When you go to buy a new door for your home, you want something that looks good and does its job. We know that.
However, the type of door you choose does matter. Different materials behave differently, and some will be better than others in the long run.
In this article, we will go over the differences between wood doors vs. steel doors. At first glance, you might want the strong, impenetrable power of steel, but you may change your mind.
As it turns out, things aren’t always as they seem.
Wood vs. Steel Door: The Criteria of a Good Door
There is a lot more to a door than whether or not it closes off the entryway to your home. Obviously, that’s its main function, but there are a lot of small details that often get overlooked by consumers.
Before you go after either of these door types, consider the following.
This is the most noticeable trait of a door. So, we’ll go over it first.
The door you choose has a major impact on the overall look of your home; both inside and out.
On the outside, you want a door that can not only match the aesthetic of your exterior design but also elevate it. Features that do that are things such as texture, engraved or embossed design sections, color, woodgrain –real or artificial-, etc. Essentially, anything that affects the door’s appearance can add or detract from your home’s curb appeal depending on how well it matches the rest of the home.
If you saw a modern contemporary home in an upscale area with Victorian iron doors, it would probably look a bit “off”, right? You’re unlikely to mismatch your door that badly, but even minor oddities can have big effects.
Obviously, the primary purpose of your door is to keep people out and to generally close the entryway to your home. If you pick an option that is structurally unreliable, it won’t take much for an intruder, or even a bad enough weather event, to damage your door to the point of it being useless.
This is why doors consisting mostly of glass aren’t great options for any exterior entryway to your home, and extremely cheap doors typically aren’t great investments, either.
Weather and Damage Resistance:
The interior doors of your home don’t have to withstand harsh elements and should last for quite a while. An exterior door is a different story.
The front entryway to your home is abused quite a bit. First, it’s probably the most used door in your home. You’re constantly opening and closing it –with a little more force than you need to. Then, you have to consider all the times you drag large, potentially damaging, items through that doorway such as new furniture, TV, etc. That alone can beat up a door if it’s not capable of withstanding it, but there’s more.
The door is exposed to the weather. Rain can be hard on any type of door if the door isn’t treated properly, wind can knock hard objects into it, snow can build up, and even just the temperature can cause structural differentiations that damage the door over time.
Getting resistance to as many of those potential issues as possible is key.
Finally, a good door will balance its price against the benefits it offers. There are doors available in a wide variety of materials, and the entire price spectrum is covered. However, not many of those options balance their price well. Many times, you’ll be expected to pay top-dollar for an exquisitely crafted door made from the finest modern materials, just to find out it has a pretty short lifespan and can’t have much done to it. Other times, you’ll find cheap doors that aren’t even good enough to warrant the little cost they require.
However, a few options match these traits perfectly. Those are the two we’ll be going over today – wood door vs. steel door.
Wood Doors: Complete Breakdown
Wooden doors are some of the most traditional doors you can have. Especially on the front entryway of your home.
Real wood doors provide a great balance of benefits and price, and you can find wood doors at a wide range of prices that never make you feel like you got less than you paid for.
There are a couple of drawbacks, but as you’ll see, there are plenty of benefits to outweigh those minor problems.
With wood doors being so traditional, buying one is probably one of the most surefire ways to not clash with your home’s exterior design.
Most homes standing in western-designed communities today were built with wood doors, or doors with traditional design elements popularized by wood doors, in mind. So, it’s unlikely that you’ll clash with your curb appeal unless you go out of your way to pick the most oddball door possible.
However, even then, you probably aren’t out of luck. A wood door is extremely customizable since the material is so easily adjusted. With a little bit of stripping, sanding, and then painting or staining, you can completely change the appearance and get unique custom made wood doors. That’s not a trait that is commonly found in doors of other materials.
The one exclusion to this point is that many wooden doors have deep impressions or engravings. You typically don’t want to sand the door so much that you get rid of those features. So, make sure you like those features before you commit to purchasing a door with them.
Wood might not come to mind when you think of a beefy barricade that keeps out even the most determined intruders, but it can actually be quite sturdy.
While we’d recommend staying away from doors made of compressed wood particles, or other cheap wood doors, a high-quality wood door made from solid hardwood can easily withstand intruders, and abnormal forms of damage such as heavy objects crashing into the door during a storm, and more.
