Exterior Doors - The Pros and Cons of Wood, Steel and Fiberglass

Learn the Pros and Cons of Wood, Steel and Fiberglass Exterior Doors

A front entry door is a big part of the curb appeal of your home. Replacing it cannot only kick it up a notch, it's a solid investment that provides a pretty good payback!

In fact, if you choose and energy efficient exterior door, you can trim up to 10% off of your annual energy bill. With utility bills averaging about $2200 dollars annually, that can mean as much as an extra $220 in your pocket.

How do you choose the perfect exterior door for you? Let's compare the three main materials available for exterior doors: Wood, Steel, and Fiberglass.

Wood Exterior Doors

Wood is the material of choice for high-end remodeling projects. Nothing looks as luxurious and it's substantial weight can't be duplicated by either fiberglass or steel. If you're looking to make a stunning statement before your guests enter your home, wood is the material for you.

Wood is generally the most expensive choice of the three with prices generally ranging from $500 to $2000, excluding custom word. It requires the most maintenance, although it's easier to sand out a scratch on a wood door that to repair dents in steel or fiberglass.

General maintenance consists of repainting or refinishing your door every year or two in order to keep it sealed and protected in order to prevent splitting or warping.

If the environment is important to your and you're concerned about the sustainability of your wood door and its energy efficiency, you can purchase a solid wood door that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). This certification assures you that the wood used was sustainably grown and harvested.

For the average homeowner figuring out the environmental impact of your door, from harvest to manufacturing, to shipping and how much recycled material is used can be pretty much impossible. That's why FSC certification is such a great benefit. Another certification to watch for is an Energy Star rating. If you see these two certifications, you can rest assured that you're buying the highest quality sustainable product.

One final note on energy efficiency: When choosing a door based solely on energy efficiency it's important to know that overall efficiency relies on a number of factors besides the material from which your dor is constructed. The framing, and if your door has windows are just two other factors to be aware of. The best solution is to look for an Energy Star label to help you compare products.

Steel Entry Doors

Remodeling Magazine published a report in 2016 that found that those who put in a steel entry door spent on average $1335 and recouped 92 percent of their investment when it came time to sell. A simple basic unadorned steel door can sell for as little as $150.00 (not including paint, hardware, lockset or labor) and typically can be found for around $500 for a middle-grade door.

Steel is the strongest material against intruders, although it's not much stronger than a solid wood or a well-made fiberglass door. Unfortunately, the attractive low cost of a steel door comes with a compromise – they tend to have a shorter useful life than both wood or fiberglass.

When exposed to salt air, or heavy rains a steel door may last less than 10 years. Despite the fact that steel has a reputation as a durable material, Consumer Reports found that as a general rule, wood and fiberglass perform better with day-to-day use and normal wear and tear.

With heavy use, a steel door may dent, and the damage can be difficult and expensive to fix. If your door is heavily used or sees prolonged exposure to the elements, you may want to consider a different material.

Fiberglass Exterior Doors

Fiberglass doors come in a wide variety of styles and with today's manufacturing capabilities, many accurately mimic the look of natural wood. Plus if you're looking for a “no-maintenance” material, fiberglass is a great choice.

Fiberglass doesn't react to climate. It basically doesn't expand or contract as the weather changes. In a reasonably protected location a fiberglass exterior without needing painting or staining and has a lifespan of 15 to 20 years. Although it feels much lighter than either wood or steel, a fiberglass exterior door is extremely durable. If features an extremely durable coating that is difficult to breach. Plus it has a foam core that offers considerable insulation.

Fiberglass doors generally fall in between steel and wood doors in terms of price point. Most mid-range models range cost around $200 to $700.

One Final Note...

Finally, remember when choosing a door based on energy efficiency, the actual efficiency of any door, wood, steel or fiberglass depends on a number of factors beyond the composition. The framework, if the door has windows, and what type of insulation (in steel or fiberglass doors) is used all effect the doors overall efficiency. Always look for the Energy Star label to ensure you are comparing doors based on a standard measurement of efficiency.

If you want additional advice on choosing a door for your home remodel contact us. We would welcome the opportunity to speak with yopu about your project.


Forward Design Build is a residential design-build firm in Ann Arbor, Michigan that is known for its commitment to craftsmanship and communication. We are committed to improving our neighbors quality of life with inspired design and creative remodeling. Our homes are highly functional, exquisitely beautiful, and remarkably comfortable. Contact us to speak with an expert about your new home or remodeling project.