Garage Door Buying Guide – How to Choose A Garage Door For Your Home

Garage door types, styles and materials give you an appealing range of options – all discussed in this Garage Door Buying Guide. Want an opener to go with the door? Our garage opener buying guide is the best place to start.

Let’s systematically work our way through this garage door buyers guide to show you your options for all important elements.

What Garage Door Materials Are Available?

Most garage doors are steel. Wood is a high-end option on upscale homes. There are in-between choices too. Here are garage door material options; pros and cons are mentioned where applicable.

Wood Style Garage Doors
Wood Style Garage Doors

Steel Garage Doors

Steel garage doors are the most affordable and offer excellent durability when maintained. But they can dent. And if the coating is scratched through, it needs to be covered quickly, or rust can get a foothold.

Cheap garage doors made from steel are manufactured with a single layer of steel stamped in panels of various designs.

Steel Garage Door

Multi-layer Construction: For a little bit more, you can get a two-layer steel door backed by a thin layer of insulation – an R-value of about 6. Upgrade to a triple-layer garage door – two layers of steel with an insulation core – and enjoy the benefits of an R-value of about 9 to 18. That’s enough to help with energy costs, especially if your garage is heated. You’ll feel the difference if you also use the garage as a shop, kids play area, workout space, etc.

Embossing and Overlays: Would you like the look of wood without its cost and hassle? If so, check out steel doors embossed and coated to look like the genuine article. From the road, you can’t tell the difference. Your other faux wood options are a “skin” over the still made of composite material or fiberglass tinted and textured to wonderfully mimic wood.

Vinyl Garage Doors

Vinyl is a tough, durable choice priced between steel and fiberglass.

Vinyl Garage Doors

It’s a little heavy relative to the other two options, but vinyl garage doors are manufactured in a nice range of styles. It used to be that only white vinyl doors were made, but now you’ll find a wider – though not vast – range of vinyl garage door colors to consider. See our complete vinyl garage door price guide for prices, pro’s and con’s.

Fiberglass Garage Doors

Fiberglass offers excellent strength in a lightweight design. And the surfaces are easily textured and tinted to create the appearance of genuine hardwood, knotty pine – the options are endless. Panels are housed in steel frames.

Fiberglass Garage Door

Fiberglass won’t dent like steel or aluminum, so it keeps its good looks for decades. But aesthetics and durability come at higher cost than steel and vinyl. And beware – cheap fiberglass garage doors often fade after a decade or so. If your garage door faces a sunny direction, consider another option or plan to purchase a premium fiberglass garage door with proven UV protection.

Add a backing of insulation to the fiberglass garage door and get an R-value in return of up to 15.

Aluminum Garage Doors

Aluminum has a couple advantages over steel. It gives you equal strength in a lighter material. This makes it easier to manually lift – or produces less stress on a garage door opener. You’ve got plenty of style and window options with an aluminum garage door too, from traditional carriage style to contemporary aluminum frame doors with clear or translucent glass or polycarbonate panels.

The cost of aluminum garage doors is significantly higher than steel, as shown below, so you’ll have to weigh the relative pros and cons

Composite Garage Doors

A composite “skin” over steel is an option already mentioned – the other is a full-composite door. Composites are formulated differently, but most composite garage door panels are some type of plastic blend. They may contain (recycled) wood fibers or other organic materials such as bamboo dust, all held together with a binding glue. The panels are fitted into a steel or aluminum frame.

These faux wood garage doors are lighter and less expensive than the real thing, and your maintenance and associated costs will be minimal.

Wood Garage Doors

If your home features upscale building materials (brick, stone, wood) and design, then genuine wood might be the only suitable choice. With the higher cost and need for consistent maintenance comes unmatched beauty. Price starts with painted wood doors, but in our opinion, almost any other material is preferred to painted wood because of its maintenance demands – and you still don’t get a true wood look. Stained wood is the right choice if you choose a wood garage door.

Wood Garage Doors

Wood garage doors are manufactured in many attractive styles, both traditional and modern, so you won’t lack for choices. This material offers better insulation than bare steel, though it doesn’t have the R-value of an insulation steel door.

Did you know? Garage door replacement adds good value to your home. According to the most recent Cost to Value report, a new garage door brings an ROI of almost 95%. That means if you spend $3,000 to have a garage door installed, your home’s potential resale value rises by about $2,850. Plus, you get the benefit of an attractive, secure garage door.

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What Garage Door Types Do I Need to Consider?

This section is about how the door operates. The next section discusses the different “looks” afforded by garage doors.

All of these garage door types can be operated manually or with a garage door opener.

Sectional Garage Doors

Sectional Garage Door Type
Sectional Garage Doors

The most common garage good type, sectional garage doors are made with 8-10 horizontal, hinged panels. They open vertically and are available in every possible material and style option.

