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Published May 01, 2009, 12:00 AM

Wood door may not need to be replaced

Dear Jim: My old wood front door looks bad and has warped to the point a lot of air leaks in. I like the appearance of stained wood, so I am considering a Fiberglas door. Are they more durable than wood? – Holly H.

By: James Dulley, INFORUM

Dear Jim: My old wood front door looks bad and has warped to the point a lot of air leaks in. I like the appearance of stained wood, so I am considering a Fiberglas door. Are they more durable than wood? – Holly H.

Dear Holly: Before you run out and buy a new door, don’t give up on that old wood door just yet. Unless the door surface is deeply scratched or the wood is rotting, you should be able to bring it back to close to its original beauty. Sanding, staining and several coats of urethane can do wonders.

Check with the door manufacturer about getting replacement weatherstripping to seal the gaps. Many home center stores also sell generic replacement door weatherstripping. Depending upon how badly it is warped, you may be able to attain a good seal with new weatherstripping. Put some modeling clay in the leaky spots and close the door to measure how warped it truly is.

If you do have to replace the door, you actually have two options for a stainable simulated wood front door. Fiberglas doors are the most common choice and, when stained and finished properly, they are difficult to distinguish from real wood.

Fiberglas doors are also more energy efficient than a solid wood door. The core of a Fiberglas door is filled with foam insulation and there are stainable Fiberglas skins over it. Fiberglas should not warp like wood can, and there is very little maintenance if it was finished properly initially.

The other door option is a stainable steel door. The steel skins are coated with a thick layer with actual grain rolled into it. This layer can be stained and finished to look similar to real wood. The ones I have seen look good but not quite as realistic as Fiberglas doors. The steel doors are filled with foam insulation so the efficiency is similar to a Fiberglas door.

Fiberglas doors use weatherstripping similar to wood doors. Various manufacturers use different designs and materials, but they all seal very well. Stainable steel doors offer the advantage of magnetic weatherstripping similar to a refrigerator door. This weatherstripping actually clings tightly to the steel for a good long-term seal.

It is best to purchase a staining kit from the manufacturer of the door. There are many stain colors available, and by getting it from the door manufacturer, you will be assured it is compatible with the surface.

Glass panels are popular in these doors. Even though it may cost a little more, select low-e, double-pane glass. If you select a decorative glass style, select one where the decorative panel is between two outer panels. This creates two insulating air gaps and it is easier to keep clean.

The following companies offer fiberglass entry doors: Fibertec Windows, (888) 232-4956, www.fibertec.com; Peachtree Doors, (888) 888-3814, www.peachtreedoor.com; Pella, (800) 374-4758, www.pella.com; Taylor Door, (800) 248-3600, www.taylordoor.com; and Therma-Tru, (800) 843-7628, www.thermatru.com.

Dear Jim: I use a wood-burning fireplace pretty often. I tried running my furnace blower continuously to circulate the heat, but the air coming out of the registers was chilly. Was I saving any energy doing this? – Pat B.

Dear Pat: You really cannot make a determination based on the air feeling chilly. Even air as warm as 80 degrees blowing from a register may feel chilly. Check the air temperature with a thermometer to see how warm it is.

Unless your fireplace produces a lot of heat, running the blower probably did not save much energy. A standard furnace blower motor uses a lot of electricity. Also, there often are leaks in a duct system, which waste heat.


Send inquiries to James Dulley, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244, or visit www.dulley.com

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