Fiberglass doors are continuing to gain greater acceptance among contractors and homeowners, industry experts report. In 2000 fiberglass doors held about 10 percent of the residential entry door market and today manufacturers estimate that fiberglass doors claim 14 to 15 percent. The category is currently growing at about 5 to 8 percent each year, according to Darrell Diederich, general manager for Kolbe Galleries, a division of Kolbe Windows & Doors (circle 102). Fiberglass units offer a number of benefits—including durability, low maintenance, energy efficiency, and aesthetics—that are making them increasingly attractive to contractors, especially as an alternative to steel and lower-end wood entry doors.
Fiberglass doors are particularly popular with mid-range and move-up builders, who are switching from steel entry doors to fiberglass because fiberglass is not as susceptible to dings and dents and because home buyers are recognizing fiberglass doors as being a step up from steel. “Doors are installed pretty early in the building process. Tradespeople walk past it all day, and the [steel] door can get dented and scratched,” says Jeff Williams, senior brand manager for Weather Shield (circle 103). In contrast, fiberglass doors will not dent, rust, scratch, crack, or chip like metal, makers say. They also are more dimensionally stable and weather-resistant than wood, according to manufacturers.
Increases in raw steel prices over the past few years initially narrowed the price gap between fiberglass and steel doors, a trend that has stabilized but has not yet reversed, says Peachtree brand manager Jeff Kibler (circle 104). Currently, fiberglass doors are roughly 30 percent more expensive than steel doors.
Fiberglass units are comparable to insulated steel doors in energy efficiency, though fiberglass as a material does not conduct heat or cold as easily as steel. Many fiberglass doors have been independently certified by the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) and some are Energy Star–qualified. Jim Benney, executive director for the NFRC, advises a door-to-door comparison to determine the actual performance differences between doors. A door's energy efficiency also is impacted by the entire entryway system and how well its components fit together, he says.
Because installation affects performance, several fiberglass door manufacturers provide complete pre-hung entry systems, either assembled at the factory or by their distributors, including Weather Shield, Peachtree (circle 105), Therma-Tru (circle 106), Pella (circle 107), Jeld-Wen (circle 108), Kolbe, and Precision Entry (circle 109). Manufacturers say this allows them to control the quality of the door's installation and to ensure that it seals effectively. Others deliver the door slab to distributors who assemble the entry system using either components of their choice or components recommended by the manufacturer.
Traditionally, fiberglass products are promoted as having a look similar to wood, and the grained textures closely emulate wood's aesthetics and feel. In addition to oak grains, looks of mahogany, fir, and even knotty-alder grains are now available. More could be on the way, as manufacturers monitor species preferences in real-wood doors.
Overall, the fiberglass category, which also includes manufacturers Masonite (circle 110), Trinity Glass (circle 111), and Plastpro (circle 112), is echoing major trends throughout the door industry: buyers are looking for more use of decorative glass; larger and wider configurations; and more “exotic” domestic wood species looks.