Canopy Garage Doors

Tilt up and Over Canopy Style Garage Doors
Canopy Garage Doors

Canopy doors get their name by the way they operate – by pulling the door away from the garage frame, so the bottom comes out and up. For this reason, these are sometimes called tilt-up or tilting garage doors. The difference is that a canopy garage door turns on side pivots, so that most of the door is inside the garage when open, parallel to the ceiling.

Canopy garage doors are most-often manually raised, though motorized openers are available. Most of these garage doors are made of lightweight materials such as fiberglass or stamped steel for easier lifting.

Roll-up Garage Doors

Roll up Garage Door Types
Roll-up Garage Doors

If you’re thinking “ugly, utilitarian” garage door, you might want to revisit roll-up garage doors.

Newer styles are very attractive – embossed steel with genuine wood appearance is just one option.

These sectional garage doors do just what you’d expect. As the door is raised, the narrow horizontal panels form a roll. Manual chain-drive and motor-drive options are available. An advantage of a roll-up garage door is that it allows for maximum overhead storage in the space.

Barn Style Garage Doors

Barn Style Garage Door Types
Barn Style Garage Doors

Their chief characteristic is their appearance, rather than how they function.

Barn style garage doors are manufactured in overhead, roll-up, slide-to-the-side and swing-open varieties. In short, there’s a barn style garage door to fit your installation requirements.

Bi-fold Garage Doors

Bi-Fold Garage Doors

These doors open side to side. They are made of one (1-car garage) or two (2-car garage) doors. Each door is manufactured with two hinged panels that fold together, just like a bi-fold closet door. The look ranges from traditional to contemporary depending on the material used and panel design.

Slide to the Side Garage Doors

Slide to the Side Garage Door
Slide to the Side Garage Doors

If you plan overhead storage in your garage, than a slide to the side garage door should be considered. Just plan your garage so that the open door doesn’t block an entry door into the home. That won’t pass code.

Most slide-open garage doors are motor-driven, and the door opens into the garage, sliding along one side wall. They’re designed like overhead doors, but there is just one rail at the top rather than rails on either side.

Garage Door Sizes

There’s more to it than one-car and two-car garage doors, but that’s certainly the most important sizing issue.

Here are common standard sizes. Custom sizes are available from some manufacturers, but they generally aren’t needed unless you have a very old garage that was built before size standardization.

Single Garage Doors: Width x Length – 8’x7’, 9’x7’, 9’x8′ (most common) and 10’x7’.

Double Garage Doors: Width x Length – 12’x7, 14’x7’ and 16’x7’.

9-foot and 10-foot heights are available in both single and double garage doors.

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What Are the Main Garage Door Styles?

When you begin shopping for garage doors, you’ll be impressed – and maybe a little overwhelmed – with the many diverse and attractive styles available.

We’ve identified more than a dozen “looks” on our Garage Door Styles page. While they defy strict classification, some possible groupings are:

Old World: Mediterranean, French, Spanish

Traditional: Mission, Colonial, Shaker, Craftsman

Rustic/Country: Ranch, Cottage, Barn Door

Modern: Contemporary, Modern

Not all styles are available in all materials. While it is the most expensive option, wood also gives you more stylistic choices. Stamped steel is a versatile material suitable for most of these looks. More than 75% of garage doors are either steel or wood.

Who Are the Big Garage Door Brands?

Who makes the best garage doors? There are several quality garage door manufacturers, and it depends on what you’re looking for in material, style and operational performance.

The brands we’re happy to recommend include:

Wayne Dalton Garage Doors This national manufacturer covers all the bases with steel, aluminum, fiberglass, vinyl and wood garage doors. Style options are wide, and Wayne Dalton’s custom color match system offers 6,000 choices.

Amarr Garage Doors This brand makes a nice selection of stamped steel doors, some with composite overlays to create a profile. Amarr makes a limited number of wood garage doors.

Clopay Garage Doors Insulated doors are Clopay’s stock in trade. They’re available in steel with composite overlays, for example to give the door a barn door appearance, and in rich woods. Clopay is considered a high-end garage doo manufacturer.

Raynor Garage Doors You’ll find mostly steel garage doors in a nice range of styles when shopping Raynor. Wind Load hurricane-rated doors are offered. A limited number of wood and aluminum doors, mostly in custom designs, are produced too. The majority are midrange in cost.

C.H.I. Garage Doors This brand makes about 70 garage door models. Most are insulated steel garage doors, but fiberglass and aluminum choices are available. The aluminum garage doors have aluminum frames and clear panels. Costs are mid-level, with a few budget options and some pricey styles too.

The Overhead Door Company If you’re looking for broad selection, this brand and Wayne Dalton are top options. The Overhead Door Company manufactures steel, aluminum, vinyl, fiberglass and wood doors plus specialty Wind Load doors for HVHZs – hurricane zones.

