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Home Improvement--General/Advice on exterior door purchase

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Question
Hello,

Am hoping you can offer an opinion.

We need to replace our front entry door, in the state of MD.

The door is recessed in a brick porch with a brick overhead - so - the door is not exposed to rain.

I am having a hard time deciding between fiberglass or steel. We know we do not want wood.

Do you have an opinion as to fiberglass or steel? Again, the door isn't exposed to rain or wind, and is in a safe neighborhood.

Cost is not the concern - the  primary concern is insulating factor. Keep the cold out!

Secondarily, to have a 'big-box' (HomeDepot, Lowes, etc..) brand you might reccomend (JeldWen, Masonite, ThermaTru, Feather River) etc?

Answer
Hi Eric,

I have a slight preference for steel doors, especially where there is glass in the door, because I feel steel doors withstand moisture better than fiberglass. I have replaced several fiberglass doors over the years where the door's wood core had become wet, (usually where water had leaked in around a faulty glass frame seal), and lost it's structural integrity. If your door will not be exposed to excessively wet conditions this should not be an issue.

Other consideration are energy efficiency, durability and of course aesthetics.  It may vary across different manufacturers, but both fiberglass and steel doors are available that meet energy star ratings in northern climates.  Steel doors do tend to feel a bit cooler to the touch. However, when Properly installed either should provide excellent protection against the cold.

Because fiberglass is not rigid enough to impart structural characteristics to the door it is bonded to a wood core which is a good insulator and provides a sound structure. Wood is however, subject to warping, swelling or decay; any of which may negatively impact the fit of the door to the jamb. Fiberglass doors are also a little heavier than steel doors, which is often construed as an indication of superior quality over lighter steel doors.   

Steel doors are bonded to a wood perimeter frame and a Styrofoam core. There is also a solid wood block in the area where the lock-set and deadbolt are located.  Steel doors are more prone to dents from minor impacts than fiberglass doors, although heavier impacts may crack the fiberglass whereas the same impact would dent but not crack a steel door.

Fiberglass doors usually have a wood grain embossed into the surface while steel doors are smooth. It is purely a mater of taste as to which will look better on your home.  Some people feel the embossed grain makes the door look more like a real wood door which I find ironic since a real wood door is sanded smooth and when painted shows brush marks similar to a painted steel door.

I have repaired or replaced many different brands of doors over the last 30 or so years including a few high end brands featuring vinyl or aluminum wrapped jambs that were no doubt more weather resistant than less expensive units. Of the ones you listed I have had good results with Jeldwin and Thermatru. I am not familiar enough with the Masonite or Feather River brands to have a cogent opinion.

You indicated that your door was protected from the rain but I still encourage you to consider purchasing a door featuring a FrameSaver jamb which I consider to be a great innovation that prolongs the life of almost any door.

I hope I have provided some insights that you find helpful in choosing your new door.  

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Tony Wood

Expertise

I can answer a wide range of home improvement and maintenance questions. My expertise is in carpentry, painting, framing, siding/boxing, doors, windows, decks and screen and glass enclosures. Wood's Home Maintenance Service

Experience

I am a life time resident of North Carolina with over 30 years experience in multiple facets of the industrial, commercial and residential construction industry. For the past 23 years I have owned and operated Wood's Home Maintenance Service , providing services primarily in Johnston, Wake and Sampson Counties of North Carolina.

Organizations
NFIB

Publications
Several Home improvement articles published on Angie's List and other online forums.

Education/Credentials
High School graduate ~ proficient in CAD (computer aided design), Open Office program suite.

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