Table of Contents
- Introduction to Garage Doors
- Types of Garage Doors
- Garage Door Materials
- Garage Door Styles
- Essential Parts of a Garage Door
- How to Maintain a Garage Door
- When to Replace Your Garage Door
Introduction to Garage Doors
Garage doors are the largest appliance in any home, making them very prominent. They serve many purposes, including beauty, safety, and convenience. If any of these qualities fall short of their desired target, your home could suffer. If you are new to owning a garage door, this beginner’s guide will walk you through the various styles, materials, types, and parts.
Our garage door beginner’s guide covers the following:
- Many different types of garage doors related to how they open and close
- Materials used to build garage doors and advantages/disadvantages of each option
- Styles of garage doors to consider for the style and architecture of your home
- Each major part or key component in your automatic garage door
- When to replace your garage door, and how you can maintain it over time
Types of Garage Doors
Garage doors can be referred to as having many different types. What we mean when we say “garage door types” is the method in which the door opens. Not all doors roll up and down a track with wheels. Some close from side to side, while others may roll up just above the door. The four types of garage doors you have to choose from include:
Sectional Garage Doors
As the most common type, sectional garage doors are easily identifiable as being four to five rectangular panels connected via hinges. The sections have rollers attached to the side housed inside a track system, allowing them to smoothly roll up and down the track.
This design allows the door to sit vertical or horizontal on the track system. They consist of many parts to operate, but they are affordable and highly customizable when it comes to style. You can find sectional garage doors in different materials, but steel is the most common.
Roll-Up Garage Doors
These door types are used more in commercial buildings than in residential applications. Roll-up garage doors are made of steel slats that coil around a drum as the door is raised. The metal is flexible and thin enough to take shape around the drum easily.
Roll-up garage doors are best used for garages with little to no headspace. They are extremely durable and feature fewer parts than sectional garage doors. They don’t use springs or rollers to open and close, reducing the amount of maintenance needed. You will pay more for a roll-up garage door than a sectional door so have that in mind.
Sliding Garage Doors
Sliding garage doors slide to the side rather than working vertically. These doors are suited for garages with little to no headspace, similar to roll-up garage doors. They feature the same kind of design sectional garage doors do, a series of long panels connected by hinges.
The garage door is attached to a trolley or track, mounted just above the door opening. It follows this track to open, where it curves near the corner of the garage. It’s essentially a sectional garage door turned on its side. However, it uses fewer parts than a sectional garage door and takes up much less space.
Tilt-Up Garage Doors
Finally, the last type of garage door is a tilt-up. It operates similarly to a sectional garage door in that the door opens and closes vertically. The major difference with a tilt-up garage door is the door is a single piece. It doesn’t curve to open. Instead, the door tilts inward and sits flush with the ceiling of the garage.
Sectional garage doors use torsion springs to open and close. Tilt-up garage doors use extension springs, which are known to have safety issues. When extension springs break, they can send metal and debris flying at high speeds, potentially damaging your vehicle, property, or even a person. For this reason, many homeowners tend to steer away from tilt-up garage doors.
Garage Door Materials
Garage doors can be made out of all types of materials, each offering various styles, designs, aesthetics, and, of course, price tags. It’s critical you know what each type of material has to offer your home. Plus, it’s important they fit your budget! Some materials lead to extremely high prices, while others will easily fit into your budget.
The garage door materials you have to choose from are:
Learn everything you need to know about each of the listed garage door materials below.
A wooden garage door is formidable and beautiful. This material is timeless no matter the style of home you have. Wood is best used for traditional and carriage-style garage doors. They’re also available in custom options for those looking to stand out amongst their neighbors.
Wood garage doors have many customization options, including wood species, finish, stain, paint, windows, overlay, hardware, and more! If you truly want a custom garage door, wood is the best material to work with.
There are two major downsides to wooden garage doors: they require a lot of maintenance and cost a lot. Wood cannot stand on its own against the elements. It will require regular maintenance in the form of refinishing and sealing to keep the moisture away. Regular maintenance will also be essential for your door’s beauty as it won’t last without such care. Wood also comes with a hefty price tag, much more than other materials available.
