Exterior Door Materials: Wood, Fiberglass and Steel


Check out this comparison of the most popular exterior door materials

When choosing the right exterior door, you’ll want to compare each material. The three most popular exterior door materials are wood, fiberglass and steel. Each has its own advantages. In this post, we’ll take a look at each material and provide relevant information so you can make an informed decision.


Wood is the most traditional and one of the oldest materials used for doors, dating back to ancient times. The earliest records of wooden doors are represented in the paintings of the Egyptian tombs.

Fast forward a few thousand years, and wood is still an excellent choice for doors. Doors can be crafted from hardwoods and softwoods. The most widely used are Cherry, Oak, Walnut, Mahogany, Knotty Alder, Douglas Fir and Pine.

Why you’ll love wood exterior doors:

  • Beauty and warmth immediately invites guests into your home
  • From modern to traditional, wood is versatile
  • Any stains or paints work on wood doors
  • Sturdy, heavy feel
  • Insulating core
  • Customizable based on size, style, accents, glass and more
  • Good at reducing sound


Fiberglass has unique qualities that make it a great material to use in variety of applications. It’s strong yet lightweight. It also has weather-resistant qualities. It’s been used in aviation as well as in boats and car bodies.

Now, it’s a leading material for exterior doors. The sophistication of the processes used to create fiberglass doors makes it almost impossible to tell the difference between wood and fiberglass. Our Aurora® custom fiberglass doors are made to order and are handcrafted. Aurora doors even have imperfections created by hand for authenticity. When touching an Aurora fiberglass door, you can actually feel the grain and texture.

In addition to the Aurora, we have many other fiberglass door lines that provide all the great benefits of fiberglass at a budget-friendly price. Those include the contemporary Studio™ Collection and the Statement™ Collection, both offering multiple styles.

Fiberglass has many benefits that make it a durable, quality choice. The doors have energy-efficient cores with insulating properties. They also resist bowing, warping and denting. Fiberglass doors can be stained or painted, depending on the look you desire. They are often less expensive than real wood doors.


Steel is a great material option for exterior doors. It offers durability, safety and style. Exterior steel doors are dependable as well as aesthetically pleasing.

The best steel doors are made to last. They include wood stiles and rails with mitered top corners. Why does this matter? It helps prevent water absorption. A neutral, low-sheen, baked-on enamel primer reduces the occurrence of fading. Epoxy primer coats the back of steel doors to resist corrosion. An energy-efficient core is an additional feature. A steel bottom rail is added for strength. Proper coating prevents the door from rusting from the inside out.

Steel also provides additional security. Install an optional steel edge for added peace of mind. Steel doors are low maintenance and the least expensive of the three materials discussed. You can learn more about steel doors in our blog.

Which material is right for you?

Now that you have all the basics, it’s time to choose. You’ll want to consider several things to make the best decision including:

  • Budget
  • Architectural style
  • Climate and environment
  • Overhang
  • Accents and glass options
  • Paint versus stain

Here’s a quick comparison review.


  • Easy to stain or paint
  • Very customizable
  • Reasonable at reducing sound transmission
  • Insulating core


  • Energy efficient
  • Weather resistant
  • Stain or paint
  • Highly durable
  • Affordable
  • Highly customizable


  • Water-damage resistant
  • Durable and resists rusting
  • Low maintenance
  • Best pick for smaller budgets

If you’d like to learn more about our exterior doors, you can browse all our options.

Fire-Rated Doors: What You Need to Know

fire-rated doors

Fire-rated doors help reduce the spread of fire and smoke in a home or building. Both commercial and residential structures can use fire-rated doors.

Fire door materials and parts

Fire doors can consist of a combination of materials: gypsum, steel, timber, Vermiculite, aluminum and glass. Both the slab and the door frame must meet requirements to earn a fire-rating. The door frame parts include seals, hardware and the structure. On an even more granular level here is a breakdown of elements:


  • An intumescent strip, which expands when exposed to heat
  • Gaskets to prevent the passage of smoke
  • Neoprene weatherstripping

Door hardware

  • Automatic closing devices or objects
  • Ball-bearing hinges
  • Gas seals
  • Positive latching mechanisms
  • Smoke seals

If a window is present,it must have a rating as well. Fire-rated glass may contain wire mesh glass, liquid sodium silicate, ceramic glass or borosilicate glass. Wired glass typically withstands the fire. The sodium silicate liquid acts to insulate heat transfer.

Standards for fire-rated doors

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 80 standard regulates the installation and maintenance of assemblies and devices used to protect openings in walls, floors and ceilings against the spread of fire and smoke. The International Building Code (IBC) and International Fire Code (IFC) reference the NFPA 80 standard.

