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Entry doors are often more than just front doors–those we tested can also be used in back or on the side. Because the front entrance of your home commands the most attention from the street, it also commands the most attention in the marketplace. Here’s what to consider, wherever you put it.

We’ve found that most entry doors perform well overall. But the materials they’re made of–fiberglass, steel, and wood–each have strengths and weaknesses. And while a low-priced steel door can be the equal of a wood or fiberglass door costing five times as much, it’s not the best choice for wear and tear.

Energy efficiency

Steel and fiberglass doors typically have more insulating value than wood doors. Models that are Energy Star-qualified must be independently tested and certified, and often boast tighter-fitting frames, energy-efficient cores, and, for models with glass, double- or triple-panel insulating glass to reduce heat transfer. You’ll find more details on the federal EPA’s EnergyStar website. But you may not save as much as you think, since doors are a small part of the surface area of a house and typically don’t allow significant amounts of warm air to escape. What’s more, heat is generally lost through air leaks around the door, not through the door itself.

Steel doors

They’re relatively inexpensive and can offer the security and weather resistance of much pricier fiberglass and wood doors. Steel doors require little maintenance–unless dents are a part of your home scenario. They’re energy-efficient, though adding glass panels cuts their insulating value.

A steel door is your best bet if security and durability are top priorities. Steel units are stronger than wood or fiberglass doors, and they won’t crack or warp. Any dents or dings on these doors can be pulled and puttied with an auto-body repair kit.  All steel doors have an inner frame made of wood or, for greater strength, steel. The cavities within the frame are filled with high-density foam insulation. Premium doors typically have a 24-gauge skin and a steel frame, though some offer heavier-gauge steel (represented by a lower number). The surface usually is smooth or has an embossed wood-grain pattern. Most steel doors are coated with a baked-on polyester finish that requires periodic repainting. Premium versions get a vinyl coating similar to the one on vinyl-clad windows for greater weather resistance. Some even have a stainable wood-fiber coating or, on really high-end versions, a laminated-wood veneer. Steel doors usually are part of a pre hung system. But if you’re simply lifting the old door off its hinges and hanging a new one, remember that steel doors come with hinges attached or holes for the hinges predrilled. The hinge area on the door must match the hinge area on the existing door frame. Some doors come with an extra predrilled hole for the hinges, which allows minor adjustments to be made when hanging the door. Also, if you choose an embossed wood grain, make sure it runs horizontally on the rails and vertically on the stiles. Finally, check the warranty. Some manufacturers will void it if you install an aluminum storm door with the steel door. The reason: Heat buildup between the doors might cause the finish to peel.

For many years, wood and steel have been the most popular materials for front doors, possessing their own distinct advantages and disadvantages. Wooden exterior doors are elegant and stylish, but can suffer from rotting in adverse climates. Steel doors, by contrast, are tough and secure, but losing in comparison to their wooden counterparts. In recent years, versatile fiberglass entry doors have grown in popularity, as a great compromise between the two extremes.

Fiberglass is a very strong and durable material, largely immune to rotting and rusting, and sophisticated manufacturing techniques ensure that fiberglass exterior doors are practically in distinguish able from wood. Because of this, they are becoming more common and capturing an increasing share of the market. Manufacturers now replicate a huge range of wood grains, from the dark, rich tomes of mahogany to the honey warmth of pine.

The Advantages of Fiberglass Exterior Doors

Fiberglass entry doors have a number of advantages. Helping to make them into an excellent choice for your home or business. The technology is recent, and manufacturers are still experimenting with new techniques and styles, but the growing popularity should also see the price fall over the next few years.

Durability: Fiberglass doors can handle the most extreme climates, from the cold and damp northern winter to the heat and humidity of the subtropics. Unlike wood, they will not warp, crack or rot, and they do not require yearly treatment with paint, stain or varnish. Fiberglass doors are also rust and corrosion proof, adding to their longevity.

Insulation: Fiberglass entry doors are excellent insulators, especially if any inlaid glass panels are double or triple glazed. At a time when the price of heating homes or using the air-con is increasing, this will make a huge difference to the house hold bills over the lifetime of the door. These insulating qualities also apply to noise, and a good quality fiberglass door dampens even the loudest noises.

Appearance: To all but the closest inspection, fiberglass entry doors look as elegant and beautiful as wooden doors, allowing you to create a great first impression and add value to your home. They do not need regular painting or staining, and they do not discolor as is too often the case with vinyl entry doors

Security: Fiberglass doors are very resilient and most are fitted with extremely secure locking mechanisms, ensuring that they can resist even the most determined of criminals.

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