rust and may even be damaged from heavy winds. Depending on the type of insulation that the door is made of, a typical steel door may have a thermal performance less than the U-factor 0.30 that is required for ENERGY STAR rated homes. High-end steel doors with a price tag to match may be made of twenty-gauge steel and coated with PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride). These doors offer fair to good insulation and require little maintenance, but they are very expensive.

Fiberglass doors represent the fastest-growing segment of the door market, in accordance with regional trends toward architectural style. While steel doors have slipped in relative market share, this article is intended primarily for builders who may be undecided, but it is also to help homeowners understand the range of choices in door types and materials.

1.3. Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Fiberglass and Steel Doors

Cost Steel doors are the most economical of the three choices. Surface finishes for steel doors range from smooth to a simulated wood grain. High-quality steel doors often have embossed wood grain patterns, and many have pre-painted skins. High-end, steel-clad doors have a foam core which helps them to be more energy efficient than wood doors. Some even have magnetic decorative panels on their surface. These magnetic panels are made and sold by various companies and can be used to add a little bit of seasonal decoration to a home. Premium steel doors are very durable and can often be backed by a lifetime warranty.

Intensity of use and durability Durability is the first thing many buyers look for when choosing a door, and this fiberglass door has proven to be more durable than wood doors, while a steel door is the most durable of all. They are dent resistant, and with wood grain texturing, they can be made to look like real wood doors. Fiberglass doors come in smooth or wood grain textures. Most new door units are pre-hung with the hinges on the left or right side of the door. This is referred to as the hand and is determined by looking at the door from the outside to see which side the hinges are on. Because they are used so often, exterior doors are particularly important to get right,” says Jim Eldredge, Therma-Tru’s vice president of marketing. “We call it the heart-of-the-home factor. It’s what people think of when they imagine a secure, inviting home environment. And people want a door that not only looks good but functions well.”

2. Advantages of Fiberglass Doors

The first and most noticeable advantage a fiberglass door holds over any type of wood door is its durability. Fiberglass doors can more readily endure the elements than any wood door. As a product, fiberglass is usually UV-resistant, meaning it won’t show signs of weathering as quickly as a wood door. Fiberglass is also moderately resistant to denting, which is a common problem for wood or steel doors. A foam-filled fiberglass door can be exceptionally energy-efficient and solid, and also resistant to warping, splitting, or rotting, which plagues wood doors. One slight against the durability of fiberglass doors stems from the fact that the painting on them lasts anything from 3-5 years. Considering the environmental toll of scraping down and refinishing a wood door every 3-5 years, the durability balance is overall on the side of fiberglass doors. Recently, due to concern over rising energy costs and ecological damage, “green” has become an increasingly common buzzword. For the consumer, fiberglass doors are part of an energy-efficient lifestyle. Fiberglass doors are well-known for their high R-value, which is a measure of thermal resistance used in the building and construction industry. This means that they offer more insulation than wood doors, and substantially more insulation than steel doors. The less heat transfer in and out of your house, the less your energy usage will be, and the less you will spend to heat and cool your home. Hormann fiberglass doors take energy efficiency a step further with their composite rails and stiles and a CFC-free polyurethane foam core, combining to offer a door that is both environmentally friendly and effective at reducing energy costs. High energy efficiency in addition to longevity makes a fiberglass door a positive investment considering rising energy costs.

2.1. Durability and Longevity

Generally speaking, both fiberglass and steel doors are more durable compared to wood or aluminum doors. However, fiberglass doors are the most durable as they do not rust, dent, or ding. Fiberglass doors are also suited for any climate condition. They do not expand or contract as much as steel or wood doors because they are mostly wood in structure. Wood tends to swell in wet weather and contract in dry weather. Steel doors are among the best doors for durability. Because of the way they are built, they do tend to last a long time. Steel doors are comprised of a wood frame and are filled with foam insulation. The doors are then wrapped in a steel sheet metal. The only issue with steel doors is that they have the potential to dent. If they do end up denting, it is very hard to repair this problem. If the door is not primed and painted correctly, it has the potential to rust. To prevent this on a steel door, it is best to go with a higher quality door. High-quality steel doors should have frames constructed of 16-gauge steel. These doors will help prevent rust and potential damage compared to lower quality steel doors.