NFPA 80 5.2.4. requires the following items be verified, at minimum:

  • No open holes or breaks exist in surfaces of either the door or frame
  • Glazing, vision light frames and glazing beads are intact and securely fastened in place, if applicable
  • The door, frame, hinges, hardware and noncombustible threshold are secured, aligned and in working order with no visible signs of damage
  • No parts are missing or broken
  • Door clearances at the door edge of the door frame (wood door), on the pull side of the door, do not exceed clearances listed in 4.8.4 (the clearance under the bottom of the door, maximum of 3/4″) and 6.3.1 (top and edges, 1/8″); or for metal doors (top and edges, up to 3/16″)
  • Self-closing device is operational
  • Coordinators, if installed, close the inactive leaf before the active leaf
  • Latching hardware operates and secures the door when in the closed position
  • Auxiliary hardware items that interfere with or restrict operation are not installed on the door or frame
  • No field modifications to the door assembly have been performed that void the label
  • Gasketing and edge seals, where required, are inspected to verify their presence and integrity

Fire-resistance ratings

The fire-resistance rating is the duration for which a passive fire protection system can withstand a fire-resistance test. It is most often a measurement of time. Fire ratings can be 20, 45, 60, 90 or 180 minutes. A third-party agency tests doors to ensure they meet the requirements.

Standards and testing

Testing of fire-rated doors is via Underwriters Laboratory (UL) standards and NFPA standards:

  • UL 10B, Fire Tests of Door Assemblies (neutral or negative pressure)
  • UL 10C, Positive Fire Pressure Tests of Door Assemblies
  • NFPA 252, Standard Methods of Fire Tests of Door Assemblies

The IBC also requires side-hinged or swinging fire doors be tested with positive pressure, using either UL 10C or NFPA 252.

Testing of doors uses heat up to 1925 degrees Fahrenheit. If the door remains in the frame with no through openings and limits flames, it’s certified with an endurance rating of the appropriate minutes.

After the fire endurance test, the test specimen undergoes the hose stream test. The test consists of a fire hose delivering water at 30 psi from 20′ away. Building codes throughout the U.S. typically stipulate that 20-minute doors are exempt from the hose stream test.

JELD-WEN fire-rated doors

We offer fire-rated doors for interior and exterior usage. The highest-rated exterior doors we offer (90-minute) are our IWP® wood series and steel doors. Our IWP wood and solid mineral core flush interior doors also offer ratings up to 90 minutes.

You can view the complete listing of our fire-rated doors here.

Contemporary Whimsical Touches for Your Home


Add an element of surprise to your home with a striking front door

Contemporary design includes an unexpected surprise or whimsical touch. The front door is the beginning of any home. So why not do something different and daring? Here are a few ideas for a contemporary whimsical and fun entrance.

Most contemporary homes use gray or neutral palettes. Expansive glass is also a hallmark. Adding a pop of color to your front door is a quirky touch that maintains a contemporary ambiance. So, what color should you choose? The possibilities are limitless. But to keep with contemporary principles, use primary colors like red, blue or yellow. Red or navy complement gray hues. Yellow matches well with browns or similar neutrals.

If color isn’t your style, try multiple stains in horizontal stripes. Start with dark then gradually go lighter. You can repeat the pattern for thinner stripes or keep it to four to six stripes if you prefer them wider.

Expansive glass windows offer simplistic sophistication

Imagine large glass windows in your contemporary space. Seek expansive glass windows that allow for the glass to extend all the way to the edge of the frame to illuminate the contemporary feel of your interior and exterior. Expansive glass windows won’t distract from your view. They help to blur the line between inside and outside.

Use glass with care

Because most contemporary homes use large windows, the use of glass for a front door should be more nuanced. Pick a panel door that allows for custom glass inserts. Clear glass is your best choice; decorative glass will detract from the simplicity of the design. Keep the glass panels in squares or rectangles. Keep lines straight; never rounded. Or for a very bold look, do a center panel of glass with wood inserts.

Accents that attract

Glass isn’t the only way to add whimsy to your door. Hardware strategically placed on your doors can be unexpected and stunning. One idea is to use a dark cherry finish and add a stainless steel metallic accent down the center of the door. It’s so simple yet is unforgettable to anyone who walks through it.

Small pieces of hardware can be added in unique ways. Stick with straight lines, preferably squares, and adorn stained wood with them. Or insert stainless steel accents in thin vertical lines.

A front door is more than simply an entrance; it sets the tone for the style of any home or building. Make it distinctive and contemporary by trying these front door design ideas.

If you’d like to learn more about contemporary whimsical design, read our e-book, “Six Ways to Incorporate Contemporary Design into Your Home.”

You can also explore all the contemporary window and door possibilities from JELD-WEN.