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While reading Forbes.com’s list of the “Best and Worst Home Improvements For the Buck,” I was somewhat baffled by how entry doors were viewed. In the slideshow, a steel door is a “good improvement” and a fiberglass door is a “bad improvement.” One reason was a steel exterior door was just $1,170, while a fiberglass door was $3,500. Let’s take a look at how the two actually stack up:
The Forbes article cites a 2009 National Association of Realtors report for its pricing. But other reputable sources show the price gap to be much closer. Consumer Reports says a buyer should expect to pay $300 to $1,750 for a fiberglass door or just slightly less, $135 to $1,550, for a steel door. Yes, fiberglass costs more, but it’s not true that a comparable steel model can be had for one-third of the price.
Lower-end fiberglass doors can crack with strong impact or under extreme temperatures. Steel doors, meanwhile, are susceptible to rust and dents. Again from Consumer Reports:
After subjecting many different doors to dents and scratches, plus the laboratory equivalent of torrential rain, strong winds, and the equivalent of a decade’s use, we found that steel doors show the effects of wear and tear more than wood or fiberglass doors do.
A steel door will look just as great as a fiberglass door when first installed. But it’s more likely to deteriorate during its first few years. It’s for this reason that steel doors typically come with a much shorter warranty (2-5 years) than fiberglass doors (up to 20 years).
Need evidence of what the pros prefer? Many door contractors have stopped carrying steel doors because superior fiberglass models can be had for roughly the same price. Professionals recommend a fiberglass door with a composite jamb — more modern materials with no rust and no dents.
There are some cases when it makes sense to go with the cheaper option. Homeowners looking to sell their house or parents of rambunctious children might opt for cheaper and sturdier steel. If you’re still not convinced, ask your contractor or carpenter.
For more information on doors, check out our video on Different Types of Doors & Windows.