Overview of Wooden Garage Doors
- Gorgeous and defined
- Perfect for custom doors
- Many personalization options
- Natural insulator for your home
- Requires more maintenance than other materials
- More expensive than alternative options
- Susceptible to water damage
- Best suited for mild climates
- Heavy and difficult to operate by hand
As the most common garage door material out there, steel is the obvious choice for homeowners. Steel has been used in building materials for a long time because of its affordability and durability. You can find steel in an unlimited amount of designs and styles, perfect for any home.
Steel garage doors are able to be customized, but they may not have the same profound look a wood door has. Although, modern faux wood garage doors have come a long way in capturing that distinctive look.
Maintenance is a breeze with a steel garage door since you won’t have to refinish it or seal it from moisture. The only problem you may run into is corrosion, specifically near the bottom of the door, where moisture often makes contact. That said, steel is perfect for all types of climates, no matter how hot or cold. You can always refer to your area’s R-value for the right type of insulation.
Overview of Steel Garage Doors
- Durable and lightweight
- Affordable cost for any budget
- Capable of mimicking wood
- Many style options
- Low maintenance
- Susceptible to corrosion and rust
- Potential dents
- Requires insulation in colder climates
Aluminum garage doors are paired with glass in many cases, giving an extremely modern, sleek look. Aluminum doors are best suited for such a style as they are very minimalist in appearance. If you want a more modern or contemporary-looking home, aluminum doors are a great place to start.
Aluminum garage doors are lightweight and durable. Like steel, they don’t require a lot of maintenance. A concern you should have with aluminum garage doors is their security capabilities. When paired with windows, they are not as durable as a wood or steel door would be. This is something to keep in mind when choosing a material.
Unfortunately, aluminum garage doors are best suited for mild climates. Aluminum easily fluctuates to the temperature outside, leading to energy-efficiency issues. Avoid using aluminum for any coastal homes since wind and saltwater are problematic.
Overview of Aluminum Garage Doors
- Affordable material option
- Great for modern homes
- Capable of extra features
- Best suited for mild climates
- Raises security concerns with glass panels
- Not suitable for coastal areas
- Susceptible to dents and wind damage
Entirely glass garage doors are not common but are certainly an option. Depending on the manufacturer, they typically come in black, white, frosted, or tinted options. As we mentioned, with aluminum, glass is typically built on an aluminum frame, making it lightweight.
Not all styles of homes will benefit from a glass garage door. They are primarily for modern-style homes. Glass and aluminum together scream contemporary style, giving you the sleek, minimalist look you want in a modern garage door.
Fragileness always comes with glass. Impacts with heavy objects can shatter the glass, requiring a serious repair. Glass is also not a good insulator, so cooler climates should avoid this material or install insulation alongside it. Strong winds and hail make glass vulnerable, so be mindful if you live in a climate with these types of conditions.
Overview of Glass Garage Doors
- Low maintenance
- Provides plenty of natural light
- Perfect for modern homes
- Moisture resistant
- Fragile and capable of shattering
- Poor insulation
- Susceptible to strong winds and hail
Fiberglass occupies a unique space among garage door materials in that it can mimic a wide range of other materials. Do you want a wood door without the price tag? Fiberglass can achieve that beautiful look of wood grain without a lofty cost. What makes fiberglass better than wood is it requires a lot less maintenance.
Your fiberglass garage door won’t absorb moisture as wood does. This helps protect its integrity and look over a long period of time. Fiberglass is best suited for mild to humid climates. Strong winds in coastal areas can greatly damage fiberglass, so avoid this material if you live near the beach. The biggest drawback of fiberglass is when it sustains damage, the entire door must be replaced. The fiberglass cannot be repaired like other materials allow.
