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The Debate Between Steel vs. Fiberglass Exterior Doors

February 20th, 2020, 4:25 PM

If the time has come for you to update your entryway, you may have begun to feel overwhelmed with the many options you have available when choosing a new entrydoor. To help ease the pressure, simply think of what it is you need your exterior door to do. Compared to interior doors, exterior doors have a greater demand due to the features they're expected to have. They must provide insulation and protection from the elements, privacy, security, and flow with your home's overall aesthetic — especially front doors, as they are a key feature of your home's public face.

In the past, homeowners had but one option for exterior doors — wood. While wood still holds favor for its good looks and classic charm, it is pretty high-maintenance and not always the most user-friendly. Given that, today's door decisions are often a question of steel vs. fiberglass exterior doors.

Steel vs. fiberglass exterior door construction

One of the main differences between an exterior door and an interior door is the presence of an insulating core within the slab (the main part that swings in or out from the encompassing frame). Despite being called a "steel" door, the bulk of its construction is its polystyrene or polyurethane core, which is encased in a steel shell measured by thickness, typically 20 to 26 gauge for exterior applications. While steel doors are quite sturdy, they shouldn't be considered impenetrable.

Fiberglass doors are sometimes referred to as "fiberglass composite doors," or simply "composite doors". They're comprised of fiberglass-reinforced plastic with a hardwood framework and a polyurethane insulating core. Cutting-edge manufacturing techniques can emulate textures of other materials, such as wood, so you have a lot of options at your disposal. 

steel entry door

Steel vs. fiberglass exterior door aesthetics

Both steel and fiberglass doors can offer serious curb appeal. The difference is that fiberglass doors can be stained and painted, whereas steel doors can only be painted (yes, steel doors can be painted, however you should first seek out primed steel doors). Unlike steel, fiberglass exterior doors can be prepared to appear nearly indistinguishable from wood, which may be very appealing to those who want a traditional look without the fuss. 

Both steel and composite exterior door types are available in many design configurations and can accommodate lites (glass panels) of various proportions, shapes, and transparencies, with both outswinging or inswinging models (outswinging withstands wind and moisture better than inswinging, so keep that in mind if you are not pairing with a storm door). Decorative flourishes like sticking (molding around panels) and transoms (glass units above the door frame) can further elevate your entryway.

Steel vs. fiberglass exterior door performance

When it comes to exterior door performance, fiberglass doors take the win. Fiberglass doors are superior insulators and are suited for many climates — hot or cold, wet or dry. Unlike steel doors in wet climates, they are not susceptible to rust. Unlike steel, fiberglass does not transfer heat, which makes it a better choice for areas with greater seasonal fluctuations in temperature. Both materials are significantly more resilient than wood. Over time, wood withers and becomes susceptible to weather damage, whereas both steel and fiberglass doors hold up well.

Steel vs. fiberglass exterior door cost

Given its strength, performance, and versatility, a composite entry door is going to cost you more than its steel counterpart. However, steel can offer great value for first-time homeowners, along with striking looks and stout security. Be sure to factor in the cost of installation as well — prehung doors include the framing and hardware, making them easier to handle for DIYers, while slabs contain only the door itself. The onus is then on the installer to ensure proper fit and swing. In either case, a professional installer is a good idea considering the importance of an entry door.

Welcome them in style with Hodges Windows & Doors

Don't leave your design ideas at the threshold. Contact Hodges Windows & Doors for a better idea of how you might fit a new entryway in with your home and budget. We're quality door installers who will stop at nothing less than providing exceptional door installation services.


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Ashburn Village, Virginia
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Arlington, Virginia
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Everything was excellent. The salesman offered good advice and provided examples of how the end result would look. Hodges' workers arrived on time and worked quickly. The lead installer was quite knowledgeable as well, so the job was done neatly and without incident.

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Vienna, Virginia
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I just wanted to express my appreciation to the team your company sent to install a few doors and repair windows in our house. They were professional, caring, cooperative and extremely courteous. They are a major asset to your company. On the whole, our experience with the Hodges Company has been very positive and we happily recommend your services to others.

Mary V.
Bethesda, Maryland
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The installer, who I think was Tom Langworthy, did excellent work. He was respectful of our space and cleaned up after himself. He always conducted himself in a professional manner. He seems highly competent and he engenders confidence in his workmanship.

James B.
Washington, DC
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We will definitely be using Hodges again when we look to replace some windows in our house

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Woodbridge, VA
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We enjoyed meeting with Brian Whitehouse and were impressed with his ability to explain our options, always respecting our wishes and never annoying us with hard-sell tactics...It was such a pleasure to deal with people who know their job and do it well.

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Falls Church, Virginia
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Arlington, VA
Door Installation

Tom is definitely a master craftsman and did an excellent job. Just want you and the company to know that both Tom and Larry did an outstanding job and we are very pleased with the results.

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Arlington, VA
Window Installation

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Manassas, VA
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I couldn't be more pleased with both my windows and the installation and now "on a clear day I can see forever". If you would like to use me as a reference I would be more than happy to cooperate.

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Arlington, Virginia
Window Installation

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Fairfax, VA
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The whole process from initial meeting to installation was painless and quite surprisingly, a lot less expensive than we thought it would be... Thanks again for taking such good care of us. If anyone I know is looking for new windows, I will certainly recommend your company.

Carol B.
McLean, Virginia
New Window Installation

The deck door is fabulous and the installation is super!!! I love how wide it is, and how easily it opens and it actually locks! thank you for the expert product and installation.

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Springfield, Virginia
Door Installation

Thank you so much for fixing my window today! Thank you for coming even though these windows aren't yours......No wonder the management office here thinks you guys can do anything and are the most helpful window company around.

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McLean, Virginia
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We are so very, very happy (once again!) with the Hodges Company....this is the third time we have had a project completed, and each time we've been so pleased.

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Arlington, VA
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Your guys did a great job. The temperature in the house is up by 3 degrees and the heat pump is running half as much.

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Gainesville, Virginia
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Washington, D.C.
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