Whether referred to as entry doors or by their other common names – exterior doors or front doors – the entry door is the place where your personal world and the outside world come face to face. It’s a true point of transition like few others and as such it’s important that the entry door reflect and respond to everything that is implied and required of that transition. That includes aesthetic and safety concerns as well as concerns about energy efficiency, weather resistance and more. Below we’re going to take a comprehensive look at entry doors; the different kinds and various features you’ll want to keep in mind.
The Different Types of Entry Doors
While exterior doors are crafted from an array of different materials there are really only 3 materials that make up the bulk of entry door sales: wood, steel and fibreglass. Let’s have a look at each.
Wood Entry Doors
To a certain extent wood has the upper hand on just about any other material used to build exterior doors. It’s natural beauty, design versatility and peerless tactile qualities make it a perennial favourite. Also in wood’s favour is the fact that humans and wood doors go back to the dawn of civilization. Virtually everyone who has ever lived has had experience with wooden doors. So in a very real sense wood doors make up part of our cultural DNA.
That said however, wood doors are not without their drawbacks. Primary among those is the fact that this beautiful natural material is susceptible to rotting, warping and splitting. But that isn’t the only potential downside to wooden entry doors. They also lay out the welcome mat to various types of mold and of course termites are among their biggest fans.
But all is not lost when it comes to wood doors. Fabrication and treatment methods have greatly improved in recent years and the best wood exterior doors today do a much better job than their ancestors at resisting humidity and keeping pests at bay. However, even today’s wood doors still require a fair bit of maintenance and it should go without saying that anything made from “real” materials in 2018 is going to cost more. Sometimes significantly more than other materials. So, to sum up the pros and cons of wooden entry doors:
- Long historical association with humans
- Peerless tactile qualities
- Endless design possibilities
- Easily painted or stained to match changing aesthetic needs
- Tend to rot, warp and crack
- Attract a variety of molds and pests
- Fairly high maintenance
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Steel Entry Doors
Steel doors have gained plenty of market share in recent years and for a number of good reasons. Steel entry doors are heavy, strong and secure. They won’t rot or warp. They won’t swell or shrink and if they dry out they’re not going to develop long, destructive cracks. Steel panel exterior doors are typically well insulated and much more effective than wooden doors when it comes to preventing heat transfer. Steel doors also have come a long way in recent years when it comes to design possibilities and they’re often cheaper than wooden doors. Indeed it’s sometimes difficult to tell nowadays whether a door is steel or wood. So why doesn’t everyone, everywhere have a steel door on their home?
In spite of the fact that there are some distinct advantages to steel entry doors there are also a couple of good reasons they are not (yet anyway) the industry standard. To begin with they won’t rot but they are prone to corrosion should their surface be left exposed to the elements. This is especially true in areas of high humidity. On top of that a steel door can be dented if struck with a hard object, or even a not so hard object (like a ball) moving at sufficient speed. And once dented they can be devilishly difficult to flatten out again. Steel doors are also prone to scratching and once a scratch takes hold it can lead to rust which quickly spreads beyond the confines of the scratch. So to sum up the pros and cons of steel doors:
- Typically not as expensive as wood
- Provide first class insulation
- Provide a high level of security
- Ever improving designs
- They’re prone to denting and scratching
- Scratches can quickly begin to rust
- They’re pretty high maintenance
- They can be difficult to repair
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Fibreglass Entry Doors
Fibreglass doors provide a practical alternative to both wood and steel. They’re tough, long lasting and provide nearly as much design flexibility as wood. They’re attractive, well-insulated and energy efficient like steel doors. And unlike both wood and steel they won’t ever rot, rust or otherwise corrode. The fibreglass material itself can be fashioned into nearly any shape and be made to look like everything from exotic hardwood to smooth rock-hard steel plating. This gives fibreglass doors the ability to meld seamlessly with any design aesthetic from Colonial to Victorian to Mid-Century Modern and Postmodern. And to top it all off they’ll set you back less than a wooden door and not much more than a typical steel door.