Overview of Fiberglass Garage Doors
- Resistant to moisture
- Low maintenance
- Mimics other materials like wood
- Highly affordable
- Versatile customization options
- Allows plenty of natural light
- Any damage requires a complete door replacement
- Not suitable for colder or coastal climates
- Cracks and fades in color with age
Vinyl garage doors are built upon steel frames, making them durable and long-lasting. Dents, dings, cracks, and holes are less likely to occur with a vinyl garage door. Vinyl is very similar to fiberglass, but it doesn’t come in as many colors. If you ever want to change the color, painting over it is not recommended. Instead, you’ll have to replace the door entirely.
Like fiberglass, vinyl garage doors are affordable. They come in a number of styles, but they are limited. Vinyl performs well in all types of climates, but colder climates require some form of insulation.
Overview of Vinyl Garage Doors
- Affordable material
- Durable and long-lasting
- Great for all climates
- Low maintenance
- Minimal color options
- Cannot change color after installation
- Require insulation in cooler environments
Garage Door Styles
The material of your garage door can have an influence over the style, but it isn’t the dictating factor. There are three primary types of garage door styles: traditional, carriage-style, and modern. Custom garage doors are also an option for homeowners looking to stand out on the block.
These three primary styles are incredibly distinct in that they can be identified from each other easily. Not every style matches your home, so it’s critical you select the style that best suits your home’s architectural style. We’ve outlined the details of each style below, along with what home styles they pair well with.
Traditional Garage Doors
As the most common style, traditional garage doors are easily identified by their symmetrical, long panels that are either raised or recessed. The panels can take the shape of squares or rectangles, with windows sometimes being incorporated.
Traditional garage doors are also known as raised or long panel garage doors. Panel lengths are another design option you have, depending on the size of your door. Most traditional-style garage doors are white, but they can come in a variety of colors. Most traditional garage doors are made of steel, but vinyl, fiberglass, and wood are also popular.
Recommended House Style Pairings: Ranch, Craftsman, Farmhouse, Mediterranean, Cape Cod, Colonial, Contemporary
Carriage-Style Garage Doors
Carriage houses were once ubiquitous, providing a place to store horse-drawn carriages. The doors had to be wide enough to accommodate such a large vehicle. They often included a lock or latch on the outside with hinges on both sides of the doors that would open outward.
Today, carriage-style garage doors retain their original design but are paired with a modern overhead-opening system. The timeless beauty of carriage doors has made them extremely popular among homeowners.
You can identify a carriage-style garage door by its wood or wood-like appearance, decorative windows, and additional hardware. The hardware is almost always decorative but is made to look like hinges, handles, and latches. The most distinctive feature of a carriage-style garage door is the intricate design, which may use recessed or raised panels similar to traditional doors.
Instead of opening outward as they originally did, carriage garage doors open like standard sectional doors. They can also be incorporated into tilt-up systems if the homeowner prefers. As for the material, steel is the most used. Wood and fiberglass are also great options.
Recommended House Style Pairings: Ranch, Tudor, Craftsman, Farmhouse, Mediterranean, Cape Cod, Colonial, Victorian, Country French, Cottage
Modern Garage Doors
Also known as contemporary, modern garage doors are nearly the opposite of carriage-style when it comes to their design. These doors are built with minimalism at their core. Sleek surfaces and straight lines are what define modern garage doors.
These types of doors are often the most expensive of the three primary styles. Modern garage doors are typically sectional doors divided by glass or aluminum panels. Wood and steel are also common materials for modern garage doors.
Recommended House Style Pairings: Ranch, Mediterranean, Contemporary
Custom Garage Doors
Manufacturers offer a large selection of garage doors ranging in traditional, carriage-style, and modern styles. However, their designs right off the assembly line may not be what you’re looking for. In that case, a custom garage door is the best route to take.
All three of the primary styles include a number of different personalization options, such as material, color, windows, hardware, and more. Many manufacturers offer custom garage doors as an option, but they are often limited to what they mass produce. Working with a garage door supplier or a custom garage door builder is the best way to stand out amongst your neighbors.