Hormann Garage Doors – This is a world leader for garage doors internationally, including the United States, Canada and all the way to Europe. They offer a range of door styles including up and over and sectional garage doors. They also offer 3 material types including wood, steel and aluminum.

Did you know? A few garage door brands also make garage door openers that are worth considering. For example, Raynor manufactures more than a dozen models in various operational styles and some with WiFi, battery backup and other useful performance features.

How Much Are Garage Doors?

Like windows, front doors and other building components, garage doors are sold in ranges from budge to very expensive.

Our Garage Door Prices page is very detailed, giving a full breakdown of the replacement cost for a garage door. But for an overview, here’s what you can expect.

Basic: $600 to $2,000 – Entry-level steel and vinyl doors with standard hardware and few stylistic upgrades such as raised composite features. Few insulated garage doors are found in this tier.

Average: $1,450 to $4,000 – This wide garage door cost range covers most steel, aluminum and fiberglass doors. Your options in this tier include insulation and appearance upgrades including composite “skins” or overlays, stylish hardware and windows.

Premium: $4,000 and up – This range begins with premium steel garage doors with wood-look coatings. The best fiberglass garage doors and contemporary aluminum garage doors with clear or translucent panels are priced in this range. Some are standard styles – but many custom garage doors cost 4-grand and up.

And of course, good quality to the very best genuine wood garage doors are in this range.

We Have Prices by Garage Door Brand Which You May Find Helpful

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Other Factors to Consider

Garage Door Openers Are An Option

Unless you have a lightweight steel, vinyl or aluminum garage door, you will probably want a garage door opener. They are available in several types.

How much do garage door openers cost? DIY starts at about $160 for the most basic chain-driven garage door openers. Most homeowners pay around $400 to $650 to have a quality opener installed. If you have a slide to side door or want a premium opener, paying closer to $700 or $800 is likely.

All the details are available on our Garage Door Opener Cost Guide page. And if you want to view your options, see our Garage Door Opener Buying Guide.

What About Garage Door Windows?

Adding windows brings natural light into the garage. You might appreciate the light when you drive into the garage, get out and make your way to the home’s entry door.

This is especially true if your garage doesn’t have windows on a side wall or if your garage door opener isn’t equipped with a light. We do recommend that you upgrade your garage door opener to one with a light that will stay on long enough for you to get to your entry door or to a light switch in the garage to turn on overhead lighting.

What about security? Most garage door window openings are too small for the average-sized adult to get through. They are an unlikely entry point for intruders.

Garage Door Maintenance

Most garage door materials are considered low maintenance. Steel, vinyl, composite and aluminum require washing as needed, and little else for maintenance.

Note on steel: If the coating on your steel door is scratched down to the metal, it is imperative that you cover it within a few weeks with a high-quality rustproofing primer and/or paint. Your garage door manual should give you guidance on dealing with scratches.

Wood is a different story. First, keep a good finish, either stain or paint, on your wood garage door. If any peeling or bare areas become evident, sand and cover the sports as soon as possible. Then, plan to sand and re-stain or repaint the door at your earliest convenience.

Power washing: If you decide to pressure wash / power wash your garage door, use a low setting. This will avoid damaging the finish. In fact, high pressure can even damage the surface of the wood. Unless your garage door is very dirty, for example with a buildup of lichen or moss, power washing probably isn’t necessary.

Moving parts maintenance: Those are maintenance tips for the door’s aesthetics. You’ll also want to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for maintaining and servicing the springs, cables, rails and the garage door opener. Most are low-maintenance mechanisms. At most, you might be encouraged to keep the operational parts clean, inspect them for wear and lubricate them on a schedule such as twice per year or once each quarter.

The Home Depot provides a useful Garage Door Maintenance checklist for the handy homeowner. Of course, your garage door installer can perform these maintenance tasks too. Expect the cost for a maintenance visit to run $75 to $200 for the 2-4 hours of work that is provided.

Our Simple Garage Door Buying Tips

The general flow of the buying process which we suggest is as follows:

  • Choose your preferred material, and price doors in the size or sizes needed.
  • If the doors are within your budget, proceed to door style, finish, windows, hardware and other amenities.
  • If doors in your preferred material are above your price line, then look for alternatives in affordable steel or vinyl.
  • To minimize cost, if necessary, skip windows on the door and choose the most affordable hardware.

What about insulation? We do recommend insulating your steel, vinyl or aluminum garage door. Your options are to order the door with insulation or to install the door and then buy a do-it-yourself garage door insulation kit online or from a home improvement store. You’ll save about a quarter to a third of the cost of factory-installed insulation by DIY.

Learn More In Our Garage Door Sections

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