Your front door is an important feature of your home. It’s the focal point of your house frontage – the main thing people notice as they approach your property – and it reveals a lot about your personality and taste.
A quality front door helps make your house a true home. It gives visitors a good first impression and helps in making them feel welcome. It also enhances kerb appeal, potentially adding value to your property.
While a quality door attracts the attention of neighbours and homebuyers, it also plays a crucial role in home security. A front door that’s old and worn out or flimsy is an open invitation to burglars and a common point of entry.
No surprise then that savvy homeowners who understand the importance of their front door carefully weigh up the pros and cons of different types of materials when installing a new one. Exterior design trends are always evolving, but composite doors and UPVC doors remain two of the most popular materials today, alongside traditional wooden doors.
Composite doors usually cost considerably more than UPVC doors but, like any other type of door, can still develop problems from time to time. The most common issues with composite doors range from warping and cracks to draughts, sticking locks, and dropped hinges.
In this post, we’ll look at these problems in detail. You can also find out everything else you need to know about composite doors and how they compare with UPVC doors.
Before we get there, it may help if you’re clear on exactly what we’re referring to when we talk about composite doors and UPVC doors.
What Are Composite Doors?
As the name suggests, composite doors are made from a combination of different materials, put together in layers in a high-pressure manufacturing process.
The door surfaces are made from fibreglass – also known as glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) –moulded to resemble wood grain. The fibreglass panels are fused to an internal frame made from UPVC. Layered inside this is a frame of hardwood, which creates a double frame.
The internal space of the door is injected with thermal polyurethane foam to form the core of the door. The outer frame of the door is made from steel-reinforced UPVC.
The concept behind composite doors is that by combining these materials, the resulting structure is stronger than the individual components.
What Is UPVC?
PVC – polyvinyl chloride, or simply vinyl – is a versatile material with many applications. It’s the third most widely-produced synthetic polymer of plastic. Standard PVC contains plasticizsers to ensure flexibility.
UPVC is unplasticised polyvinyl chloride, also known as rigid plastic The vinyl polymer is bonded with chlorine to form a material that can be combined with steel, creating a tough material ideal for doors.
What Can Go Wrong with a Composite Door?
Composite doors may offer certain benefits but, like any other door, they’re not perfect. As with all types of doors, composite doors can occasionally have problems.
Types of locks on composite doors vary, but the most common are mortise locks, Euro Cylinder locks, and night latches.
Most problems with composite doors occur when these locking mechanisms get dirty or become damaged, resulting in a sticky lock. This makes it difficult to put your key in, turn it, or pull it out, or even close the door properly.
A sticking lock can be caused by several factors, including door warping, misaligned hinges, and dirt in the locking mechanism. If dirt, dust and debris have accumulated on the internal mechanisms that control movement of the lock, all the moving parts will have to be lubricated.
You may also need to adjust some of the internal components of the locking mechanism such as the deadbolt and latch. In some cases, some or all of the lock components may need replacing.
Natural wear and tear of composite doors and the resulting weather stains are another problem with composite doors.
If wiping down the door with a solution of mild detergent and water fails to get it clean, you will have to use something stronger and designed to be safe for removing stubborn stains on a composite door.
Another issue with composite doors is “tea staining” if you have stainless-steel door furniture. Often mistaken for rust or corrosion, tea staining is caused by a buildup of oxidised surface contaminants on stainless-steel door furniture, particularly door knockers.
Tea staining is most prevalent in coastal areas but can also occur inland through pollution, wind exposure, and high temperatures. Frequent cleaning of the door’s stainless-steel elements can reduce the likelihood of tea staining.
Warping, Swelling, and Bowing
Exposure to direct sunlight or changes in temperature or humidity can cause a composite door to warp or swell. It can also bow away from the cold towards the warmth. These problems can result in gaps between the door and the frame, making it difficult to open and close the door.
If this happens with your door, you can try adjusting the hinges or the lock mechanism. If there are still gaps after you do this, you may need to put additional weather stripping around the edges of the door. In some cases, you may need a new door.
By the way, if you hear your composite door making cracking or creaking noises for no apparent reason, it’s likely because it’s been exposed to prolonged spells of direct sunlight.
Worn Weather Seals
Weather seals of composite doors prevent rainwater and draughts from getting into your home. But they can become worn and dislodged over time.
You need to keep an eye on the seals to make sure they remain in their correct position on the door track. If they aren’t, you can try pushing the seal back into the track grooves.
In some cases, the weather seal may need replacing with a new one designed for composite doors. You’ll need to use adhesive to secure it in place.
Blocked Drainage System
Composite doors typically have a built-in drainage system to help keep the interior of the door dry and condensation free.
