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Fiberglass doors improve look and boost value

September 05, 2004|by JAMES and MORRIS CAREY

One of the easiest and most visual home improvements you can make to the exterior of your home is replacing the entry door system. An enhanced entryway can add as much as $24,000 to a home's perceived value - about five times the cost of the entry system. There are few other upgrades to a home that deliver this kind of return. Busy homeowners want the beauty of real wood but not the maintenance. Until now, we have been of the opinion that there was no good alternative to wood. However, our opinion has changed. Fiberglass has arrived, and when stained, it is literally impossible to tell one from a real wood door.

What this means is that with fiberglass you can expect the beauty of elegantly finished wood, coupled with the low maintenance associated with fiberglass. Heck, boats went over to fiberglass several decades ago. We can't figure out what took the door industry so long.

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These doors have it all:

· Low-maintenance: Fiberglass doors require minimal maintenance. No buckling and cracking to worry about.

· Style: Fiberglass can be molded with real wood graining and extremely intricate detail. Far more detail than we ever imagined possible.

· Durability: Fiberglass doors do not warp, split, shrink or swell as wood doors tend to do. They also do not dent, rust or corrode like steel doors. Fiberglass doors can withstand the wide temperature ranges found throughout the United States. The door systems meet Housing and Urban Development codes and many have been tested to meet Florida building codes (one of the country's toughest building codes when it comes to hurricane protection).

· Energy efficiency: Fiberglass doors offer five times the insulation of wood, and since they don't warp or shrink, they virtually eliminate air infiltration problems. This helps maintain an energy efficient envelope for the home, stabilizing the interior temperatures and decreasing energy costs.

· Security: Fiberglass door systems are more resistant to forced entry than wood doors and offer an adjustable security strike plate that withstands 450 pounds of force.

· Water penetration: In wet climates, a wood door can rot; fiberglass won't.

The coolest thing about fiberglass is that a staining system for fiberglass has been developed that really works. The finished product is not only incredible to look at, it also is extremely simple to use.

We watched a lady apply stain to a fiberglass door with a rag and then finish it by wiping with a dry paintbrush. We simply could not believe how easy the process appeared. Most interesting is that all of the materials needed for this particular process are available in a box for about $40.

And, if you stain the door and then decide you don't like the color, all you have to do is wipe the door clean with a rag soaked in mineral spirits. No sanding, no dangerous paint or stain removers and no lifted wood grain. Wipe the fiberglass with mineral spirits and you end up with a perfectly clean unfinished surface ready for whatever color you choose.

Yes, it is important to seal the stain just as you would seal the stain on a wood door. And no, you can't easily wipe the stain away once the door has been sealed. With this process the clear seal is water base, and as you may already know, a water base finish is the most people friendly type. Simply brush on the clear seal and mount the door.

By the way, when you go out to buy a door, you need to remember that an entryway is an entire system of components, not just the door slab itself. If you - or your contractor - don't install high-quality hinges, sill plates, weather-stripping and locking systems, your door won't perform as you expect.

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