2.2. Energy Efficiency

R-value is the measure of resistance to heat flow through a certain thickness of material. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating effectiveness. According to the Door and Window Manufacturer’s Association (DWMA), a fiberglass entry door has an R-value of 4.4 to 5.0, whereas wood doors range from 3.5 to 4. Steel doors have the greatest variation in R-value with their construction and can range from as low as 2 to as high as 20, but the higher numbers pertain to doors that have an inner foam insulation which can lose its effectiveness over time. This is particularly beneficial in Canada where reduction of heat loss can save a great deal on energy costs. High efficiency insulation will also help reduce the amount of condensation on the inside of windows during extreme cold – which too can cause damage to walls and wood casings. Fiberglass doors are also resistant to warping, bowing, and rotting which can further reduce energy efficiency and air leakage over time.

Energy efficiency is perhaps one of the most important requirements for homeowners throughout the world, especially those living in extreme climate conditions. The good news is, fiberglass is a terrific insulator and is far more efficient in this area than wood. According to the US Department of Energy, fiberglass doors have the greatest potential in cost savings in comparison to steel and wood doors. This is due to the high R-value of fiberglass and the fact that it can be 5 times more efficient than wood.

2.3. Design and Aesthetic Options

Less subtle perceptions about steel constantly be the bulkiest of all these, whilst fiberglass doors have a tendency to mimic the extra refined and conventional patterns of timber. However, both substances are terribly adaptable these days and may be synthetic to resemble natural timber in its look. Manufacturers usually accommodate a plethora of finishes and coloration to pick from, now no longer forgetting the choice to paint the door in a shade of your desire — something that could not be performed with a metal door. Depending on your private pick and the fashion of your property, steel and fiberglass doors can also each suit the environment in their very own way. Usually, metal doors are seemed as extra present day and sleek, while fiberglass doors can be greater warm and welcoming. The flexibility of these kinds of substances manner that they will be a terrific deal for pretty an awful lot everyone, whether you’re searching out contemporary-day fashionable or the heartwarming conventional appearance. Another issue to keep in mind is your supposed approach to customization. Those with a knack for domestic renovations will love the truth that fiberglass doors may be altered with cutting-edge gear and strategies. This consists of the choice to drill new holes, adjust the form of the window, or have engravings — something that is close to not possible with a steel door because of the sturdy internal framework. Steel doors, therefore, are constrained to stand-alone merchandise offered through producers and could require purchasing a trendy new door if modifications are to be made.

2.4. Maintenance and Upkeep

Maintaining a fiberglass door is simple. This fact alone puts fiberglass in a class of its own when compared with wood. As mentioned earlier, wood doors require regular maintenance to prevent the finish from deteriorating. Wood finish failure, a result of poor maintenance, can lead to door damage, and in turn, a need for replacement. Typically, fiberglass doors need only be refinished every 5-15 years, depending on the severity of the exposure to the elements. Refinishing can be as simple as wiping on a fresh coat of stain. When compared to steel doors, fiberglass doors do not dent. While steel has the advantage in paint adhesion, the paint often chips and scratches, leaving a dented door looking unsightly. A fiberglass door would sustain only minimal damage in a similar situation. Though they cannot be reworked if dented, a fiberglass door simply needs to have the damage filled, and then be primed and repainted, a simpler process than total door replacement.

3. Advantages of Steel Doors

Steel doors are great value for money. Not only are they cheaper to manufacture than a fiberglass door, but the construction is a lot simpler and can hence be offered to the customer at a lower price. Maintenance is cheap for steel doors. Just a simple oiling of hinges and locks is usually all that is required. The durability and strength of steel is also a long-term money saver. Steel doors withstand weather and wear better than any other material. Even though they are liable to denting, a steel door can usually be repaired to look good as new and at a very low cost.