Essential Parts of a Garage Door
Garage doors are comprised of many different parts, each with its own specific duties. Together, these parts simply open and close your garage door. Having so many moving parts for a simple task may seem odd, but each is essential for a smooth and safe operation.
Since sectional garage doors are the most common type of door, we’ll be breaking down every part that makes it work. The full list of garage door parts is as follows:
- Tube Shaft
- Cables & Drums
- Retainer & Seal
- Safety Sensors
- Release Rope
You can easily identify the opener as the box attached to the ceiling. It is operated by a remote or button on the wall to activate. Once the garage door opener activates, it sets the motion in action for the door to open or close. It alone is comprised of many parts such as a receiver, circuit board, belt or chain, and motor.
The garage door springs do the heavy lifting when opening and closing the door. Sectional garage doors use torsion springs, which sit directly above the door opening on the tube shaft. The springs absorb the weight of the door by being twisted. Even if you open the door by hand, the springs will turn, taking a majority of the door’s weight off your hands.
The tube shaft is the bar sitting just above the opening of the door and what the springs are wrapped around. Only torsion spring doors have a tube shaft, so you won’t have this if you have extension springs.
A set of tracks are located on each side of the door, held in place with brackets. Garage door tracks house and guides the rollers of the door on a specific path.
Your garage door has about five rollers on each side, typically made of nylon or steel. They are housed inside the track system. The garage door rollers ensure a smooth operation of the door. Rollers do require regular lubrication, but we’ll discuss more maintenance later.
Hinges are unique to sectional garage doors. They are located on the backside of the door and are what connect each section of the door. As the door rises and lowers, the hinges allow for the individual sections to follow the tracks’ curve without a problem.
Cables & Drums
You can find the cables and drums of your garage door on each end of the tube shaft. The cables are wrapped around the drums. When activated, the drums spin, either winding up the cables or spooling them out. The cables are attached to the drum and run vertically to the bottom of the door. When the opener is activated, they allow for an even lifting and lowering of the door.
Retainer & Seal
The retainer and seal are at the very bottom of the door. Retainers are metal pieces that hold the seal in place. The seal’s job is to keep moisture, pests, and debris out of your garage. These two parts of your garage door are often replaced together.
Since the early 90s, all garage doors have come with a pair of infrared safety sensors or photo eyes. This safety feature is essential for preventing injuries to people or pets. While the door is closing, if an object passes through the sensors, then the door will stop closing. They are located near the bottom on each side of the door, no more than six inches off the ground. If your safety sensors don’t work, you should have them repaired or replaced sooner than later.
Also known as an emergency release cord, the release rope is used to open the garage door manually. The cord hangs a few feet from the trolley with a handle at the end. The trolley (belt or chain) is disconnected from the carriage door when pulled. That way, you can move the door up and down by hand.
How to Maintain a Garage Door
With so many different parts, your garage door requires regular maintenance to operate correctly. There are a handful of things you can do to prolong the life of your garage door. Many of them require little to no time at all with minimal equipment. Garage door maintenance can be simplified down to four actions:
- Look & Listen
- Lubricate Moving Parts
- Annual Inspections
- Seek Repairs as Needed
These four simple steps can help prevent your garage door from malfunctioning or experiencing problems. Learning more about each of these tasks will better prepare you for garage door maintenance.
1. Look & Listen
You likely use your garage door daily. When you do, look and listen for anything out of the ordinary. Is your garage door making a screeching noise? Does the door rise unevenly? Looking and listening for any sign of a problem is the best way you can catch them early. As soon as you see something unusual, get in touch with a garage door repair company. They’ll be able to diagnose the problem and catch it before it becomes much more serious.
2. Lubricate Moving Parts
Lubricating the moving parts of your garage door only takes a few minutes out of the entire year. The parts that need lubricating include the springs, chain drive, and rollers. White lithium grease is known among experts as the best garage door lubricant for each of these parts. Don’t use standard WD-40 since it’s a degreaser rather than a lubricant. Use the white lithium grease on each of the moving parts a few times a year for optimal lubrication.
