The High Cost of Custom Steel Doors

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Pivoting custom steel door for entrance in Villanova, PA

Is custom or steel driving up the cost?

Custom steel doors cost more than their wood, aluminum, and vinyl cousins because of the extra processes and labor that goes into building them.  Of course, they are worth every penny of the extra cost depending how they are designed and manufactured.

Steel doors are almost always welded.  After the intersections are welded, they need to be carefully ground to make the corners look like the steel just took a 90˚ turn with a crisp, sharp corner.  Grinding is an art.  It should be done by a patient skilled hand with a sensitivity to the importance of the task.  Great steel doors with gouges and grinder marks at the corners look lousy.  They should never be accomplished by the lowest paid and skilled worker in the shop.  Unfortunately, I have worked with companies that did just that.  I was horrified.


How can I avoid so much welding and grinding?

One way of avoiding the welding process is to laser cut the exterior steel “skin” of the steel door sash out of a single steel of heavy steel sheet.  There are two companies that I know about that use this process: Arcadia Custom and 2Fold®. 

The Arcadia system was developed several years ago by myself and my partner at the time Montanstahl AG of Switzerland.  It used flat “skins” for the inside and outside with a fiberglass  separator between the two skins.  The finishes are perfect, and with no visible seams. 

2Fold® laser cuts the flat but also cuts the deep flanges used on all 4 sides to form a very strong box.  Only the non-visible 2-1/4” seams on the corners are welded and ground while the surface is left perfect, with or without muntin grids.  

Laser cutting the “skins” allows muntin bars or grids to be cut into the exterior skin in one piece, again without welding or grinding to risk imperfections.  Whereas other steel doors made with profiles of sticks need individual flat plates to be cut and welded into place, the laser cut solution eliminates the additional material and labor. 

Also, the steel used for the muntins cost nothing because it would have otherwise been scrap.  The scrap steel that results from the laser cutting is a cost, but far less than the cost of cutting, welding and grinding.  It also does not run the risk of grinding and placement errors.

If the doors are to be truly custom, laser cutting of the “skins” also allows for odd shapes and figures to be easily incorporated because the laser just does what it is told to do.  It doesn’t require any skill to produce a perfect door.

How about thermal insulation?

Steel window and door sections are by nature better insulators than aluminum, but not quite as good as wood or vinyl.  Most steel doors are NOT insulated other than the glass.  2Fold® only makes custom steel doors with superior insulation.

The thermal performance is achieved by using Accoya® glazing frames that are painted to match the strong steel structure of the sash.  What you see is a painted surface inside and out with much higher thermal performance than any other steel or aluminum thermally broken door or window.  Also, NO plastic was used to create the “break”, only natural Accoya®.


How about custom finishes?

Painting the steel is completed only after the door is cut, welded and ground. Aluminum shapes are most often painted at the aluminum extruder who makes the shapes.

They use automated paint systems and paint up to 20’ long bars in a single color at a time.  This requires only a few standard colors to be offered, but the savings are huge.  These bars are then cut by the fabricator into the sizes for the door and mechanically joined at the corners with screws or crimped corner keys.  This is fast and inexpensive, but the resulting hairline joint often shows the cut edge of the aluminum due to misalignment.  Standard colors and cheaper corners make for a cheaper so-called “custom door.”

One more thing about steel vs. other materials.  It can also be blackened to create a “live”, natural finish that other materials cannot offer and still provide long life.  As you look at blackened steel from different angles and changing lighting, the frame looks quite different which is natural.

So what is the conclusion?

Steel doors and windows have the thinnest frames possible because of the extraordinary strength of steel.  To get the fantastic result, you need to go to extraordinary lengths to get it finished to the high value expectation you want from a special door.

So, now you may have a better understanding why windows are doors that are manufactured out of steel are more expensive than their aluminum, vinyl and wood counterparts and like the adage, “you get what you pay for”.   

Unlike its counterparts, steel offers advantages of up to 35% more glass, slimmer stronger framing allows for larger panels of glass, longer lifespan, custom paint finishes to your exact requirement, a product that will not sag or move for decades. 

At 2Fold®, we cater to discriminating clients who only settle for the best.

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