Exterior Doors Buying Guide

Sarah Cyrus HOME
Your home’s front door can command a fabulous first impression or it can fail to draw much notice. Replacing the door as an upgrade to your home’s look is a decision that often pays for itself. More than almost any other feature on the front of a house, a stylish entry door can increase your home’s value by establishing your positive curb appeal. Unlock our tips for picking just the right exterior door.
Knock on This
Exterior doors are available in these common materials: wood, fiberglass and steel. Which surface is right for your needs? We make the debate easier with the exterior door information below to help you choose a door based on your budget, the door’s maintenance levels and other pros and cons.
Saving Energy 
Your exterior door choice can save you energy and money. Warmth leaks through the cracks between doors and their surrounding frames, not through the door itself; so to prevent cold air from seeping in and to maximize savings, choose a door that is Energy Star® rated. These models are tested and certified, offering frames that fit tightly, with energy-efficient cores and insulation to reduce heat transfer. Steel and fiberglass doors typically insulate your home better than wood doors, but if your door isn’t Energy Star® certified, you may not save as much money on utility bills as possible.
Adding an Accent
You want your new door to grab the neighbor’s eye, so pay attention to the details. There are plenty of door styles and options available to customize your entryway to your liking.
• Glass—Many types of doors are available with decorative glass options, whether it be one large opening or glass separated into several panels. Glass inserts are very attractive, but they add to the cost of the door. They also cut the door’s insulating value, even though most have insulated glass for additional energy efficiency.
• Sidelites—These vertical windows that flank a door allow natural light in and give the homeowner a view of who’s knocking.
• Transom Window—This horizontal window above a door comes in three distinct shapes: an arch, box or ellipse.
• In-Glass Blinds—Adjustable blinds sandwiched between two glass panels.
• Swing—The direction the door swings when it opens—outward or inward. Most homes are built to accommodate inward-swinging doors.
Once you’ve picked out the perfect entry door, you’ll be eager to add its welcoming touch, but think twice about installing it yourself. Installation of a new door in your old door frame is a tough DIY project—aligning the hinges and getting the door plumb is not as simple as it seems. If you really want to do the job yourself, spring for a door that comes already hung in its own frame. Home centers generally offer installation or referral services if you want to hire a pro. Remember that you’ll probably need to pay extra for a door knob and deadbolt, too.


Budget range: Least expensive – $150–$1200
Repairs and maintenance:
• Typically low-maintenance, but dents are hard to fix
• Paint or apply a finish to protect against outdoor elements
Pros and Cons:
• Inexpensive
• Energy efficient, but adding glass panels cuts insulation value
• Good choice for most climates
• Rust resistant, but scratches may rust if they aren’t painted promptly
• Requires minor upkeep if dents are likely at your house
Budget range: Mid-range cost – $300–$1400
Repairs and maintenance:
• Requires little maintenance
• Dent-resistant
• Sealing with a finish will keep door looking new
Pros and Cons:
• Resists wear and tear better than steel
• Withstands any climate well—hot or cold, wet or dry
• Most practical choice for the look and feel of genuine wood without the upkeep
• Can crack under severe pressure
Budget range: Most expensive – $700–$2500
Repairs and maintenance:
• Requires regular painting or varnishing to look good
• Least likely to dent and scratch, but easy to repair if there is a scratch
Pros and Cons:
• Solid-wood doors are best at resisting wear and tear
• Provide a high-end look that other materials try to imitate
• Available in a variety of species, such as fir, pine or mahogany, making them unique in appearance
• Wood can expand or contract, depending on weather
Expert Tips
• Doorknobs and locks are sold separately—this added expense can range from low end, about $30, to high end, up to $600.
• High-quality steel and fiberglass doors have a thermal break that separates the inside and outside doors, preventing outside cold and heat from seeping through the frame and rain from saturating it.
Safety First
While steel is stronger than wood or fiberglass, all three materials are tough enough to keep the bad guys out. It’s usually not the door itself that allows criminals entry to your home (unless your door is hollow). The weakest link is the type of lock on your door or any glass features it has. Using a lock with a one-inch-long deadbolt is great for doors without glass, but if you’re considering buying a door with glass near the doorknob or sidelites, add a double-cylinder deadbolt lock to it. This way you’ll need a key to open this lock—whether you’re inside or outside—so a burglar can’t simply break the glass to reach in and open the door.
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