Time to replace an exterior door, but what should I replace it with?

  • By Pablo Kanof
  • 17 Feb, 2017

One of the most common small projects we do is exterior door replacement. Due to high amounts of rain and humidity, quite often exterior doors will rot or rust if not maintained properly and wood jambs will also rot. The question then is what type of door should I install to keep this from happening again?

When installing a new exterior door there are three basic material options available to the consumer. These are wood, steel, and fiberglass. We will briefly review the pros and cons of each of these below.

Wood Doors

The primary advantage of a wood door is their appearance. No other material has the potential to look quite as good as a well stained wood door. However, wood doors also have the potential to rot. A wood door must be well maintained to prevent this, including periodic resealing of the finish on all sides of the door, including the top and bottom. One other advantage of a wood entry door is the fact that it can be trimmed to fit most any opening. On a newer home this isn’t often a problem, but on older homes this can sometimes be necessary. When it comes to price, a well made wood door is usually the most expensive of the three options.

Stewart Construction Ratings – Wood Doors
Appearance: 5/5
Durability: 3/5
Ease of Installation: 5/5
Cost: 1/5

Steel Doors

Steel doors are quite common in Florida. The advent of steel doors was due to their inability to rot, relatively low cost, and high strength. However, there are several disadvantages to installing a steel door. Although they can’t rot, they can rust over time. This typically happens at the bottom edge of the door and can be due to an improper application of paint. Steel doors tend to be the least Another disadvantage of steel doors is the inability for them to be trimmed. This means that unless your door opening is a “stock size,” the door would need to be custom ordered for your opening, increasing the cost. Like wood doors, if a steel door is not periodically repainted, on all sides of the door, it can lead to potential water damage.

Stewart Construction Ratings – Steel Doors
Appearance: 3/5
Durability: 4/5
Ease of Installation: 3/5
Cost: 5/5

Fiberglass Doors

Fiberglass doors are, essentially, the perfect solution to combat the effects of the highly humid conditions of central Florida. A fiberglass door succeeds where both wood and steel doors fail: durability. A fiberglass door is entirely impervious to rot and rust and this tends to make it the ideal replacement door in Florida. Fiberglass doors also have the potential to look very aesthetically pleasing. They are available in smooth, paintable finishes as well as imitation stained wood finishes. Most fiberglass doors have the option to come prefinished from the factory with a high quality, durable finish that will often last the life of the door. Fiberglass doors are often slightly trimmable, but are not quite as customizable as a wood door. Fiberglass doors are more expensive than steel doors, but not as expensive as wood doors. They are by far the most “maintenance free” of all exterior doors.

Stewart Construction Ratings – Fiberglass Doors
Appearance: 4/5
Durability: 5/5
Ease of Installation: 4/5
Cost: 3/5

But what about the jamb?

Door jambs on existing homes at least 10 years old are most often made of wood. Because these wood jambs are right at ground level, they tend to fare worse even then doors and tend to rot out at the bottom few inches. There is an easy (and permanent) solution to this problem. When a door is replaced, it can also include a PVC jamb with PVC exterior trim (called brickmold). PVC jambs and trim are a similar material to fiberglass and are rot proof, paintable, and trimmable. Combining a fiberglass door with a PVC jamb and trim can give you a very attractive door system that is nearly impervious to the Florida elements.

Our Recommendations

Although each project is different, Stewart Construction typically recommends a fiberglass door with a PVC jamb and trim. This is the best solution for most applications where durability as well as aesthetics are a concern. Only in cases where a custom look is needed, or where low cost is an extreme concern, would we recommend a wood or a steel door.

Thank you for reading, feel free to post any questions, and as always you can contact us at 863-385-9403 for more information.

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