As you might imagine though nothing is perfect and even fibreglass doors have their cons. Fortunately for those considering this type of door for their home those cons are few in number. The most notable being that if the door is not properly maintained it could become brittle over time. Proper maintenance in this case is fairly straightforward though, and doesn’t amount to much more than checking on the clear coat periodically and recoating the door every few years if need be. So to sum up the pros and cons of fibreglass entry doors:
- High weather resistance
- Extreme aesthetic versatility
- Won’t rot, rust, crack or corrode
- Very little maintenance required
- Less expensive than wood
- Poor maintenance may lead to the door becoming brittle
Entry Door Features
You have a variety of features and considerations to keep in mind when selecting exterior doors. They include:
- Glass – Entry doors are available that offer full view, 3/4 view, 1/2 view and 1/4 view glass along with transoms and sidelights. Those fractional designations mean that the glass covers 3/4, 1/2 or 1/4 of the vertical height of the door. You also have the option of oval glass or fan-shaped glass. Or you can opt for multiple glass panels that extend from the top nearly to the bottom of the door. The glass itself can be clear, textured, tinted or custom. It can provide UV protection or be etched with a decorative pattern. The possibilities are (nearly) endless.
- Security – Security has never been more important than it is today and few things are as fundamental to the security of your home and its inhabitants as the front door. While all 3 of the above materials will do a good job providing security wood is definitely the least secure of the 3. Simply because it can be effectively compromised by a determined intruder in a number of different ways. Steel is renowned for its ability to secure the entryway but it may surprise you to learn that fibreglass is actually the equal to steel in many regards. It actually has a leg up on steel in one regard: hollow steel panels can be penetrated by a sharp object wielded by a person of average strength. Fibreglass doors on the other hand will not yield to a crook with a sharpened screwdriver or hunting knife. They’ll stand fast. Whichever door you choose however you need to be sure it fits snugly into its frame to reduce the possibility of it being wedged open.
In addition to the door itself you’ll need to pick an appropriate locking mechanism and there are several to choose from:
- Tubular Lockset – The tubular lockset it the most common in use today. Tubular locksets are available as either a one-piece apparatus with both deadbolt and latch or as part of a 2-piece design known commonly as a “sectional”.
- Mortise Lockset – The mortise lock is typically more robust than a tubular lock. They usually sport a beefier deadbolt with a locking entry latch that works in concert with the deadbolt. Mortise locks are considered the more secure of the two.
- Electronic Locks – The electronic lock is often referred to as “keyless entry”. They have a keypad into which you enter a predetermined code that disengages the locking mechanism. Most keyless entry systems come as a complete set that includes the necessary locking mechanism. However, there are also deadbolt-only keyless systems that many people use to augment their standard locking mechanism.
- “Smart” Locks – The rise of the Internet of Things has given rise to the smart lock. These are locking mechanisms that can be accessed and controlled using a smartphone app. Although the odds that you’ll ever need to unlock your home from halfway around the world are slim, the possibility does exist. For instance, should you be away on vacation or business and a family member locks themselves out of the house somehow. They can call or message you and you can open the door for them no matter where you are. Smart lock features typically include:
- Customization – You can customize the digital entry keys any way you wish. You can give different codes to different members of the family or change codes depending on the day or month or who is in currently inhabiting the house.
- Bluetooth Recognition – With this feature the lock will automatically recognize you as you approach the door and disengage the lock without you doing anything.
- One Touch Entry – Tap the lock once, the lock mechanism identifies you and the door opens.
- Entry Notification – If you’re away and want to keep tabs of who is entering and exiting the house and when, give each person their own code and set up notifications. You’ll then get a message telling you when a particular person enters or exits.
