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Comparing a Fiberglass vs. Steel Door

Which is a better front door choice for Arizona homes?

fiberglass vs steel door imageIf it’s time to replace the front door of your home and you’re debating whether to choose a fiberglass vs. steel door, a steel door may be the most affordable choice—but fiberglass doors tend to be far more popular. It’s also the material we recommend most to homeowners with a budget of $4,000 or less.  (For bigger budgets, we tend to recommend aluminum-clad wood doors.)

Let’s talk about why. 

Steel is prone to dents, scratches and rust

Steel doors typically cost less for an exterior door replacement, but they have fewer styles and upgrades available than a fiberglass door, which is important to anyone looking to enhance curb appeal.

They also show wear and tear more easily than other materials. Simply pushing the door open with your foot can leave a dent. Who doesn’t do that at least once a week, when your hands are full of groceries or packages? And who doesn’t have a dog or cat who occasionally scratches at the door, wanting out? Steel will show every mark.

Steel is widely perceived as being stronger, a bulwark against thieves kicking in the door to get into the home, but Sal Sucato, owner of DunRite Windows & Doors feels that today’s residential steel doors are less secure than an aluminum-clad wood door, or even fiberglass. Unlike commercial steel doors, residential doors typically have a foam core and wood framework, with a thin sheet of steel covering the front and back panel. They’re lightweight, not the solid metal product many assume they are.

“For a low- to mid-level budget, fiberglass is a better choice,” he says. “Plus, break-ins rarely happen at a front door; other entry points are far more common. Any product we install has safety features we can discuss to ensure you’re confident in the decision you make.”

Consider energy efficiency

Before making a selection, it’s helpful to consider energy efficiency of the product. Generally, steel or fiberglass doors are typically the most energy efficient choices of door material, comparable in their energy ratings if it’s made by a moderate to high quality manufacturer, and both choices are far more energy efficient than a wood or aluminum door.

If you’d like to know specific energy efficiency ratings of a door product you’re considering, the salesperson should have that information. You can also find it on the manufacturer’s website or product packaging. Knowing this information can help you make a smart purchase decision.

Fiberglass doors are maintenance-free

Rust is an issue for steel doors that must be considered, too.

Have you ever had a carbon steel frying pan, or outdoor griddle? If you have, you know how easily they can rust, if they aren’t cleaned and oiled after each use. Even then, rust can sneak into crevices and holes, corroding into holes that completely ruin it over time.

And like those (or any other steel product), a steel exterior door is susceptible to rust, too. Unlike a fiberglass door that is virtually maintenance-free, a steel door must be carefully protected and maintained. Even if it protected from the elements by an awning or eaves, it can rust from just the mild humidity in the air, or a squirt from the hose.

Steel doors require consistent maintenance, and living in a dry Southwest desert won’t remove the need for regular painting. Checking for signs of rust at every hardware mounting, scratch, ding and dent is an annual event, requiring paint and primer before rust has an opportunity to spread.

Steel doors are ideal for garage-to-home doors

We do like steel doors as the point of entry from the garage because of their durability, security and fire suppression capabilities, however. These are typically not exposed to the elements, leading from the garage to inside the home, or underneath a covered walkway from the garage exiting the home, so rust is not an issue.

Steel doors also work well as a side door, if it isn’t visible from the curb. But for a high traffic, like a front entry door, steel is not the best choice.

In Sal’s experience, customers are much happier with fiberglass. It has a long lifespan, looks great, is impervious to pests and moisture, and cannot rust. It also has a nice solid sound when someone knocks on the door, unlike steel which can sound tinny… something some homeowners find bothersome.

Are there types of entry doors other than fiberglass or steel?

Absolutely, and the choice of material often depends on the budget a homeowner wants to spend. Aluminum-clad wood doors are a popular high-end front door solution, which has a lovely wood appearance on the interior of the door, and an aluminum wrap on the exterior to protect wood from the elements. These require more maintenance than a steel door, since wood can split or crack from heat, and easily develop water damage without proper maintenance and refinishing, but they are an elegant solution.

Wood doors are also available without aluminum cladding, but we don’t recommend it. They tend to have issues with termites and dry rot in Arizona, require a lot of maintenance and are very expensive. Decorative wrought iron and glass entry doors are also commonly used in Arizona, and aluminum is commonly used for contemporary pivoting and/or oversized doors, and commercial entry doors.

If you’d like to learn more about front door replacements most suitable for your home and budget, or discuss the pros and cons of different brands or materials, schedule your in-home appointment today! We’re happy to come out to your home.

Published May 25, 2021

Please note DunRite has a three-exterior-items minimum purchase, which can be any combination of door and/or window products. Major projects are addressed on a case-by-case basis.

We do not install product not purchased through us, replacement glass on entry doors, or do other types of repair.

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Please note that we install replacement windows and doors, but we don’t repair them or replace broken glass. Three-item minimum purchase, some doors excluded. Refer to our FAQ and warranties page for details.


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