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How to Choose New Doors for Your Home

Maximize your home's curb appeal, security, and energy efficiency with a new front door. Here's how to select the right material.

By Jan Soults Walker

Your home has only one opportunity to make a memorable first impression, and the right front door can offer a warm welcome while warding off weather and intrusions. Before you shop for exterior doors, read up on these five materials common to entry doors—each offering advantages and disadvantages.

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John Mills Davies

Engineered or Manufactured Wood Doors

These doors offer a wide range of pricing from very low cost to high end. A bonding of wood strands, chips, fibers, and dust make engineered and manufactured wood doors dimensionally stable as temperatures and humidity fluctuate with the seasons, so the fit remains true. Some models can be painted or stained to complement your home.

Keep in mind that wood veneers can damage easily, and you can't sand and refinish the surface like you can solid wood.

Fiberglass or Fiberglass Composite Doors

Another affordable option, fiberglass and fiberglass composite doors can also be found in pricier designs suitable for more luxurious entries. These doors are manufactured using molded fiberglass around wood frames and filled with polyurethane foam insulation that can yield good energy efficiency, so these doors can withstand weather extremes.

Some fiberglass door product lines are stainable or paintable and feature a random-depth wood-grain texture that offers an authentic appearance. One caveat: When hit hard, these doors can crack.

Glass-Enhanced Doors

Mark English

Doors that feature opaque or transparent inserts make an entry more welcoming (because glass is less imposing than a solid material) while inviting light into your foyer. To boost energy efficiency when choosing a door with glass inserts, look for low-E (low emissivity) glass.

Keep in mind that clear glass can compromise your privacy, so consider decorative glass panels that are colored, frosted, or seeded. Of course, glass can also be broken, which can make this type of door less secure than other options.

Solid Wood Doors

Whether you choose pine, oak, mahogany, maple, or another wood to suit your tastes, solid wood doors instantly give your home a warm, substantial feel. Starting prices for true solid wood are mid-range compared to other door options. (Some engineered doors may be referred to as solid wood, so read label descriptions carefully.)

Part of the appeal of a solid wood door is its high level of security as well as the attractive architectural options, such as detailed molding and intricate carving. Keep in mind that weather and sunlight can damage a solid wood door, so you'll need to maintain the protective finish. 

Steel Doors

David Howell

Steel doors can be the most affordable, starting for as little as $100, although you can find much pricier versions. Fabricated from metal sheets secured to metal or wood frames, these doors won't warp or crack and are typically insulated with high-density foam, including full weatherstripping. Choose a model with a thermal break between the insulation and the steel for optimum comfort.

Steel doors are considered long-lasting and a challenging opponent for would-be intruders—especially when you choose a model with thicker-gauge steel. While these doors can dent or scratch (rusting if left unpainted), you can fix the damage with an auto repair kit or simply repaint them. Products that mimic wood grain can boost the appeal of a steel door.

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