Several weeks ago we replaced our garage door and I shared the before and after pics and my excitement over how the new garage door transformed the look of our home. My husband and I had never purchased a garage door before and since it’s a pretty big investment, I did quite a bit of reading and research before making a choice. I’m not claiming to be a garage door expert, but I certainly learned a lot along the way and have put a everything that I learned together to create this post with tips for making the right decision when choosing a garage door. I hope that having all of this information in one place will be helpful to some of you when the time comes to replace your own garage door (which hopefully won’t be due to an oops like mine – an open car tailgate and closing garage door aren’t a good combination…).
1. Know the pros and cons of natural wood doors versus steel or aluminum doors before choosing a material for your garage door. The most popular garage door material is steel. Steel doors can be insulated to be more energy efficient than wood doors and they are lower maintenance and generally less expensive than wood doors. Aluminum doors are typically the least expensive type of garage door and the most lightweight (and thus easiest to lift manually) but also the most prone to dents. However, aluminum has the advantage of being resistant to rust and corrosion, giving it an advantage in coastal regions. Natural wood doors need to be repainted or restained every few years and they can be quite costly compared to steel and aluminum doors. However, the warmth and beauty that wood garage doors can bring to a home is undeniable!
2. Consider the insulation value (“R-value”) of the garage door. The higher the R-value of the garage door, the greater the insulation value and energy efficiency. If you live in a temperate climate, this may not be an important issue for you. However, if you live in a harsh climate, have finished living space above your garage, or plan to heat or cool your garage because you are using it for purposes other than parking cars (for example, a workshop or laundry area), the garage door’s R-value is definitely something to consider. Several years ago, we put a master bedroom/bath addition above our garage and the space has always been much colder than the rest of the house in the winter – our new garage door that has a much higher R-value than the old one has made a significant different in the colder temperatures. The negative of getting a garage door with a high R-value is the cost – generally, the higher the R-value of the door, the higher the price. So your need for a well insulated garage door needs to be weighed against the extra cost.
3. Choose a garage door color that coordinates with the exterior colors of your home, whether that be by selecting one of the standard prefinished door colors or painting/staining your door a custom color. Most garage door manufacturers offer their garage doors in several fairly standard color options. If one of the standard colors matches well with the rest of your house, perfect! A prefinished door is the way to go if you can find a color that works for you because it’s virtually maintenance free. However, if none of the colors offered by the manufacturer work well with the exterior colors of your home, consider painting it. To make the painting job easier on you, you can request to have the door delivered to your home prior to installation so that you can paint the individual sections of the door before it is hung. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for how to prep your door before painting, the type of paint to use (use of oil based paint may void the warranty), and restrictions on painting with dark colors.
4. Don’t underestimate the visual impact of adding windows to your garage door. My old garage door didn’t have windows so initially I didn’t consider this option when selecting a new one but after using Clopay’s Door Imagination System (see tip #6), I could see for myself what an amazing difference the addition of windows would make to the overall look of my home. Now I’ve become a believer that the vast majority of the time, the most attractive garage door for your home is going to be one with windows. These two homes from Clopay’s “Before and After” Pinterest Board are other great examples of the difference that windows can make:
5. Select a style of garage door that complements your home. Obviously, you don’t want to put a contemporary looking aluminum and glass garage door on a traditional Colonial home or a carriage style door on a contemporary home. Also, if your garage door will have windows, be mindful of the shape of the windows and the size of the window grilles that you choose. As examples, these three homes in the same community all have garage doors with windows that were thoughtfully chosen to complement the home:
|The rectangular shape of these garage doors’ window openings and the division of the windows with square grilles mimic the design of this home’s large window (to the left of the garage doors) that has rectangular trim and square grills.|
|The arched shape of these garage doors’ window openings and the division of the windows with square grilles mimic the design of the arched windows to the right and above the garage doors.|
|The rectangular shape of these garage doors’ window openings and the division of the windows with rectangular grilles mimic the design of the large windows to the left and the right of the garage doors.|
6. Use an online tool such as Clopay’s Door Imagination System that allows you to upload a photo of your home and change the design of the garage door to see how various designs transform your home’s appearance. For example, I uploaded this picture of my home with the old garage door:
When I tried out a carriage-house style door without windows it looked like this:
but with windows, the visualizer showed me that it would look like this (much better!):
7. Be aware that most garage door manufacturers have options for different styles of decorative door hardware and also that installing some of the hardware on the door is optional. For example, I chose a carriage-house style garage door but wasn’t fond of the look of the hinges or step plate (hardware on bottom center) with the style of my home so I chose to not install those pieces of hardware. I also changed out the standard lift handles for colonial handles that better suited my home.
8. If you live in an area at risk for hurricane force winds, be sure that your garage door is a wind-rated door that meets local wind load reinforcement requirements. Approximately 80% of residential wind damage starts with wind entry through the garage door.
9. Ask about the the warranty for your garage doors, as some manufacturers offer longer warranties than others. The length of warranty can also differ depending upon the specific type of door you choose.
10. Once you’ve found the door that’s perfect for you, be sure to price shop. I had gotten the quote for the Clopay door that I ended up choosing from a local dealer but then saw that Home Depot was having a sale on Clopay doors that would have made my garage door less expensive to buy through them. I informed the salesperson that I was working with and they agreed to match the Home Depot sale price, saving me a few hundred dollars.
While shopping for a new garage door isn’t the most fun you’ll ever have, it’s a big investment so it’s important to take the time to make the right choice. The impact that a new garage door can have on the appearance of your home is likely much bigger than you may expect!