Comparing composite doors to aluminium doors

Many of the composite doors available today provide excellent design and security. However, it’s also worth comparing composite doors to aluminium doors. Some aluminium front doors come at very competitive prices with the same or even more benefits. In this article we explain about composite doors and what you need to know when comparing to aluminium doors.

Perhaps you have bought a new house that needs all the windows and doors replacing. Maybe you have lived in your present home for many years and are finally going to replace either your original windows or your very old double glazing. Have you perhaps added a new extension to the back of the property or even be building your own home?

modern composite doors are well made and very secure, but they are not your only front door option.
Modern composite doors are well made and very secure, but they are not your only front door option.

Whatever your reasons for replacing all your windows and doors, if you have decided to have aluminium windows and doors, you will have visited your local double glazing firm that supplies aluminium windows.

Even if you are unsure of what are the right aluminium windows and doors for your home, you can contact this website and we will give you independent and impartial advice. We can even put you in touch with reputable and professional window companies in your area.

Particularly in the case of aluminium windows and doors, today there is a great choice of products available to you from many of the best Aluminium Systems Companies in the UK. For casement or sliding sash windows, French Doors or bifolding doors there are some exemplary products available.

Are you compromising when it comes to a new front door?

You are about to spend many thousands of pounds on high quality aluminium windows that cost more than upvc.  You may have also just bought a market leading bifolding door such as Origin, new aluminium French Doors or a sophisticated aluminium triple track patio door from Schuco or AluK. None of these aluminium doors and windows are budget ranges.  But it would appear that when it comes to new front doors for the home, the double glazing industry is in many ways not giving the customer the same amount of choice in front doors as it does to windows and other doors in the house.

Even the double glazing firm that prides itself on offering what many consider to be the very best in aluminium windows and bifolding doors, whether they are Schuco, Origin, Reynaers, Senior Systems, AluK, Smarts or SAPA will often only offer window and french door options on these aluminium systems. When it comes to front doors many will move away from these well respected systems and offer the customer a composite door. Why?

The budget for your door may not be the deciding factor.

The customer that has chosen aluminium windows over PVCu has already accepted that they are purchasing the more expensive product.  Therefore you have not chosen aluminium for reasons of price.  The same consideration should be given to your front door.  The composite door is not the most expensive product and it may not even be the cheapest.  But is it the best for you, your particular home and in keeping with every other product in your home which is to be aluminium?

The composite front door has become very popular in recent years and today remains the best selling front door product by far. And there are good reasons why.

old upvc doors were criticised for their thick appearance and the risk of plastic panels being easily kicked in.
old upvc doors were criticised for their thick appearance and the risk of plastic panels being easily kicked in.

It was introduced to address many of the weaknesses of PVCu front doors which consisted of a standard plastic door but glazed with a decorative PVCu panel to give whatever effect the homeowner wanted for their property. But despite the popularity of the PVCu door, for many years the product was plagued with concerns including:

  • how easy it was for the polystyrene door panel to be kicked in despite the high security multi-point locking and the internal glazing beads.
  • how it was simply a panel in a bulky front door that made them look far too narrow
  • how earlier poor quality door panel upvc skins were prone to discolouration resulting in a yellow looking panel within a white front door

Composite doors made their introduction into the marketplace and thankfully “designed out” the many flaws of PVCu doors. The market was given a credible alternative to plastic doors that were stronger, more secure, more thermally efficient and much better.

Composite doors today are manufactured from different materials that include PVCu, engineered or solid timber, GRP that is Glass Reinforced Plastic and cheaper products with just foam.  Generally composite doors have a combination of materials that are pressed together and glued under very high pressure to create the finished door skin.  These will then be fitted with the different door hardware such as multi point locking, handles, glass vision panels and accessories such as letter plates, door knockers, spyholes and door numbers.

We must credit designers and manufacturers of composite doors in providing consumers a strong, secure and weather resistant front door that today will not fade, warp or twist and also provide impressive thermal characteristics and long life.  This has also been reinforced by the British Research Establishment giving a life expectancy of a composite door of approximately 35 years.

But what we must also remember is that a composite door is an imitation of a wooden door.   They’re manufactured and designed to look like a wood door, comprising textured and grained internal and external skins but marketed with all the advantages of virtually maintenance free and long life.  Does it matter that this is an  imitation product? This will depend on the individual customer.  There are also contemporary variations of composite doors as well.

It is up to you to decide whether a solid core door will be better than a GRP door. Both types are manufactured by excellent companies such as Rocal and Distinction Doors as two examples and all composite door companies of course demonstrate the advantages of their own particular product.

Should I ignore the obvious advantages of a composite door?

a composite door will comprise a pvcu frame but will not match white powder coated aluminium that well
A composite door with sidelights and toplights in this design may be prone to rattling with some systems.

You shouldn’t.  The choice of front door will depend upon what you want, what you wish to spend and what product best suits your home. If a composite door is right for you then buy it. There is nothing wrong with composite doors and they’re a good product.

However it may be worth thinking about why you have decided to replace your windows and doors elsewhere in your home with aluminium.  It is because you have understood and have been made aware of the advantages of aluminium windows and doors, or you simply didn’t want PVCu from the outset.  Therefore why not ask your double glazing firm about other front door options?

Firstly, a composite door will comprise a PVCu outer frame.  Why accept a part PVCu product when you are enjoying all the advantages of slim lines, high strength and the high quality powder coated finish with your aluminium french doors, bifolding doors and windows.  Even if you opt for a composite door with a coloured PVCu outer frame, the finish of the product is nowhere near close to the powder coated finish of aluminium windows and won’t be an exact colour match either as the finishing processes for plastic profile and aluminium profile is completely different.

