Oct. 23--In Consumer Reports kick tests, "Most entry doors made of fiberglass, steel and wood performed well but each has strengths and weaknesses. A low-priced steel door can be the equal, in strength and appearance, to wood or fiberglass doors costing five times as much, but steel is not the best choice for wear, CR reported June 2013 in its Entry Door Buying Guide (bit.ly/doorguide).
Fiberglass: This is a practical choice as fiberglass doors are available with a smooth surface or an embossed wood-grain texture. An edge treatment on some makes them look more like real wood. Fiberglass doors resist wear and tear better than steel, can be painted or stained, are moderately priced and dent-resistant, and require little maintenance. But they can crack under severe impact.
Steel doors: These account for half the market, are inexpensive and offer the security and weather resistance of pricier fiberglass and wood doors. Steel doors require little maintenance unless dents are a part of your home scenario. They're energy-efficient, though adding glass panels cuts their insulating value.
However, steel doors didn't resist weather as well as fiberglass and wood doors in CR's abuse tests in the laboratory equivalent of torrential rain, strong winds and a decade of wear and tear. They're low-maintenance, but dents are hard to fix, and scratches rust if they aren't painted promptly.
Wood doors: Wood provides the high-end look that other materials try to mimic. Solid-wood doors were best at resisting wear and tear in CR tests, and dents and scratches are easy to repair. However, wood doors remain expensive and require regular painting or varnishing to retain their looks.
Energy efficiency: Steel and fiberglass doors typically have more insulating value than wood doors. Models that are Energy Star-qualified must be independently tested and certified, and often boast tighter-fitting frames, energy-efficient cores, and, for models with glass, double- or triple-panel insulating glass to reduce heat transfer. You'll find more details on the EPA's EnergyStar website, energystar.gov
Energy efficiency is a small part of the equation as doors constitute only a small part of a home's surface area, typically not allowing significant amounts of warm air to escape. What's more, heat is generally lost through air leaks around doors -- not through doors.
Safe and sound: It takes a quality door lock to deter burglaries and home invasions. Home invaders usually kick in doors to gain entry. But unless your door is hollow, it's not the door itself that lets burglars in.
CR's tests with a battering ram showed little difference in strength among door materials. All eventually failed as doorjambs split near the lock's strike plate, though CR also found beefed-up locks and strike plates greatly increase a door's kick-in resistance.
Beefy strike plates: Use a lock with a 1-inch-long deadbolt and a reinforced metal box strike. Use 3-inch-long mounting screws so they lodge in the 2-by-4 framing beyond the door jamb. And don't overlook the door that leads into your house from the garage. Most garage perimeters are insecure, and garage-kitchen doors are often equally insecure.
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