Being the first line of defense for your home, an exterior front door takes a lot of punishment from the outside world. For the outside elements, there are years of erosion to deal with from wind, rain, and possibly insects. Depending on the material of the door, there may be other natural deformations over time like rust, warping, and cracking. This begs the question, how long is the lifespan of an exterior door?
Exterior doors are usually made up of either steel, solid wood, or fiberglass. These materials are very sturdy, especially if they are not hollow. Despite this, their average lifespan is about 30 years. This is only considering the door material itself, and not the other components like siding, hinges, frame, or seal.
Some sources claim that steel doors can last over 30 years if they are taken care of properly, and have an insulated core. Despite this, there are some problems that can occur over time. Steel doors in particular are at risk of developing rust after being exposed to rain and moist air. The flaking metal and paint can rot any interior insulation the door may have. Additionally, it is not hard to imagine how a rusted door can lead to rusty hinges, meaning it will be difficult to open.
Being another popular choice of entry door due to its stability, wood doors can last approximately 30-40 years. The significant factors that shorten this lifespan are the constant exposure to water and moisture. This exposure will eventually lead to warping without proper finishes and treatments. Warping happens because wood naturally absorbs moisture from the air into its grains. After a while, this same water will begin to evaporate unevenly throughout the wood grains, causing twisting or ‘warping’ to occur. In severe cases, the structural integrity of the door will be completely destroyed. Additionally, this leads to cracks, microbe growth, and dry rot’ if the right conditions are met.
Fiberglass doors are known to last just as long as steel doors, though even they are susceptible to rot. These doors are made up of a foam core wrapped in fiberglass skin, giving it some sturdiness, while also providing insulation. After some time it is possible that water or a stray blunt object can cause cracks in the doors paint, which will lead to peeling. Peeling paint can then expose the foam core, which is susceptible to splitting, cracking, or rotting.
Unfortunately, most of the signs and problems that come with age apply mainly to wooden doors. Natural wood doors are heavy, expensive, require the most upkeep, and can succumb to many natural elements. For example, if a wood door does not have a finish re-applied to it every year or so, it becomes susceptible to bugs, warping, and cracking from UV exposure. This further leads to ‘dry rot’ where fungus destroys wood fibers, cracking, and unalignment from seasonal changes.
Exposure to the elements can lead to an exterior door to shrink or become unaligned with its frame. In other cases, the slim pieces of material known as ‘siding’ may crack or decay from blunt trauma, warping, or bugs as well. This leads to a loss of insulation, making it easier for air to enter and leave. You’ll know if this is a problem if you are noticing a draft near your door.
Common for aged wood, some cracks or splits may not be as noticeable as your door falling to pieces. More commonly, very small cracks can form that are not evident at first glance. What gives these cracks away is if you can see slivers of light passing through.
Door frames and actual slabs of the door can shrink or expand due to weather conditions. Sometimes even hinges may do the same. Either way, if you notice that you need to give your door a ‘nudge’ for it to fully close, it may be signs of unalignment or other structural problems.
Water and wind can wear away even the most resilient materials. This is why older doors may look scuffed, worn-out, faded, chipped, and actively peeling. The extent of severity depends on how long this chipping has occurred for, however, serious damages can occur if there is no attempt at repair.
Due to poor insulation problems, it’s possible to find moisture in between a double-paned window. These windows have a gas-filled space separating them, usually filled with a desiccant gas that helps keep things dry. This interior gas also serves as an insulative barrier, making it difficult for hot and cold air to pass through. If there is moisture build-up inside these panes, it means that a seal has been broken, or the desiccant became saturated. A desiccant gas becoming saturated simply means it has absorbed its maximum amount of moisture. Additionally, poor or broken seals around windows will allow for cold air to displace warm air inside of your home. The only fix for this is to replace the window entirely.
The antidote to replacing your exterior door is through proper care. There is no one simple answer, as there are different wood materials to consider. Some general advice for door care stays consistent across materials incidentally.
Any door material benefits greatly from being treated with protective finishes and oils. For wood, finishes are what prevent warping, fading, and cracking from being exposed to outside elements. Yet steel and fiberglass can also fade if not giving the same kind of protection. Steel in particular can rust, as discussed above.
Another treatment is to make sure front doors are covered with some form of UV resistant chemicals. Sun exposure is what leads to fading, cracking, and peeling of paint for any door material, which opens the way for other damages.