Not only that, but wood is naturally a bit more pliable than steel or other materials. The internal structure of wood is essentially composed of tiny “straws”. So, beyond the extreme density of the wood making exerting an appropriate amount of force to break it difficult, the door also has a little bit of give before it can hit its breaking point. In short, a thief isn’t going to get a crowbar and pry it apart.
Weather and Damage Resistance:
Wood doors aren’t immune to damage, but they do provide a nice balance of weather and damage resistance; especially when you treat your door properly.
Even the best hardwood doors can get gouge marks if you’re moving a new couch in and forcefully scrape a wooden leg across the door’s surface. So, it’s ideal to avoid doing things like that as much as possible.
However, the scuffs and bumps that are much more common with everyday usage are fairly easy to handle. You can simply buff the door and make it look good as new.
On top of that, wood can be treated with sealants to prevent water damage without affecting the door’s aesthetic appeal. This will allow the door to withstand rain, snow, and humidity without rotting or otherwise getting damaged. The only downside is that you have to maintain the door’s sealant, or moisture will quickly ruin it.
Hot and cold temperatures do affect wood doors, but the most you’re likely to experience is a little bit of creaking when the wood cools down and “shrinks” a few millimeters after a hot day. There’s no reason to worry about any serious damage from temperature extremes.
If you buy a cheap wood door, you probably won’t get something that will last long. However, you didn’t spend much either.
The good part about wood doors is that, when you spend good money, let’s say $800-$2000, you get a door that gives you everything you expect and typically more.
Steel Doors: Complete Breakdown
It’s easy to assume that a steel door will automatically be stronger and more reliable than a wood door, but as it turns out, that’s not always the case. A steel door does provide some great benefits, but there are drawbacks you should consider, too.
Steel doors aren’t unattractive, but they lack variety. The average steel door is just a plain, matte, metal color, and if it’s not a flat slab, you’re likely to only get a couple of indentations to make it visually distinct.
With a particularly fancier home exterior, that might lower your curb appeal. The average homeowner doesn’t have much to worry about, though.
You can’t really change a steel door’s appearance. You can’t simply sand it down and stain it, painting it can be difficult without ruining its appearance, and overall, you’re stuck with how the door looked when you bought it.
This is one of the major benefits of a steel door. The door itself can take an incredible beating. After all, it’s made of steel.
You won’t have to worry about gouges, scratches can be lightly buffed, and you’re more likely to break the door out of its wooden frame before you break it; even though most steel doors are actually hollow.
This is offset by some of the drawbacks found in the next section, but it’s still extremely notable.
Weather and Damage Resistance:
This is where steel doors fall behind dramatically.
Steel rusts, and there aren’t any solid options you can use to protect your steel door in the long term. So, every time it rains, it gets a bit too humid outside, or snow piles up at your doorstep, your door is likely to start developing tiny rust spots. Over time, those rust spots grow, continue to eat through the door, and eventually, you’ll have a large hole in your door. Rust damage can be patched, but the patch is never as strong as the door was originally.
To make this worse, that rust is a huge problem before it eats all the way through, too.
Not only can rust patches be knocked right through with minimal force, but your curb appeal is ruined by the rusty metal clashing with your elegant exterior design themes.
Steel doors aren’t overly expensive. You can usually get one for $600 or less, and due to the high strength and resilience of steel, you will get your money’s worth. For a time, at least.
The problem is that steel doors will likely need to be replaced in half the time as wood doors. So, the price evens out in the long run, and you miss out on some key benefits. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy one, though. There is a time and place for both options.
Which One Should You Buy?
From the overview above, you probably think your best option is a wood door, and that the answer is cut and dry. That’s not exactly the case.
Steel doors can be extremely useful if you’re low on cash. After all, if you need a door RIGHT NOW and can’t afford a premium wood door, you’ll get a lot more bang for your buck from a steel door than you will from a cheap wood door.
However, if you can afford a few hundred more dollars up front, or you have time to save that extra money before committing to a purchase, a premium wood door will out-perform a steel door. It’ll last longer, look better, and provide you with more options.
Don’t think about it any longer – buy a solid wood door, today.