All-composite and aluminum-clad door frames hit the market with the promise of maintenance-free performance. But for Craig Bohmbach, production manager for Albany Door Company—a Chicago-based wholesaler that fulfills pre-finished door frame orders placed by remodeling contractors through window and doors stores—these door frames fell short of their promise. His insights help lay out the challenges and solutions, starting with installation.

In Bohmbach’s experience, all-composite door frames require special installation practices—and significantly more installation time. And he’s hearing about the issues from experienced, well-trained installers. “I see a lot of people who have been doing this all or most of their life, and they’re very much used to how to install a wood frame, where certain shim points should be and how to correct a door that’s out of plumb or out of square,” Bohmbach says. “And they’re saying, ‘Please don’t send me to the job with that full-composite frame. I don’t want to have to keep getting callbacks on my labor so that I’m out of pocket [on a new project] because I’m servicing something I’ve already put in.’”

The challenges arise because of the way all-composite door frames respond to changes in temperature, humidity, and amounts of direct sunlight—issues the frames face not only from season to season, but also throughout the course of a single day. “If you start [installation] in the morning and you’re ending midday as the sun starts hitting the door frame, all of a sudden you have to readjust the entire door unit because the heat or the sun has changed how that jamb is functioning in the door opening,” he says. And then there are callbacks. “I’ll hear, ‘I installed it in the summer and now it’s winter, and the door is sticking,’ or vice versa,” Bohmbach says

Door frames such as FusionFrame from Endura Products—with a wood core, composite bottom, and composite exterior—eliminate these installation problems. “FusionFrame is a good fit for us because it installs just like a wood jamb, but it doesn’t have the paint issues or the possible issues that finger-jointed primed frames have,” Bohmbach says. “I can’t say if it’s in exaggeration or not, but I can say that I’ve been told it can save hours off an installation versus full composite. And I’ve also been told that it can save 30 minutes, maybe even an hour, on a bigger door unit versus just a normal wood frame.” That’s because you don’t have to spend time on filling holes, lightly sanding them, and touching them up with paint, he says.

Many all-composite wood frames also claim to be prefinished, but they require fasteners that puncture the exterior surface. “It’s not aesthetically great, and every time you puncture a painted or stained finish, if it’s not filled perfectly, you’re going to have the chance of getting water infiltration into those points,” Bohmbach says. “FusionFrame makes for a really nice, finished look because you’re not driving fasteners through the exposed wood,” Bohmbach says. Its design allows you to remove the cover, screw everything down where it can’t be seen, then add the cover so you can’t see the fasteners.

Still, moisture and rotting remain a threat, especially at the bottom of the frame. “Almost anytime you have a door unit failing specifically from rotting, it’s because the water has wicked up through the frame,” Bohmbach says. FusionFrame’s composite bottom helps alleviate the issue.

FusionFrame door frames also have the advantage over aluminum-clad frames—especially thinner-gauge aluminum-clad frames that are prone to denting, but also thicker gauges, Bohmbach says. “The cost of the aluminum and the cost of labor really shaves down that business quite a bit for us, because it could end up costing the consumer probably thousands more to have that done on a nice, big door unit,” he says.

For more information on Endura FusionFrame, visit here.