This can become blocked with debris or leaves, which can cause water to build up on the inside of the door. You’ll need to clean out the internal drainage channel to remove the blockages.
Cracks and Splits
Although durable, composite doors can develop cracks and splits over time. This may be the result of wear and tear, physical damage due to impacts or scratches, or of changes in humidity or temperature.
If the issue is minor, you can try filling the crack or split with epoxy resin or a similar material. If the damage is severe, you may need to replace the door.
A further common problem with composite doors is misaligned hinges.
Hinge misalignment occurs when hinges, latches and screws loosen through constant or heavy use. It can cause the door to stick, making it difficult to open and close. It can also put extra stress on the locking mechanism, which can cause this to fail eventually.
You can try tightening the screws that hold the hinges in place. If this fails to work, you may have to adjust the hinges themselves or adjust the door latch so the lock sits tightly in the latch and pulls the door snugly into the frame.
Composite doors have self-lubricating hinges, which require only minimal maintenance. However, even with maintenance, the hinges are still prone to dropping. This is more likely to happen if the door is used constantly. The problem can usually be solved with a minor hinge adjustment.
A composite door may become draughty if there are gaps between the door and the frame, or the weather stripping is worn. If adjusting the door frame or replacing the weather stripping doesn’t resolve the issue, you may need to replace the door.
UPVC Doors Vs Composite Doors
UPVC doors and composite doors are both made from sturdy materials, which provide an effective barrier against forced entry. They’re also low maintenance.
Composite doors may offer enhanced security and thermal efficiency but can be as much as 60 percent dearer than UPVC doors. This is because they’re manufactured with costlier materials and techniques.
Affordability is one of the reasons UPVC doors have remained a firm favourite among homeowners. But it’s not the only one.
Pricing is one of the big differences between composite doors and UPVC doors. UPVC products such as doors and window frames have long been known for their budget-friendly appeal without compromising performance. This is achieved with the help of lower manufacturing costs. So UPVC remains a popular choice for homeowners on a budget looking for replacement doors with many benefits.
Composite doors are known for superior security because of their double-frame core. But that doesn’t mean UPVC doors are not secure. UPVC doors are made from strong materials and feature multi-point locking systems.
Looking after composite doors and UPVC doors is pretty much the same. Basically, you just need to wipe down the door and door frame regularly with a soft cloth or sponge and water and a mild detergent. This removes dirt without scratching the door. It also helps maintain the door’s functionality and aesthetic appeal.
Both composite doors and UPVC doors have impressive energy-efficient designs. They stop warm air escaping out of your home while preventing cold air and moisture from getting in. This means you can keep your home warm and comfortable without the extra cost of having to turn up the heating.
Composite doors are likely to last slightly longer than UPVC doors. The average lifespan of a composite door is about 30 years. UPVC doors can still last 20 to 25 years. These figures are largely based on the assumption of ongoing proper maintenance to limit damage.
Composite doors are usually thicker than UPVC doors. While this gives a composite door a more robust feel, UPVC doors are also extremely strong and resilient, with outstanding insulating qualities.
Composite doors are available in a slightly larger range of colours than UPVC doors. However, UPVC doors still offer an extensive colour choice. With both door types, the door interior can have a different colour than the door exterior.
The Evolution of Doors
No one knows who invented the door. All we do know is that the idea originated in ancient Egypt as a decorative feature for walls and since then doors have gone through a process of evolution and development across several centuries.
Traditionally, doors were always made from wood. Then along came other door materials, including metal, plastic, and glass. In the 1970s and 80s UPVC became recognised as an alternative to traditional materials in doors (and windows).
These doors quickly became a popular choice for front and back doors because of advantages like affordability, lower maintenance, durability, and good thermal resistance.
The development of UPVC, with all its benefits, led to the introduction of the composite door in the mid-1990s.
Choosing Your Door: Composite or UPVC?
Both composite doors and UPVC doors are low maintenance, well insulated, long lasting, have many colour options, and provide a high level of security. The major difference is cost. UPVC doors are priced significantly lower than composite doors and are also less expensive than wooden doors.
This makes them the choice of many homeowners looking for an affordable, stylish door with many benefits. That’s why you’re likely to see a lot of UPVC front doors when you walk down your street.
But composite doors do offer some advantages, particularly in being able to replicate the finish of traditional timber doors.
When choosing between a composite door and a UPVC door, a major factor will be whether you consider the composite option worth the extra cost. The decision basically comes down to personal preferences that fit your budget.
If you do opt for a composite door, at least now you know about the problems you may encounter and what you can try to do to fix them.