The next time that you hear a knock on your new fiberglass entry door, it might be a woodpecker, because even those birds could be fooled into thinking that the latest fiberglass doors are made of wood. Manufacturers use new technologies that help them to better replicate the look of wood doors on fiberglass-door skins. That’s good news for anyone who wants real-wood aesthetics but fewer maintenance worries and better energy efficiency than what wood doors deliver.
But if energy efficiency is your main goal, don’t be swayed by the fact that more manufacturers offer triple-pane glass as an option on entry doors that have windows. In most cases, upgrading to the more expensive glass won’t deliver any significant benefits.
PINE CLONES. The look of the latest fiberglass doors is nearly indistinguishable from doors that are made of real wood, such as mahogany, oak or pine. We say that based on hands-on evaluations and based on interviews with architects and materials experts. Manufacturers have made this happen by applying one of two new techniques to their doors. One technique uses a detailed mold to create the door skin, while the other applies the latest printing technology to replicate a wood finish.
The detailed-mold technique, which is called nickel vapor deposition (NVD), isn’t new, but it’s available on more doors than ever before. Therma-Tru has used it on some of its doors since 1994 and refers to it as AccuGrain technology. But since 2007 (when Therma-Tru’s exclusive rights to the technology expired), a few doors that are branded MasterGrain, ProVia Door and Tru Tech Doors also are made by using NVD technology.
NVD replicates the texture and detail of wood by depositing tiny molecules of vaporized nickel into a mold that’s made from a real wood door. That mold is used to produce fiberglass skins that have the look of the original wood door. Door skins that are made through NVD replicate wood-grain detail as finite as a human fingerprint, according to Weber Manufacturing Technologies, which is the door-skin fabricating company that uses the NVD technique.
Independent experts confirm the legitimacy of this claim. Those experts also agree with door manufacturers that say traditional mold-making methods fail to capture detail as well as NVD does. In traditional methods, manufacturers add faux grain patterns to the door skin. This doesn’t produce as authentic of a look as does NVD technology, experts say.
You’ll pay at least $575 for six-panel entry doors that use NVD technology. A comparable wood door would cost you at least $900.
And you’ll pay at least $1,200 for a fiberglass entry door that uses the latest wood-reproduction technique. Masonite introduced a method in 2008 that involves scanning a high-resolution image of real wood, then printing it onto the surface of a fiberglass door skin, in much the same way that an inkjet printer works. Masonite refers to this technology as AvantGuard, and in June 2010, it began national distribution of doors that are made by using this technique.
AvantGuard captures the look of wood grain in a different way than what NVD or traditional molded methods do, but independent experts tell us that after you add a top clear coat of varnish to fiberglass doors that have NVD skins or AvantGuard skins, you can’t tell the difference between the look of those doors and wood doors.
At this point, there’s no indication when—or if—you’ll see AvantGuard or NVD products trickle down to economy doors. But there’s little doubt that you’ll continue to see more fiberglass doors, period. Since 2000, fiberglass doors have expanded to become 34 percent of the market, which is up from just 9 percent.