- Hardware – The type and style of hardware you choose for your front door will greatly enhance its aesthetic appeal and help it provide design integrity. Of course it should also dovetail with the style of the door itself. For instance you don’t want a minimalist handle on a colonial style door, nor do you want an ornate Victorian handle on your minimalist flat door. Entry door hardware is typically available in stainless steel, brass, bronze or wrought iron as well as a variety of finishes including satin or brushed finish, oxidized, oil rubbed bronze, flat black, burgundy, tumbled white bronze and more. As a general rule the handle and lockset finish should match the finish on the hinges and door knocker (if there is one) as well as that of the threshold.
- The Swing – Exterior doors swing in or out. You need to decide which direction is appropriate for your home. While most homes have entry doors that swing inward there are some occasions where it may be best to have a door that swings outward. A cramped foyer would be a good example of a reason to have a door that opens out, preserving the limited space inside. Also, you’ll need to decide if you want the door to open to the right or the left. This will be determined by the particulars of the surrounding space both on the inside and the outside.
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Reasons Why Fibreglass Doors are Your Best Option
While it’s difficult to say that choosing a wood or steel door is the “wrong” thing to do there are some very compelling reasons to put fibreglass at the top of your list when shopping for a new entry door. Those reasons include:
- Aesthetic Versatility – It’s hard for steel doors to compete with wood when it comes to design versatility. Fibreglass however can be molded to any shape and style under the sun. It can also be made to effectively mimic nearly any surface adopting anything from a slick, hard, metal-like appearance to that of exotic hardwood; complete with grain. Just about any colour or finish is on the table when it comes to fibreglass doors.
- Reliability – While steel doors have undoubtedly gained market share in recent years that gain has largely come at the expense of wood doors. Fibreglass doors have been a popular option since they were first introduced and that popularity has only increased. Again, at the expense of wooden doors. The main reason for this is word of mouth: people tell their friends and neighbours how reliable their fibreglass door is.
- Toughness – As we mentioned above fibreglass doors will resist an intruder’s best efforts even in cases where steel may give in. They’ll also stand up to whatever Mother Nature has in store and they won’t dent when hit by the kids’ Frisbee. They’re termite and mold proof, they won’t warp or swell and they don’t need a lot of pampering.
- Affordability – While wood has a lot going for it in terms of historical associations and tactile quality those things come at a price. Fibreglass entry doors can be made to be virtually indistinguishable from real wood and will typically cost you hundreds less while lasting just as long if properly maintained.
- The Environmentally Friendly Choice – Fibreglass doors are much better insulators than wooden doors and every bit the equal of steel doors. Steel, unfortunately, conducts heat very well which means any insulation needs to work twice as hard as the insulation inside a fibreglass door; which is delightfully terrible at conducting heat. Fibreglass doors can also be recycled at the end of their long useful life.
- Excellent Warranty – A fibreglass door typically comes with a comprehensive warranty attached. A typical warranty can be good for many years, and in some cases for the lifetime of the door. When you purchase a fibreglass entry door you can rest assured you’re covered for the long haul.
- Easy Maintenance – We mentioned earlier that fibreglass doors will need to have periodic maintenance performed on them to keep them looking great and prevent the surface from being directly exposed to the elements. Doing so however is a relatively simple matter that you’ll only rarely need to concern yourself with. In general the amount of maintenance your fibreglass door will require is miniscule compared to wood or even steel, which you must watch carefully to ensure no scratches occur that might quickly begin to rust.
As you can see there are an array of reasons why fibreglass doors are the smart choice for your home. There is virtually no aesthetic role they can’t play, they are as secure as any steel door, as long lasting as any other door, more affordable than wood, boast better insulation capabilities than wood or steel, require less maintenance than wood or steel and come with a comprehensive warranty that will let you sleep easy for years to come.
Entry doors help set the tone for your relationship with your home and provide guests with their first impression of your house. Picking the right one is crucial for a variety of reasons including curb appeal, security, energy efficiency and more. By choosing a fibreglass door you get the best of all possible worlds at a price you can afford. Contact Toronto Windows and Doors for more information.