Door materials & new technologies
External doors are generally available in four types of material: timber, uPVC, aluminium and composite materials, also known as GRP doors.
Doors were historically made out of wood, traditionally pine or oak. Boarded doors (joined lengths of wood) were common until about 1700, when panelled doors were introduced. As fashion changed, so the door styles evolved, now incorporating glass into the door leaf.
Timber doors are still popular to this day, and period door styles can be replicated using traditional joinery methods. But other door materials have extra benefits, often at a lower price.
Aluminium and glass entrance doors began to be used in the post-war period, but these were famously cold to the touch. uPVC doors provided a solution to this problem, being marketed as the most energy efficient material for doors. Thanks to advances in manufacturing technology, today's high performance doors can offer better security, strength, energy efficiency and lifespan than even your current doors!
Elegant looks and classic style, naturally warm and secure.
Timber is a natural insulator – it absorbs and retains heat. Solid wood doors still offer the highest levels of energy efficiency compared to other door types. Timber doors are seen to be the most beautiful, however these doors require more effort to keep them looking their best.
Timber doors have been around for centuries, but the manufacturing process has changed over time. Panels and frames are still made from solid wood, but timber used in construction is engineered to be stronger. Knots are removed from the wood, before layering different grain directions, and bonding. The result is a much stronger and more stable door, with no risk of warping or bowing.
Timber doors can be made from softwood or hardwood – both make great materials for doors. Hardwood grows slower than softwood so the rings are closer together, making it more dense and hardwearing. It does mean that it can be more expensive and less sustainable than softwood. Treated to resist rot and fungus, timber doors will last for years to come. Make sure to ask your door company for information about their guarantees.
Another beauty of timber is it can have a stained or painted finish. Wood stains highlight the natural beauty of the grain, and with so many paint choices there's no limit to the number of times you change the colour of your doors! Many companies can offer timber doors in a range of spray-applied finishes and paint colours that should last years before needing repainting.
Long lasting and low maintenance, great value and performance.
uPVC is very popular in modern homes as it is a good all-round material that offers exceptional value. With a smooth and naturally weatherproof finish, there's no danger of the doors ever degrading, and they are virtually maintenance free. uPVC is also a naturally insulating material, and the frames and panels are designed to offer high levels of energy efficiency.
No longer 'flimsy' or 'brittle', modern uPVC doors are built to be sturdy and secure, with steel reinforced frames and panels. The hinges and locks are welded securely to the steel reinforcement within the frame, meaning that would-be intruders cannot gain entry through this previous weak spot.
Modern uPVC doors create a great first impression, with clean, simple lines and unique designs. Door colours vary from company to company, but popular colours include classic white and wood grain effect. This is created by bonding scratchproof and UV stable wood grain effect foils to the frames and panel, which mimic the realistic texture of timber. With two colour doors, you can have a door that looks like timber from the outside, with white on the inside for a neutral colour palette.
Strong and slim frames, sleek designs and low maintenance.
Aluminium is a physically strong material that will never rust or corrode. As such, it's used in structural glazing and other construction projects, such as glass walls and towers. Aluminium frames can support larger glass areas, so wider windows and doors are possible in the home.
Think of aluminium doors and you might be thinking of cold metal frames with black bristles surrounding the frames to keep out draughts. Thankfully, thermal technology and door design have moved on since the 1980s! The frames contain an insulating plastic section that stops the conduction of heat, for doors that are just as warm as uPVC. Aluminium is also naturally weatherproof, and will need very little maintenance.
Nowadays, aluminium doors are almost indistinguishable from uPVC, with similar designs, glazing and colour options. Aluminium doors don't have to be metallic – they can be 'powder coated', or spray coated in any RAL colour.
All the benefits of aluminium, uPVC and timber in one smart-looking door.
Composite doors combine the benefits of different materials, creating a door that ticks all the boxes. Also known as GRP doors, composites are made from a solid core: either a timber panel or high density foam reinforced with a timber frame. This is then covered with a glass reinforced plastic (GRP) skin. Made using polyester resins and fibreglass, this durable 'thermoplastic' outer coating is also used for the underside of boats. That's perfectly robust for a front or back door!
Composite doors are the only doors that can feature double rebates. A door rebate is where the door panel overlaps the frame along the edges, creating a barrier against water. Double rebates overlap twice, for increased energy efficiency and weather tightness. Dual rebated composite doors are often 50% thicker than regular front doors, and feature triple glazing as standard.
As well as excellent weatherproofing, GRP doors offer the convenience factor of other materials. They don't require the same level of maintenance as wood – you'll never have to worry about sanding or painting. Composite doors are also available in a wide range of heritage and bold colours, as well as timber effect finishes. Match with different glass designs and furniture, for a smart looking and unique entrance door.
Which material should I choose for my new windows?
Deciding on a door, but with today's modern designs and high performance materials, you can't go too wrong. Whichever material you choose, your new doors are likely to outperform your existing ones.
That being said, your choice of material depends on your performance requirements, house style and door design. Your door installation company should be able to discuss your requirements in detail at a no-obligation appointment.
You may have specific energy performance requirements for your new door. In this case, the most viable option would have to be a composite door. When you factor in all the insulating components, a composite door outperforms other door types. However, the same type of door can achieve different energy ratings depending on its components and how it's manufactured, as well as installation quality. Ask your door company about the energy ratings that your chosen door can achieve.
With advances in door technology, the lines between the different materials are blurring. Timber is still ideal for period and heritage houses, but good quality uPVC and composite doors can replicate the look and feel of wood. If you live in a modern style house, aluminium framed doors will give your home a contemporary look. Or whatever your house style, a set of patio doors with Georgian bars can create a country cottage look!
The type of material you choose also depends on the style of door you're looking for. uPVC is the most popular choice for front doors, but composite or GRP doors can offer greater security and energy efficiency. uPVC is also a popular choice for patio and French doors, but for large glass patio doors, you can't beat aluminium. Read about the right materials for each door type under the 'Design' tab.