Be aware that some composite doors in PVCu frames with sidelights and toplights such as the one shown here may be prone to rattling and shaking when the door shuts.  It is the way PVCu doors and frames are coupled together that can cause this and because PVCu is a weaker material compared to aluminium or timber.  We have often been contacted by consumers who have replaced their old timber door in the same design and are very disappointed to find with their composite door that the whole screen can shake when they close the door.

Do windows and bifolding doors suppliers offer other entrance doors?

Yes they should do. In many cases you will find aluminium entrance door solutions but in a different form. All aluminium systems companies that offer a complete range of products from windows, to bifolding doors to conservatory roof systems all have an entrance door product of some kind. But it is how that product is customised, configured or modified that creates a unique entrance door in aluminium. There is no standard brochure showing you a range of front doors.  Alternatively contact us and we will help you.

Many of the good double glazing firms today are either not aware of what can be done with an aluminium door, do not have the experience to design it for you or simply choose to keep things simple by only offering you a composite door. Because composite doors are the easy solution, easy to sell, largely off the shelf and perfectly fit for purpose as a front door option.

However a composite door cannot be truly bespoke, it cannot be individual. You will in most cases be presented with a brochure with a set number of styles, a set number of colour choices and an availability of hardware such as knockers, spyholes, handle choices and more.  This will still give you an “individual” door to a point, as you choose some options but these will be from a set number of options that the composite door company chooses to offer in their brochure. You will not be able to deviate from these.

Are you getting what you really want with a composite door?

In buying aluminium double glazing for an entire property you will most likely want to keep all the windows and doors supplied by one company and we recommend you do this as it makes perfect sense. But if your chosen home improvement firm cannot offer you anything other than a composite door and does not have the knowledge of the entire market in entrance doors to offer you other solutions then perhaps you may prefer to source your front door from an alternative company.

Alternative choices for a new front door?

Simple searches online for contemporary entrance doors, modern new front doors or any type of similar search term will reveal many of the specialist door companies that can offer alternatives to composite doors and give you food for thought.

Solid Wood or Timber Doors

nothing can replicate the look or feel or weight of an original hand crafted wood door
Nothing can replicate the look or feel or weight of an original hand crafted wood door

The wooden front door can still be seen in many homes and for many homeowners has provided many years of good service.  It is true Wooden doors will need periodic maintenance but modern technology applied to modern timber doors has resulted in products with long guarantees, long service life and minimal maintenance.  Ultimately there is a reason why your original front door lasted for so many years with many original doors some over 100 years old working well today.

It is important to stress that all home improvement products require routine cleaning and periodic maintenance of some description to ensure warranties are honoured. If any door is damaged and left to suffer as a result of damage not being rectified then regardless of the material, the warranty will not be honoured. No door is a fit and forget product.

With a timber door you will receive a natural, warm and authentic product that will give many years of good service. Kloeber is one of many examples of a company that manufactures excellent timber doors in a contemporary style and you may also wish to look at Dempsey Dyer that are also recommended.

Steel Doors

Steel doors are very popular in Europe and are also available in the UK. They comprise a strong steel outer frame and heavily reinforced steel panel that provides a door of exceptional security and high strength. They lean towards the more expensive product but you may find them ideal for your particular home.  Steel doors can have the advantage of no visible outer frames. The entire door leaf is integrated as one and gives a brilliant uniform appearance whereby the whole door appears to open and not leave a visible opening leaf frame.

Aluminium Doors

The major aluminium systems companies all offer either single or double doors that are perfectly suitable as main entrance doors. It is important to remember these will not be “slab” doors as found in composite doors and you will either have to create your own door with the use of an aluminium panels, midrail, transom and mullion sections to give you the look that you desire.  Alternatively there are specialist companies that offer bespoke aluminium doors of exceptional quality and with a wide range of high security features and designs.

this black powder coated aluminium door has sophisticated woodgrain profiles with aluminium panels.
This black powder coated aluminium door has sophisticated woodgrain profiles with aluminium panels.

AluK doors for example were installed in a property that was recently awarded a coveted Sunday Times British Home Award  where an aluminium door was used as the main entrance door to the property through the clever use of timber to give privacy at the same time as maximum natural light.  Other companies such as GRP Designs can also offer excellent one off designs with aluminium doors.  Are you also aware that aluminium can now be coated in a far more sophisticated and longer lasting material than woodgrain foils to create authentic wood looking doors? Contact us and we can help you source these.

What about security in aluminium doors?

Every company will extol the virtues of the security of their particular product.  A quality door whether in aluminium, timber or a composite door that has passed the current PAS23 or PAS 24 security testing or Secured by Design has passed a level of testing designed to withstand sustained attack on the product.  Irrespective of what material the door may be from, if it has passed this very stringent test, it has passed the test.  Virtually every aluminium door available from the leading systems companies has passed.  Therefore if you are being told that a composite door is somehow more secure than an aluminium or a timber door yet all three have passed the same test, then you can comfortably assume that from a sustained attack point of view all doors are secure.

Obviously a door that is fully glazed is at risk of having glass broken whereas a door with a solid timber or aluminium panel has less so. However with most break-in attempts occurring at the rear of properties through patio doors, windows or french doors and rarely through the front door the same risk perception could be applied in the case of a fully glazed front door as well.  What is the likelihood of a burglar attempting to break in through the front door that is in full view from the street?

What about thermal efficiency?

It is worth bearing in mind that it is the infill or the panel of the door not just the outer frame that plays the major part in the overall thermal efficiency of the door.  In the same way as we have very thermally efficient glass for our windows and doors, so we also have extremely thermally efficient composite door slabs and aluminium panels.  Your window company should be able to advise you of the U value for your door if this is important to you.

Therefore be aware that if you are only offered a composite front door when buying aluminium windows, bifolding doors or windows that you have other options.  Contact us and we can help you.