Why Fiberglass Doors Are Better-Part 3

Most of these companies offer a stainable fiberglass door.  ThermaTru’s  ClassicCraft is their top of the line door.  They have doors that can be finished to look like real wood. Oak, mahogany, rustic styles are just a few that they offer.  The rustic doors even have knots and distressing built in to give them a very realistic appearance.  When you are standing there looking at a prefinished door you will be hard pressed to know that it is fiberglass.

The look is amazing!  Here is a picture of a top of the line Jeld Wen door that I installed last year:

It is a prefinished fiberglass pair of doors with genuine mahogany jambs and trim factory stained to match….Again, you would be hard pressed to tell the difference between jamb and door materials. These top of the line doors can get very expensive. ThermaTru offers a more moderately priced stainable door in their FiberClassic line.  They have an embossed oak style grain that stains up nicely but they are not as finely detailed  or as realistic as the ClassicCraft.  They are also not as expensive!!

A word of caution about staining fiberglass doors:  Because they are fiberglass and not porous they do not absorb stain the same way that a wood door does.  When finishing a wood door you apply stain and let it soak in for a bit and then wipe off the excess for a nice fairly even color.  Since fiberglass doors do not absorb stains, if you wipe off the excess you will wipe off most of the color.  You have to leave some of the stain in place on the door to get the depth of color that you are seeking.

It is much like applying a faux finish.  You wipe it on smoothly, avoiding lap joints and leave the stain to dry on the door.  After it is dry you would apply a minimum of two clear top coats to protect the door and stain surface.  The more coats of finish that you apply the better deep appearance you will achieve.  If you are not a patient person familiar with this type of work you would probably be better off hiring a professional finisher to do the staining for you so that you will get a quality job that you will enjoy over the years.

There are times that I will recommend a quality wood door.  If the door has to match existing wood finishes, trim or sidelites and has plenty of weather protection I would say sure, choose a wood door.  Oftentimes factory made hardwood doors are made without the thin veneers that I was describing earlier.  If they are well made and finished properly they should give years of good service.  A wood door will have more natural color variations then a fiberglass door.  This is a feature that can push the decision in either direction depending on the overall architectural look that you are trying to achieve.

As I said earlier…I am an old wood guy (been doing this kind of work for almost forty years!) but you really can’t beat these fiberglass doors for holding up.  The great warranties, energy efficiency, styles available and comparable costs help many people make the decision to buy fiberglass for the exterior doors of their homes and offices.

4 Responses to “Why Fiberglass Doors Are Better-Part 3”

  1. Dan says:


    Came across your site and post about fiberglass doors.
    Am thinking about a rustic looking wood door with some clavos and straps with a speakeasy.

    Door space will make it 8 ft high and 36 inch wide with an arched transom above it.

    It will be stained dark like mahogany.
    Can you recommend one of the manufacturers. I have read and seen that perhaps Thermatru rustic line seems more natural looking then plastrpro but have not seen them compared to Jen. Are there other manufacturers out there with product indistinguishable from real wood?
    AM interested in picking the manufacturer whose fiberglass door is the most authentic reproduction with regards to wood.

    The floor in the foyer behind the door will be wood, likely dark walnut.

    The main reasons for selecting a fiberglass door in this case is price (over 10k for real wood vs under 2k for FG, and low maintenance. I prefer lower maintenance items. )

    Your help is greatly appreciated.
    Best wishes,

    • TheDoorGuy says:

      Hi Dan,
      Thanks for your note and questions.
      I do not have personal installation experience with the ThermaTru rustic line but have seen a couple of display models. They look pretty authentic to me. The knots have cracks and depth to them . My personal experience with stained fiberglass doors are with two Jeld Wen units. Neither was rustic style but both blended very nicely with the wood door jambs and trim around them. The only (mild) criticism that I would have is that the Jeldwen doors have a pretty uniform look about them. Yes, they do have grain and knots but the overall impression is a more consistent (for lack of better word) appearance than real wood stained doors.
      Here are a few pictures of the doors that I installed:
      Jeld Wen Fiberglass circular french
      Jeld Wen fiberglass panel door
      Jeld Wen panel close up

      Regarding finishes: Most of the onsite finishing jobs that I have seen don’t look that great. I suggest paying the extra for factory finishing. A bit pricey but I think that you will be happier with the job. A word of caution: Fiberglass doors carry a 20 year or lifetime warranty. The finishes might have a two year warranty if you are lucky. The more sun and rain exposure you get, the sooner you will need to tune up the finish. I went back and looked at the panel door above recently. It was still holding up after two years of direct sun. Just remember though, the finish is not maintenance free.

      I hope that helps a bit.
      Best of luck with the project!

  2. Bruce Edwards says:

    You mention “when properly stained and varnished” these doors look like real wood. We are considering a Therma Tru door, how do you suggest that we get a properly stained and varnished door? Appreciate your thoughts.

    • TheDoorGuy says:

      Thank you for your question, Bruce. ThermaTru makes two series of doors that are stainable: FiberClassic and ClassicCraft. The FiberClassic doors have a basic embossed wood grain to give the impression of oak or mahogany.When stained they have a nice if kind of generic look to them. The edges of these doors have the 1/8″ high raised area that is typical of fiberglass or steel doors. The ClassicCraft doors are made in a way that makes them look like real wood. I have to say that they look really good with realistic varying grains and knots. The edges are also made of real hardwood to convey the look of real wood doors. The ClassiCraft is considerably more expensive than the FiberClassic.
      Now to your question: Staining these doors is not like staining real wood where you would wipe on the stain and then wipe off what doesn’t get absorbed because fiberglass does not absorb stain. It is more like a faux finishing process. I have seen a number of fiberglass doors that have been stained by do it yourselfers or even professional painters that have kind of a muddy look to them. If you decide to have a painter finish your doors you must convey to him/her that you want to see the wood grain, you don’t want an opaque stain job. If you cannot find a painter that is confident in his ability to deliver I would suggest that you have the doors prehung and factory finished. Your local door specialty shop or lumber yard with a real door department should be able to help with that. ThermaTru does not offer prefinishing at their factory but many of the wholesale distributors are starting to offer that service.
      I hope that helps a bit. If you have another question, please feel free to post again.

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