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Question DetailsAsked on 5/6/2013

what brand of doors is best for front door?

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2 Answers


It depends on how much you have to spend. I don't have a favorite brand but tend to shy away from the cheap metal clad doors sold at big box stores if the customer can afford it. They are often misaligned from the factory and can take longer to install than a special ordered or better quality door. I'm a fan of the fiberglass doors for a few reasons. They resist warping and splitting like wood doors do because they don't expand and contract as much. They are good on energy efficiency and loss of hot and cool air from inside your home. You can get stain grade to look like real wood. Wood doors are nice but are more pricey and require more maintenance. They need refinishing every few years, especially if exposed to the elements by not being well covered by a porch roof.

Typically you can get a local millworks company to make the door you want sized exactly as it needs to be cheaper than you can custom order one from the big box stores. For example, a $550 set of French doors I put in recently for a customer was almost $1200 when comparison priced from Lowe's. For in-stock doors you won't get cheaper than the box stores but when not in stock expect to spend a lot more if ordering from them.

Todd Shell

Todd's Home Services

San Antonio, TX

Answered 7 years ago by Todd's Home Services


I would agree with Todd Shell - there are so many brands, and a lot of them are not actually made by the company who's brand they carry, that unless you are going very high-end (Saxony, Foret, Kolby, etc) I would buy by what characteristics you want the door to have, then price local millwork shop (who can also customize, custom paint, and usually install for you) versus local lumberyard and box stores (who typically do not install).

The key initial selection factor (after size, of course, and whether you are buying just a door or a door with transom or sidelights built into the same unit or maybe even a double-door), is your primary considerations - security, appearance, paintability, weather exposure and endurance to that, maintenance, energy efficiency, etc.

My opinion (FYI I have wood panel rollup garage door, wood framed sliding glass door, steel front (weather exposed) door):

For high security you want no windows in the door big enough or low enough to break and reach or crawl through (and maybe one-way frosted if you don't want the visitor to see you through the window), no sidelights on the door lock side (hinge side OK if sidelight is too small to break and crawl through), and steel - either steel face (which are foam insulation cored) or steel-reinforced fibreglass, which have a hidden interior steel wire mesh panel like wire-reinforced security windows. Of course, your door security is only as good as your lockset and deadbolt, which must be security rated to be meaningful, and should lock into steel-reinforced security plated door jam.

For appearance, as most people like wood appearance, so wood would win although it takes a LOT more maintenance, followed by wood-grained fibreglass (most of which can be "stained" with a high-body non-penetrating stain, vinyl (some have sort of a wood grain, but generally does not take stain worth beans, and I have never seen a "wood grain" one that looks realistic), and metal last although I have seen a nice custom decorative wood facing bonded to a steel door.

For paintability I would say steel and fibreglass are similar, followed by wood. Vinyl can be a real problem - most paints do not stick well, although you can paint over pre-finished ones. Usually on bare vinyl you have to use volatile-solvent based paints to get good bond - something with a lacquer thinner, acetone, or xylene carrier, and these are difficult to work with because the solvent actually chemically "melts" the plastic a bit to get its bond. Generally requires a professional spray paint job, or you settle for something like Krylon acrylic that may start peeling in a year or few. Personally I would not think of a vinyl front door for this reason.

For weathering endurance, if your door is exposed to direct rain with any frequency (no porch roof), than steel faced or fibreglass or vinyl. Steel is better if you are in extreme hot sun exposure, as fibreglass and vinyl eventually degrade in prolonged direct sunlight unless you keep it very well painted - fibreglass starts delaminating and gets rough and sharp, vinyl gets brittle and starts splitting and weather cracking. Wood will deteriorate very quickly under frequent rain attack, and not only start peeling but commonly will also have panels loosen up and move around, and can then leak and stain the inside around the panel seams.

For maintenance, steel and fibreglass are probably similar, with vinyl in between because of the prep necessary to get a good paint bond, with wood being far on the high-maintenance side, especially if exposed to weather. I would say typical repaint cycle (assuming washed with liquid dish soap and warm water every year or so to prevent deep stain or moss buildup) about 7-12 years on steel, 5-8 on fibreglass and vinyl, 2-5 on wood (higher number if weather protected); and difficulty of prep also goes from easiest to hardest in that order too.

All can be painted, although wood weathers fastest, but stee, fibreglass and vinyl chip off easier if knicked by keys, people opening or closing the door with their feet, etc., and it is tougher to get matching touchup appearance because the paint layer has less natural texture than on wood, so touchups show more readily.

For energy efficiency, the synthetic materials usually win, with insulation-cored (not hollow-cored) fibreglass, insulation-cored vinyl, insulation-cored steel, then wood usually having best to worst efficiency, although all the insulation-cored ones will be pretty similar and be far better than a regular single-layer panel wood door. (The problem with steel is the steel panel has to wrap around the entire door for security, so that makes a conductive surface to cool the edges and, to an extent, the interior face of the door too. Same problem as aluminum framed windows.)

Answered 7 years ago by LCD

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