For many years, sturdy steel reigned as king of the entry door because of its durability, low maintenance, and affordable price. But with the proliferation of lower-cost smooth-skin fiberglass doors and cheaper fiberglass imports from China, the price differential between steel and fiberglass has nearly faded away.
"It's really not significantly more for fiberglass than steel, when all is said and done," says Columbus, Ohio-area remodeler Michael Campbell, who installs both steel and fiberglass selections.
For that reason, steel's market share has slipped in recent years. According to the Insulated Steel Door Institute in Cleveland, steel accounts for 25 percent to 30 percent of the entry door market and fiberglass, which is taking business from steel and wood, accounts for about 25 percent. Various wood species and other materials make up the rest.
Despite fiberglass's growing popularity, steel still is holding its ground because consumers perceive it to be the most secure material, Campbell says. Steel doors are unbreakable, he says, and they're also water resistant and fireproof.
What's more, steel doors won't chip or rot (like wood), have good R-values (they have polyurethane or polystyrene foam cores), and are easy to maintain. And a new coat of paint is all it takes to give a steel door a fresh look, says Jeff Kibler, brand manager for Peachtree, which makes steel and fiberglass doors.
As important, steel doors cost less than most wood and fiberglass units.
But steel doors dent, which is one reason they are migrating from entryways to other exterior applications.
"I sometimes see steel doors on side or back entries because they dent and look more beat up more quickly than other materials," notes Todd Schmidt, owner of Renovations Unlimited in Grove City, Ohio.
Some builders and remodelers are switching from steel to fiberglass, they say, just because it doesn't pay to have the dents and dings hammered out of an installed steel unit.
Kibler admits that unlike fiberglass and wood doors, steel doors dent, but points out that this is a concern mainly during installation. "For most builders and homeowners, the cost savings outweigh their concerns about denting," he says.
Nonetheless, the price difference isn't as huge as it used to be. For instance, Peachtree's plain panel Avanti steel door is about $150 while the firm's Newport smooth fiberglass plain panel unit starts at $225. But that's enough to convince some pros and their clients to choose steel.
Another reason why steel doors continue to be competitive is because manufacturers are offering a plethora of coordinating accessories that increase the value of the entryway.
Andrew Braden of Braden Construction in Houlton, Wis., installs both steel and fiberglass products. He says his clients typically add sidelights at the very least for an upgraded look.
"Many decorative options and accessories are relatively inexpensive while being valuable to homeowners. These items can be a source of larger margins for builders," Kibler says.
Sidelights, transoms, decorative glass, caming, and other accessories can add big bucks to the bottom line and are easy to come by. What's more, many firms manufacture entire door and accessory lines with all the components designed to work together to provide pros with simple, one-stop shopping and ease-of-installation benefits.
Nevertheless, the rising price of raw steel and cheaper fiberglass imports will make fiberglass an increasingly price-competitive option. What's more, pros will continue to realize the value of alternative materials.
"Builders want to reduce their service and warranty costs and they're becoming aware that the lowest-priced product isn't necessarily the least costly to install," says Dave Wehr, national builder market manager for Therma-Tru, which produces steel and fiberglass products.
Still, industry officials predict there will always be a market for steel. "It's highly unlikely steel doors will ever be phased out because they are easy to maintain, offer security and durability, and can be customized to a home's look for a fraction of the cost of wood or fiberglass," Kibler says.
For some pros and homeowners, nothing but wood, or wood-like appearances, will do.
"I work with a lot of wood entry doors because they provide the first impression of the home and draw you in," says Grove City, Ohio-based remodeler Todd Schmidt, who installs a lot of mahogany doors with custom glass details.
Mahogany, along with alder, is an increasingly popular door species and fiberglass door makers are taking note. Therma-Tru, for instance, recently added mahogany and alder profiles to its wood-look fiberglass line; an oak style already was available.
"Builders had been requesting this type of product," explains Therma-Tru's Dave Wehr.
Masonite. The newest addition to the firm's line of steel entry doors, the HD High-Definition unit has rich shadow lines that replicate the appearance of a genuine wood door, claims the maker. The product features a polyurethane core for superior thermal performance, the company says. Numerous decorative glass accessories are optional. Fiberglass entry doors also are available. 800-895-2723. www.masonite.com.
Therma-Tru. Premium steel insulated entry doors feature solid polyurethane foam cores that provide five times the insulating value of wood units and nearly double the R-value of most steel doors with polystyrene cores, says the maker. Made from 24-gauge galvanized steel, the doors come in two widths and two heights. Sidelights and fiberglass entry doors also are available. 800-843-7628. www.thermatru.com.
Benchmark. Made with either 22- or 24-gauge galvanized steel, entry doors from this company have polyurethane foam cores. The units come ready to paint in a number of widths, heights, and styles. Numerous sidelight and glass options are offered. This Therma-Tru division also makes fiberglass entry doors. 800-755-3667. www.benchmarkdoors.com.
Weather Shield. Entry doors from this manufacturer are available in 24-gauge steel and come primed or pre-finished. All feature continuous heads and sills and are available with numerous decorative accessories including six glass styles, seven hardware finishes, 11 interior trim styles, and three transom shapes. Doors are available in smooth and textured fiberglass as well. 800-477-6808. www.weathershield.com.
Peachtree. Avanti galvanized steel entry doors come primed and ready to paint. Featuring polyurethane cores that provide up to six times more insulation than wood, says the firm, the doors are available in new panel designs including 6-foot-8-inch-tall and 8-foot-tall options with oval, round top, and rectangle windows. Decorative glass is optional. Newport fiberglass doors also are available. 800-732-2499. www.peachtreedoor.com.
Pella. Steel entry doors resist dents and dings and come primed and ready to paint. The 24-gauge units feature energy-efficient cores, compression foam weather stripping, one-piece fin/frame construction, and more. Decorative sidelights and transoms as well as energy-efficient glass selections are optional. Fiberglass entry doors also are available. 888-847-3552. www.pella.com.
Jeld-Wen. Although it duplicates the look of a wood French door, the Courtyard collection steel door is more energy efficient, durable, low maintenance, and cost effective than a natural wood one, claims the maker. The Courtyard doors feature polystyrene cores, and come in one-, nine-, 10-, 12-, 15-, and 18-light clear glass configurations. They can be painted. 800-877-9482. www.jeld-wen.com.
Kolbe & Kolbe. Acore steel entry doors are made with 24-gauge electrogalvanized steel that stands up to dents, the firm claims. Available in a number of styles along with optional decorative glass, the doors feature magnetic weather stripping on lock jambs and compression weather stripping on hinge jambs. They come prefinished in 22 standard colors. 800-955-8177. www.kolbe-kolbe.com.
Hurd. Decorative steel and fiberglass entry doors now are available from the maker. New doors come in premium insulated steel, stainable steel, smooth fiberglass, textured fiberglass, and steel with wood veneer interior configurations. They are available in three heights and with coordinating decorative glass options. 800-223-4873. www.hurd.com.