Buying garage doors isn't something you do too often so it pays to do some up-front homework before you make a decision. The evolution of these doors from basic slab styles and wood or hardboard construction have exploded the number of available design options.
The first thing to do before making any decisions is invest in a little education about the important features of these doors. Their size and complexity have functional and safety implications that you'll want to know about. Other issues like insulating value and whether to tackle the installation yourself need consideration too.
These doors also have big impact on curb appeal. In many ways they have a lot to do with your home's "first impression" on the neighborhood.
Becoming knowledgeable about the various types of garage doors and the features that are available will help you make a better buying decision.
The first step in making a good choice is educating yourself on the various kinds of doors that are available. There's a large aesthetics piece that goes along with choosing a garage door but there are some important technical details to know as well.
Steel and other metal garage doors offer the convenience of easy maintenance and durability. Some metal doors include aluminum and some higher-end doors are even made out of copper but most metal doors are made from steel.
Steel doors are made in several ways. The simplest, least expensive includes a single sheet or panel of steel that forms the door. These doors also tend to be flimsier than their more solid counterparts. The other types of steel doors are made with a front and back panel for greater rigidity. An option with these doors is the availability of insulation that can be installed between the two door skins.
The steel used to make garage doors comes in several thicknesses referred to as "gauge thickness" and ranges from 20 to 28 gauge. The smaller the number, the thicker the steel which means a 24 gauge door has thicker skins than a door with 28 gauge steel.
Most steel doors can be painted with latex paint to match your house and trim color. They usually just need need proper prep work ahead of time to provide a good base for the paint.
Wood doors can be solid wood or can be made from a combination of wood and other materials like steel where the wood provides the facing on a steel-backed door. There is no mistaking the beauty of wood, particularly stained varieties but they require the most maintenance and are typically more expensive than other materials.
Plastic, vinyl, wood composite, fiberglass and hardboard are other materials that are used. Plastic varieties offer easy maintainability and cleaning but typically can't be painted. Fiberglass is used as a faux-wood treatment that is used in conjunction with an underlying steel door.
When you shop for garage doors you might see reference to the quantity of "layers" with regard to a door's construction. For example, a 4-layer door might consist of a composite overlay on top of a steel front panel. The back is made up of another steel panel and in between is an insulated core.
Similarly, a door with a steel front, polystyrene insulation and no back panel would have 2-layer construction.
Standard garage door widths are 8', 9', 10', 12', 16' and 18'. However what you'll find if you research several manufacturers is that some include 15' and 20' widths among their "standard" sizes. In other words, to some degree sizing is product-specific and manufacturer-specific.
If you have a door opening that's not on a particular manufacturer's "standard size" list, try an alternate manufacturer first to see if they have a door that has similar features to what you're looking for. If you can't find any, you may have to pursue a custom door size.
One alternative to a custom door size is changing the width of your door opening. For example, if you have a 15' opening but can't find any 15' doors that suit you, the possibility exists to widen the opening. However this is a more drastic and costly option, requiring structural upgrades (a new door header for one). The upside to this is that you get more room to move the cars in and out (who among us hasn't clipped the side-view mirror at one time or another?).
Polyurethane and polystyrene are the two primary types of insulation materials used in garage doors. Polyurethane provides greater insulating value than polystyrene for a given thickness of door. Polyurethane is also injected into the door cavity in a liquid form allowing it to fill the gaps. This is better than polystyrene which comes in rigid sheets and is sandwiched between the front and back panels or adhered to the front panel on doors without a back skin.
Insulated doors are generally more expensive than their non-insulated cousins.
Typical required features include an automatic reversing mechanism to reverse the door's closing operation and containment features for both types of door springs (torsion and extension).
Again, all new doors should have these features but you'll want to be sure you cover these important items on any particular brand of door you consider.
One way to achieve a certain level of quality is to have your door installed by an IDEA-accredited dealer. IDEA is the Institute of Door Dealer Education and Accreditation. It was created to establish a level of quality among overhead door dealers regarding safety and reliability. Accreditation is achieved through the completion of courses and a written exam.
If you're up to speed with the important characteristics of garage doors it's time to get familiar with some of the features and innovations that are available.
Before making any final decisions on which type of garage door to buy take a look at the following considerations. Thinking through these points of view might cement which direction to take in making your final choice.
Where the windows are located and the type of glass used determines the amount of visual privacy you'll get with your new door. Windows mounted in the top panel near the top of the door opening are more private because they're above eye level for most people. Frosted glass options allow light into the garage while keeping its contents private.
This was always a running battle between myself and my three sons. Regardless of my approach or rationale, the appeal of "wall ball" was like a siren song luring them to toss or kick the ball into the door. Needless to say, the door took a beating.
Did we get a new door? Not yet. But after our home remodel, the old door stuck out like a sore thumb and I know we'll have to pony up sooner or later. My advice? Wait until the kids get beyond the point of using the door as a backstop or get a pretty sturdy and easy-to-maintain door.
Also, if you're having the door installed by a dealer, find out if they can haul the old door away for you. It may be included in your quoted price or it may be an additional charge. Either way it's more convenient than having to dispose of it yourself.
Even if you don't plan on selling, there are so many design options today that it pays to take a little extra time and possibly a few more dollars to make your home visually appealing and complementary to the rest of the house.
Armed with information about what you should pay attention to and what's available you're now better equipped to make an informed decision. Here's a suggestion on how to go about making the choice.
To find a local source for garage doors use the form below. It can help you locate one or more sources and installers for suitable products in your local area.
Numbers 2 and 3 in the list above can be swapped around since the way a garage door looks is a big driver in making a decision. However, don't forget to factor in the ongoing level of maintenance and upkeep you're willing to sign up for. That's why choosing the material might be the best first choice. For example, I love the look of real wood carriage house-style doors, but I'd much rather have a more low-maintenance door material.
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