Steel doors are incomparable when resistance to forced entry is concerned. The one notable advantage of steel over other materials is you can’t kick a steel door. A quality steel door will have a gauge rating of between 16 and 24. The higher the gauge number, the thinner the steel so aim high. You should also look for a door that has a steel or wooden edge. Although it needs to be maintained, steel doors can also be worked on to extend their lifespan or renovate their appearance. Steel doors are also able to accommodate a variety of lock and home security systems due to their strength. The price of sturdiness comes when comparing insulation levels [3.3] and this is the main drawback in the war of steel versus its competitors.

3.1. Strength and Security

In recent years, door manufacturers have recognized the importance of an energy-efficient door and have responded to the market demand. This has resulted in a variety of ENERGY STAR qualified steel doors available for homes. These doors usually have a core that is surrounded by a steel skin construction and can include added insulation and weather-stripping. This weather-stripping, combined with a door bottom sweep and a threshold that seals out air, means a steel door can provide greater insulation than a wood door. A common misconception is that every steel door is going to feel like touching an oven in the summer, but this can also be controlled by choosing a steel door with a reflective paint color and one that is not in direct sunlight for an extended period of time.

Steel doors are known for being durable and providing maximum security. This is largely due to the construction compared to wooden and fiberglass alternatives. The majority of steel doors are made of a wood frame, filled with insulation and then wrapped in a 24-gauge steel sheet. Steel doors cannot be easily broken into and there is a high chance the potential thief would be noticed while trying to gain access. The doors are also coated with a baked-on polyester finish which requires an occasional repainting, and also prevents rust. If the door is scratched or dented, it can usually be pulled and put back into shape for little to no cost. This is unlike wood or fiberglass doors that are more easily damaged and generally require complete replacement. However, steel will react to the environment it is put in. In a low-grade steel door, the door sheet is glued to the frame and the door will begin to separate under extreme weather conditions. In order to prevent this, only high-quality steel doors should be used in moderate to warm climates. For those in coastal areas, seek advice from a local builder or door installer.

3.2. Affordability

Steel doors are generally the more economical choice in comparison to fiberglass doors. In a comparison of the two, the steel door is about half the cost of a fiberglass door. Installed, a high quality steel door can cost about $150 to $400 – the price is dependent on the door size and style, and the system may become an additional cost. An 8’ fiberglass door with a more durable steel shell will be more expensive than a traditional wood door, and can cost roughly $500 to $1000, installed. The frame and brickmold cost will be similar for either door and the same applies to the lock system. Why are steel doors more affordable than fiberglass? Steel doors are simply less expensive to manufacture. They are primarily made of 2 pieces of galvanized steel, with a compression-molded polystyrene core, and a wood frame for weather-stripping. The steel is insulated with a honeycomb or fiber filler. These doors can be embossed with a wood grain pattern by using steel plates to stamp the design. Steel doors also do not require a high maintenance or upkeep cost – they do not need to be stained or painted, and they are less likely to suffer any sun damage. Fiberglass doors have a more complicated manufacturing process. The bulk of the door is made with a wood frame and filled with an insulating material. Then, the fiberglass is applied as a skin over the surface of the door. The process is similar to that of automobile manufacturing. Fiberglass doors are more difficult to make because the added fiberglass coating must be finished to look like wood. Usually, the finish is done poorly or not at all. Fiberglass doors are known to have defects in the coloring and peeling of the finish. Always check the finish warranty on a fiberglass door. Fiberglass doors will often have to be refinished – and this is an additional cost which must be considered when purchasing a door.

3.3. Insulation and Soundproofing

I was unable to find exact comparative data on the R-values of steel and fiberglass doors. This type of data would be helpful to a consumer in deciding which type of door suits their needs and why. I have read that fiberglass door manufacturers have made improvements in their energy efficiency technology in recent years and that the R-value of fiberglass doors is among the highest for front entry doors. High R-value fiberglass doors are likely more energy-efficient than budget steel doors and equal in efficiency to higher-end steel doors. I would say that among the doors in all budget ranges, fiberglass likely has the edge in door insulation and energy efficiency.

Insulation and soundproofing in a steel door are not bad at all if the door in question is a quality steel door. High-quality steel doors have polystyrene cores, which are generally more energy-efficient than wood doors. The insulation factor of a steel door is an important consideration in cold climates and can dramatically affect a home’s energy usage.

