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Volume 6   Issue 5                June 2005

                       Friend or Faux?
by John Kufner

Busy homemakers want building materials that look great and perform for years without maintenance. The result is a growing trend toward new faux materials for the interior and exterior of the home, from fiberglass doors and synthetic lumber to cultured stone and composite shingles. 

These materials come in a host of varied textures, colors and finishes. They look and feel like the real thing, but often last years longer than traditional building materials, providing superior performance and saving homeowners money. Today, more and more builders and homeowners are switching from traditional materials to modern products to take advantage of these benefits. 

Many Distinct Counterparts 
One of the most versatile building materials found in homes today is fiberglass. Fiberglass is durable, energy efficient, cost effective and can be molded and finished to look just like the traditional materials it replaces. Now fiberglass doors are making gains at the entryway, outlasting wood and steel while providing lasting beauty and durability in all climates. In fact, fiberglass doors have gained significant market share as builders and homeowners upgrade their entryways. Today, fiberglass has nearly 14 percent of the market and is predicted to grow nearly 30 percent by 2007.

Why are fiberglass doors gaining ground? Because they meet the following performance standards:
• Low-Maintenance. Fiberglass doors require minimal maintenance and can be wiped clean with soap and water.
• Style. Fiberglass can be molded with real wood graining and intricate detail, unlike steel, and it maintains this beauty over time, unlike wood. 
• Durability. Fiberglass doors do not split, shrink or swell as wood doors tend to do. They also do not dent, rust or corrode like steel doors. Fiberglass doors can also withstand the wide temperature ranges found throughout the United States. 
• Energy Efficiency. Fiberglass doors, with a solid polyurethane foam core, offer five times the insulation of wood (according to testing at the company’s Advanced Technology Center) and since they don’t shrink, they virtually eliminate air-infiltration problems. This helps create an energy-efficient envelope for the home, stabilizing the interior temperatures and decreasing energy costs.
• Safety and Security. Fiberglass doors can be produced to meet fire-resistance standards, providing homeowners added safety and peace-of-mind. They can also be designed to withstand high-wind and hurricane conditions.
• Sound Transmission. Fiberglass door systems can be manufactured with a solid urethane foam core to prevent sound from leaking through the door.
• Water Penetration. In wet climates, wood doors can absorb moisture and swell, crack or separate, changing the fit of the door in the frame. This can lead to water seepage and air infiltration. Fiberglass doors do not absorb moisture or change their shape due to water conditions, and will maintain the original fit between the door and frame.

Opening the Door to Performance and Style
As part of the growing trend for synthetics, material choices for doors have expanded dramatically over the past decade. Where many doors used to be wood or steel, today’s best choice for high and long-last performance is fiberglass, which appears and feels like wood up-close, but performs much better than the real thing.

“Builders want products that are designed with performance and homeowner satisfaction in mind,” said John Kufner, general manager, entry door systems, for Therma-Tru Doors. “Our fiberglass entry systems resist dings and dents during and after construction. Also, out best-in-class warranties ensure homeowners can choose these door systems with confidence.” 

Consumers typically replace doors for appearance, energy efficiency, outdated style and performance reasons, with appearance the primary reason for front doors and performance the reason for other entry doors and patio doors. 

In a recent consumer study, wood was replaced 58 percent of the time, primarily to improve the appearance of the home. In fact, according to Consumer Profiles and NFO Worldwide:
• 60 percent of consumers replaced their front door to improve the appearance of the house;
• 57 percent of consumers who replaced a front door did so because it was cracked, warped or rotting;
• 58 percent of homeowners replaced wood and steel doors with fiberglass;
• 62 percent of homeowners believe fiberglass is more durable than wood or steel; and
• 96 percent of remodeling homeowners said putting extra money into a front entryway is a good investment.

“Our experience with the Therma-Tru fiberglass door has been excellent,” said Scott Clark, corporate purchasing director, Holiday Builders. “We switched from steel about three years ago due to damage during construction and the potential to rust over a period of time. So far, we have built in excess of 8,000 homes using Therma-Tru’s Smooth-Star fiberglass line and couldn’t be more pleased.” 

John Kufner serves as general manager, entry door systems for Therma-Tru Doors based in Maumee, Ohio. 

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