It’s important to think about how the door must perform and how long you want to ensure that performance. For example, consider the type of weather and exposure it will have to survive and whether or not it needs to help insulate the garage.
Will you be using the garage as an extra room or a workshop? If so, you’ll want to keep the garage warm in winter. Is there a room above the garage? Buying an insulated door will help keep the room above the garage warm.
The following information will give you buying advice for the major types of garage doors.
» Steel Garage Doors
Steel garage doors are the ultimate in security and durability. Steel garage doors are much stronger and more secure than wood, aluminum, or fiberglass ones.
Thanks primarily to new technologies that allow for embossing metals with wood-grain patterns, plus new durable coatings, today’s steel doors rival the look of wood without the maintenance headaches.
Styles imitate those of wood doors—flush, recessed panel, and raised panel. You can also get metal doors with a horizontal, ribbed design.
» Steel Garage Door Benefits
Steel doors won’t warp, crack, delaminate, or fall apart due to the effects of weather. And, because most are made of hot-dipped, galvanized steel that is vinyl clad or given a baked-on polyester finish, they don’t rust or require repainting as often as do wood doors.
Most warranties guarantee the door won’t rust for as long as you own the house, but they do not guarantee against fading. On the downside, steel does dent and can be difficult to repair.
Premium-quality steel doors have cores of rigid polystyrene or polyurethane foam insulation. Not only does this insulation help keep the garage warm in winter and cool in summer, but it makes the door lighter, quieter, and easier to operate. In addition, it is less likely to sag over time.
» Quality of Steel Garage Doors
You can usually discern a steel door’s quality both by its thickness and the thickness of its cladding. A premium door is often a full 2 inches thick, filled with insulation, and clad in 24-gauge steel. Less-expensive doors are thinner and made of 28-gauge steel (the lower the number, the thicker the metal).
Doors may be single skin, with a frame that shows from inside, or double skin, sandwiching the foam insulation between panels on both outside and inside. If looks inside the garage matter, the double-skin construction is not only much more durable but also attractive.
Weatherstripping is another measure of quality. The best-made doors have a full-width vinyl bubble garage door weatherstripping along the bottom edge that conforms to the floor. They also have rigid vinyl weatherstripping along the sides of the door panels, a vinyl top cap, and weather seals between each section.
» Fiberglass & Aluminum Garage Doors
Fiberglass garage doors actually consist of an aluminum frame with fiberglass sections. Like aluminum, fiberglass is very lightweight.
Other advantages of fiberglass include its translucency and its resistance to the effects of salt air. Because of these benefits, fiberglass doors may work best for locations needing good light transmission or resistance to corrosive ocean climates.
However, for more mainstream uses, fiberglass isn’t a very popular material because it is a poor insulator, it yellows with age, and it breaks relatively easily, especially when cold.
Aluminum garage doors have enjoyed many of the same advances as steel garage doors—wood-grain embossing and durable finishes are typical. Aluminum single-piece tilt-up doors are fairly popular because they are extremely lightweight, will not rust, and are relatively inexpensive. Unfortunately, aluminum has a major drawback—it’s very easily dented.
» How to Buy a Wood Garage Door
Many people prefer wood for its natural look, affordability, and easy tooling. But, because wood expands and contracts and can warp and crack as it weathers, it demands regular maintenance—repainting or refinishing every couple of years.
- Tilt-Up Wood Garage Doors
The easiest to build and most affordable type of door is a tilt-up wood door. In many cases, a carpenter builds a tilt-up wood door right in the driveway by applying a skin of exterior plywood—usually 3/8 inch thick—to a frame of Douglas fir, spruce, or a similar softwood. In some cases, siding that matches the house covers the frame. This type of flush construction is quite strong, stable, and affordable
- Roll-Up Wood Garage Doors
Sections of roll-up wood doors may have either flush or panel construction. Flush sections are made by fastening a plywood panel over a wooden frame, like a small version of the flush door described above. For panel doors, manufacturers fit several separate, rectangular panels into a wooden frame. The skeletal framework is built of fir or some other common softwood; panels are made from a variety of materials.
Panels for a door that is meant to be painted may be flat surfaces of plywood or hardboard, or they may be three-dimensional raised or recessed panels. Cladwood, made from composites with resin-impregnated overlays, or wood lookalikes such as Masonite’s SureWood raised panels, are commonly used for the three-dimensional type.
Cladwood composite panels come with a 20-year warranty, but most wood doors are warrantied for only one year.
Appearance-grade wood doors—those that are meant to be stained rather than painted—have solid-wood panel inserts. These doors may be all cedar, redwood, or may have softwood frames with oak, mahogany, or other hardwood panels.
When buying one of these, find out whether the panels are made from a single, solid piece or from several widths edge-glued together (since the joint between glued-up lengths may show).