Protecting your home from intruders, weather

What to look for and what to ask when replacing exterior doors


Your home's front door is the first exterior door that visitors and residents see – but is yours leaking air – resulting in high energy bills?  A front door that looks great but cannot deter intruders or stand up to the elements is not a good investment. 

Angie's List asked highly rated door installers about door materials.

Which type of material? Doors come in many different types of materials. Each has their advantages/disadvantages:

  •  Wood: Many people like the authentic look of a wooden door for historic homes or country ranches. These doors can be also custom made. The trade-off comes in high maintenance. Wood doors should be repainted at least every two years to keep them from warping or splitting. If properly sealed, the material is extremely resistant to heat and cold from the outside. A single door can cost upwards of $500 or more.
  •  Fiberglass: Fiberglass doors come in many styles even looking like real wood, with minimum upkeep. Although it feels light, fiberglass is actually very durable against intrusion and its foam core provides excellent insulation.
  •  Aluminum: Homeowners will spend at least $600 on a good aluminum door, but they should also realize that many aluminum door manufacturers offer warranties of up to twenty years on their doors. Aluminum doors have an enamel finish that does not rust or need repainting, and they consist of an inner core covered by an aluminum skin.
  •  Steel: Best bet for security, as they are stronger than any other front door option. Steel doors always contain cores made of wood or steel within a steel frame and skin. These doors usually need to be repainted frequently, but they are the least expensive of all the common front door options. Homeowners can get a basic steel front door for less than $200. Disadvantages to steel are mostly aesthetic; steel comes in fewer style options and can't replicate the look of wood.

Factors to consider when replacing an exterior door:

  •  Architecture: Decide what kind of look you want. If you live in an older home, it may not be architecturally sensitive to replace an entry door with a contemporary model.
  •  Durability: Because wooden doors are susceptible to rot and insects, fiberglass and steel are the materials of choice when longevity is an issue.
  •  Weather elements: Some exterior door materials do not stand up well to direct sunlight and extreme temperatures. Is your door properly shielded from the elements via a porch roof or overhang?
  •  Safety: Doors in 24- or 25-gauge galvanized steel are considered to be the safest, especially for security. Steel doors are often fire-rated at 20, 45, 60 and 90 minutes.
  •  Energy efficiency: The door you choose can affect the energy efficiency of your home. If this is important to you, check whether the model you're considering is a certified Energy Star door.
  •  On a budget? If you can't budget a complete door installation, consider replacing the doors weatherstripping to improve the energy efficiency. The addition of a storm door is also an inexpensive investment if our existing door is still in good condition.

Angie's List Tips: Hiring a door installer:

  •  Check out the company: Do your research before hiring. How long has the company been in business? Get names of previous customers and find out if they were pleased with the work and the timeline of the project. If you have a historic home, work with someone who has experience to replace a door to match your home's aesthetics.
  •  Hire a reputable installer: Installation is key for an exterior door. It's critical that the door is hung and framed properly. If not installed properly, you'll see air leakage which will lead to higher heating and cooling bills.
  •  How much is that? Prices vary from $200 to several thousand dollars depending on size, material, style and glass options.
  •  Ask about the warranty: Before you sign anything, ask and understand the details surrounding the installation and service warranty. If your door starts to warp within a certain amount of time who is responsible?