3. Annual Inspections
You should have your garage door inspected by a professional at least once a year. You can perform any other inspections, but an expert is able to identify any signs of future problems. They’ll give you a complete report on your garage door, providing feedback on the condition of various parts. This will help you gauge when your garage door will need to be serviced and what problems to be on the lookout for.
4. Seek Repairs as Needed
Finally, the best thing you can do for your garage door is to get it repaired when it needs it. Repairs should not be postponed or ignored. A damaged spring or cable can impact other parts of your garage door. Eventually, other parts will fail, and the door will no longer open or close. This poses a lot of problems, such as safety, convenience, and costs. Always have your garage door repaired sooner rather than later. It will save you hassle and money in the long run.
When to Replace Your Garage Door
Regular maintenance will make the most out of your garage door. Most doors last 15 to 30 years. As long as you maintain and care for your garage door, you can expect it to last you a few decades. However, garage doors are not able to last forever. They’ll eventually reach the end of their life.
Knowing when it’s time to replace a garage door can help you increase your home’s value and beauty. When homeowners think of home improvement, the garage door is likely never on their minds. Their first efforts typically go to the bathroom, kitchen, or another interior room. The garage door should not be overlooked since it can count for almost 30% of your home’s exterior.
You should replace your garage door if it:
- Requires excessive repairs
- Sustained damage
- Is more than 30 years old
- Doesn’t match your personal tastes or home’s style
Garage doors should look beautiful paired with your home and shouldn’t be causing you a hassle when it operates. If your garage door is giving you any of these problems, it’s time to start looking for a replacement.
When your garage door requires repairs on a regular basis, it’s time to get a new one. You’ll eventually start spending so much on repair costs you could be putting that money toward a brand new door. Excessive repairs are not good for your wallet and the life of the door. Stop calling the garage door repair company for another fix. Instead, get in touch with a garage door supplier who can help you replace your existing door.
Did someone run into your garage door with their car? Has severe weather damaged the door or shattered some windows? Seek a replacement door instead of having all these issues repaired. In many cases, the door may be too far damaged to repair. So, a replacement is the next best option.
How old is your garage door? 20? 25? 30? If it’s more than 30, then start searching for a replacement! Garage doors designed 30 years ago don’t have the visual style or design of modern-built garage doors. Your old door is likely faded, dented, loud, and operates slowly. Boost curb appeal and get a more efficient garage door with a replacement. All of these issues are solved with a garage door replacement or installation.
Conflicting Taste or Style
With your garage door making up a large percentage of your home’s curb appeal, it’s vital it complements the style of your home. For example, a carriage-style garage door won’t pair well with a contemporary or modern home. Carriage-style doors are the opposite of minimalism, so the conflicting style will hurt your curb appeal rather than help.
Plus, you want your garage door to meet your personal tastes and style. Looking at a garage door style or design you hate every day sounds exhausting. Work closely with a garage door supplier to find a door that meets your personal tastes and the style of your home.
Frequently Asked Questions
You likely have a few questions regarding garage doors. We’ve answered several frequently asked questions below.
How much is a garage door?
A garage door could cost anywhere from $500 to more than $1,500, depending on the size, materials, design, and manufacturer. Installation costs would increase the cost by a few hundred more dollars. Always receive a few quotes from local garage door installers before making a decision.
Can you paint a garage door?
For other materials, painting a garage door is certainly viable. Use exterior latex paint on wooden garage doors. Oil-based exterior paint is best for steel and aluminum doors. You could also use latex for these doors, but it may not last as long.
How wide is a garage door?
What size garage door opener do I need?
Where can I buy garage doors?
There are many different garage door suppliers and manufacturers you can reach out to. The leading garage door brands in the nation include:
- Overhead Doors
- C.H.I. Overhead Doors
- Northwest Door
- Wayne Dalton
Check out the websites of each of the garage door manufacturers above. You should also consider finding a local garage door installer/supplier to get the best prices and to schedule installation alongside your garage door order.