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Front entry door - Fiberglass versus Steel

Tom R.

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I intend to replace the front entry door on my home and am looking for an honest comparison of the steel versus fibergalss question. My question is basically which will best tolerate exposure to direct afternoon sun, as well as severe cold temperatures, without warping or changing shape?


I have a traditional brick two-story and the front door faces south to southwest and is completely exposed to the elements. The door needs to tolerate extreme heat from the afternoon sun, wind driven rain and snow, etc.


Any thoughts or recommendations are greatly appreciated!

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I'm on the board of an HOA, consisting of 67 townhouses; we're in the Chicago area.


Our homes are fairly high-end in their construction and were built with Pella fiberglass doors. Some of them take a beating from the sun, and we have suffered about a 10% rate of failure, with the exterior surfaces delaminating over the course of 5-6 years. Pella has replaced them under warranty.


The doors were originally stained, and this process did not hold up well, particularly in sunny locations. It's possible, I suppose, that this was a contributing factor, but the doors were finished according to Pella's specs. We're in the process of switching to paint, which may yield better results.


On the positive side, the doors look good (when painted) and seem energy-efficient.


We may have been the victims of a passing problem in manufacturing, but in my admittedly limited experience, fiberglass doors have not worked well in situations with heavy sun exposure. The development was built out over a period of about three years, so while it's possible that the doors came from a single production run, my guess would be that that was not the case.


I'm not sure of the price range of doors, but my impression is that our six-panel doors are fairly high-end, retailing for about $1,500, so these were not inexpensive doors.

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Danny caddyshack Noonan

You've asked a very tough question. In general, if a good resin is used, fiberglass. You get what you pay for usually. The coefficient of expansion of composites is low and steel is higher. The low coefficient benefits joint (windows and seals) fit through a range of temperatures. Steel rusts, composite can go dry through environmental exposure (this is where the good resin comes in).


I am strongly considering a fiberglass when I do my entry in a couple years.

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I do home inspections as a part-time job. I see fiberglass doors failed 3:1 over steel. Given a properly constructed steel door, i.e. has a thermal break, is correctly insulated, a proper anti-rust factory finish applied, there’s no comparison. Expansion in the sun issues are more related to colour that material. I.e. dark colours are a no-no with direct sun exposure.

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Why not get a solid wood door? Is that somehow not an option these days? We have to solid wood entry doors that are over 20 years old and holding up great....just had them stripped recently but that was the first time since they were installed.

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Thanks for all of the replies.


I have a steel door now but I'm quite sure it is of lower quality. I have had numerous problems with the design of the door (sidelights leaking water, rot at the ends of the jambs from not being painted or otherwise sealed prior to installation, etc.) And, I have been very diligent with the maintenance/upkeep/paint/etc.


My instincts tell me to replace it with a steel door of higher quality. I am very willing to continue the painting and upkeep and I'm not concerned with denting which seems to be a big selling point in favor of fiberglass.


As to wood, I'm concerned that I would be spending even more time trying to keep the finish looking good.

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My instincts tell me to replace it with a steel door of higher quality. I am very willing to continue the painting and upkeep and I'm not concerned with denting which seems to be a big selling point in favor of fiberglass.


Based on what I've seen here, that's the way I would go with a door that's heavily exposed to sun and the elements. I mentioned earlier that we've had about 10% failure rate, but those failures all occurred in the homes that have a southern or western exposure, where they get hit with the hottest sun. The doors with northern exposures have not exhibited any issues. So, the failure rate among doors with a heavy sun exposure has been more like 20%.


The sole issue has been delamination of the exterior surfaces. We haven't seen any problems with rot or other deterioration. However, given the cost of these doors, I see it as totally unacceptable, at least for those doors with a southern or western exposure. Having said that, I don't know of any instance where Pella has failed to back up their product; they've consistently provided free replacements once they've been shown evidence of the doors' deterioration.

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