Entry doors have to be tough enough to withstand rain, scorching sun, wind, and would-be trespassers, yet attractive enough to make an excellent first impression. Sadly, meeting those needs is a strain for many front doors. Almost all the older ones are made of wood veneer or wood, crack, warp, and delaminate after prolonged exposure to the elements. Also, even metal doors don’t last eternally—the surface on some of the older ones can peel.
Among the most important choices you have to make in designing your home is choosing what material your front door is made of, as it’s the first thing that people will notice going in. Most front doors are a combination of multiple materials; for instance, many steel and fiberglass doors have wood frames. But, its surface material mainly affects price, durability, appearance, and security.
Wood is the most common door material. Beauty and versatility are their assets. Custom and natural-finish stock wood doors come in mahogany, fir, pine, oak, cherry, maple, and walnut. You’ll also see paint-grade doors in some softwood varieties, like western hemlock and pine.
Lots of stock wood doors are an interpose of wood-veneer skins atop an engineered-wood core. This arrangement lessens the expansion and contraction that induce warping. These doors are the low-cost alternative for solid-wood doors. Search for tough, at least 1/16 inch thick, furniture-grade veneers, as anything thinner can be easily damaged.
When buying prefinished wood doors, find durable stains and clear finishes, like polyurethane. High-gloss sheens give the most reliable protection for painted doors. Whichever finish you pick, apply it to both the bottom and top edges. This helps stop a wood door from absorbing moisture and swelling.
If your top priorities for your home are durability and security, then your best pick would be a steel door. Steel units are stronger than fiberglass or wood doors, and they won’t warp or crack. You can pull and putty any dings or dents on these doors using an auto-body repair kit.
All steel doors include an inner wood frame or, for greater strength, an inner steel frame. High-density foam insulation fills the cavities within the frame. Premium doors usually have a steel frame and 24-gauge skin, though some have heavier-gauge steel. The surface is typically smooth or embossed with a wood-grain pattern.
Almost all steel doors get a baked-on polyester coating, which demands periodic repainting. Premium versions are coated with a vinyl finish just like the one on vinyl-clad windows for better weather resistance. Some are even coated with a stainable wood-fiber finish or a laminated-wood veneer on very high-end ones.
Steel doors are typically a component of a prehung system. However, if you’re only lifting your old door off the hinges and placing a new one, keep in mind that steel doors come with holes for their hinges predrilled or hinges attached. The hinge area on the door should be matched to the one on the existing door frame. Some doors also come with an additional predrilled hole for the hinges, allowing minor adjustments to be made when attaching the door.
Additionally, if you pick an embossed wood grain, ensure that it runs vertically on the stiles and horizontally on the rails. Finally, review the warranty, as some manufacturers will void it if the steel door has an aluminum storm door installed with it. The reason being the heat buildup between both doors may make the finish peel.
Fiberglass-composite doors maintenance-free, tough, and are an excellent choice for humid or harsh climates. They imitate the wood look with wood-grain texturing and can also be stained to match walnut, oak, cherry, and different woods. Below their molded surface is a framework of wooden rails and stiles, which include wood edges for the lockset. Polyurethane foam insulation is used to fill the voids in the framework.
Fiberglass-composite doors have lengthy warranties. But since installation affects a door’s longevity, these extended warranties typically come only on comprehensive entry systems, which include the frame.
As with steel doors, ensure that the embossed wood-grain pattern runs vertically on the stiles and horizontally on the rails, similar to real wood grain. And if you’re only installing the door, make sure the hinges are lined up with the existing frame.
Similar to steel units, aluminum doors utilize an insulation core covered by a metal skin. However, unlike other door systems, the aluminum versions are sold only through dealers.
Manufacturers offer every type of option. For instance, the doors from Hess Manufacturing’s Armaclad line come in dozens of colors and styles, with wood-grain or smooth finishes.
Aluminum doors are coated with a baked-on enamel finish, so they won’t rust and never need painting—which explains the common 20-year warranties. You can also match an aluminum storm door with the style and color of your door. However, all these perks may be expensive. At prices above 600 dollars, aluminum doors are the most costly option after solid wood.