4. Making the Right Choice

The next step is to compare the attributes of fiberglass and steel doors to the needs and priorities identified by the owner. To aid in this process, Royal Windows and Doors lists the following points to consider.

Once the location has been analyzed, it is important to identify the needs and priorities of the door owner. Take into consideration the amount of maintenance and repair that is acceptable for the owner to perform. Steel doors require less maintenance than wood doors but more maintenance than fiberglass doors. Low maintenance is the most often cited reason for purchasing a fiberglass door. Owners also frequently cite energy efficiency, security, and durability as requirements for an entry door. Both door types are available with a variety of finishes and colors to choose from.

The most important step in deciding between a fiberglass or steel door is analysis of the location in which the door is to be installed and the needs and priorities of the owner. The first point is to determine if the door in question is a front entry door or a house-to-garage door. The location of the door in question will help identify which door type will better suit the needs of the changes in climate and severity of weather the door will be exposed to. Fiberglass doors are generally best for homes located in areas with extreme climates.

4.1. Assessing Your Priorities and Needs

When considering between steel or fiberglass, your lifestyle and design will have a really sway on that to decide. For instance, if both aesthetics and feeling are vital to you, a wooden-grained, embossed fiberglass door that resembles actual wood can be your high-quality choice. Such a door has the look of wood mixed with the sturdiness of fiberglass. If you care so much about power performance and its impact on the environment or your power invoice, a steel door is the pinnacle contender. Although it’s not absolutely impervious to weather, a steel door requires much less maintenance to fight the elements and is generally filled with an energy-efficient core. Lastly, steel doors are exceptional for individuals who value security, as it’s the hardest material in the marketplace. This is most beneficial when considering the purchase of an entry door – the most important factor of your property with respect to safety.

4.2. Considering Budget and Long-Term Value

Research shows that your front door plays a large part in your home’s overall value. Practically speaking, a steel door will recoup its cost with the added energy saving, yet it still does not possess the stylish appearance or the long-term durability of fiberglass. This material was made informal and upgrade doors are often less expensive than solid wood doors. And unlike steel doors, a fiberglass door is unlikely to dent and does not provide a surface for rust to occur. With the many household doors that get made over steel doors, a fiberglass door offers a possible cost-effective and more durable option.

For some consumers, the choice between a fiberglass and steel door is centered around cost. The cost of the door itself can be misleading; it is important to take the price and cost of the door for its entire lifespan into account. Although the initial cost of steel doors is cheap, their cost and value decrease substantially. When compared to fiberglass doors, they require a lot more maintenance and in the long run they will cost more in upkeep. Steel doors require regular painting to prevent rust, an unappealing feature that leaves a door looking dated. If it is not done efficiently, it can lead to other more costly repairs such as rust removal and even the replacing of the door. In comparison to this, fiberglass doors are virtually maintenance-free and can keep their just installed look for years. A quick wipe with a household cleaner is all they need to make them look brand new again.

4.3. Seeking Professional Advice

There are some good ways to find professionals with sound advice. The ideal way to proceed is to agree to hire a real estate agent to help you look for a new home. People who do so report more satisfaction and fewer problems on a wide variety of tasks because most agents are likely to have a loose mental checklist of a wide variety of tasks people might want to do to a new home, so they can tailor advice to your likely future needs. Coming second to hiring an agent in our preference test is consulting a friend or relative who is a builder or remodeler. A professional in the business who has seen both sides of the issue at hand can be invaluable by pointing out what they have seen or experienced of the durability and functionality of various types of doors at other people’s houses. Going to a local door salesman or even a locksmith can put you in touch with someone who really knows the ins and outs of doors, although be aware that they may have some bias towards doors that are easy to sell and aren’t likely to offer much advice concerning repair. This method can be enhanced by doing a bit of research first and approaching with targeted questions. This has the possible side effect of finding a good person or business with whom you might want to do future business for repair or installation.

While it may seem like an unnecessary step in the door-buying process, talking to a professional whose advice you trust can save you time, money, and effort by ensuring that you have as much information as possible to make an informed choice. This is the second best predictor of overall satisfaction in our research, thus it is worth doing.

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Fiberglass or Steel Doors: Which Wins in Durability? (todaysentrydoors.com)


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