How to: Pick the right garage door

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How to: Pick the right garage door

The garage door has become such a prominent part of the façade of new homes that manufacturers now offer more style and colour choices than ever before. “It’s important to make the garage door look beautiful,” says Bette Davies of Richards-Wilcox Canada, a manufacturer based in Mississauga, Ont. “It’s not part of the background of your home, as many people think.” We talked to a few industry experts about some of the options to consider when you’re in the market for a handsome new garage door.

Decide on the material

When researching your options, there’s lots to think about: durability, maintenance, design, cost. “Wood doors can take more abuse than steel ones, which show dings and dents, and can even be pierced and start to rust,” says Francesco Di Sarra of Capoferro Design Build Group in Toronto. “The most commonly used wood is cedar, but you can get anything you want if you have the budget, even mahogany.” There’s also the question of aesthetics. “I like to match the style to the house windows,” says Eric Adelman of the custom-design company South Park Design Build in Toronto. “For wood and stone houses, I might stain the garage door. The idea is to blend it into the façade – white trim and a white door is a very old-fashioned look. With contemporary homes, you can go crazy with materials, like glass doors and interesting wood designs.”


1 Aluminum

  • Many styles, stock colours and designs
  • Low to no maintenance
  • Rustproof, which makes it a good choice for salty or humid environments
  • The light weight of the material makes it less taxing on the operating mechanism, door openers and tracks, not to mention easier to operate manually
  • Less durable than steel; dents easily

2 Steel

  • Astonishing variety of styles, stock colours and finishes
  • Sturdier than aluminum
  • Can rust if scratched or dented

3 Wood

  • The traditionalist’s choice; a range of options for custom design
  • Veneers or overlays offer the look of wood at a lower cost
  • Requires regular maintenance (painting or staining)

4 Fibreglass/pvc overlay

  • Wide choice of styles and designs
  • More durable than wood and metal, but can crack if hit hard
  • Newer to the market so not as widely available as wood and metal
  • Generally costs more than metal but less than solid wood


Determine the style that best suits your home

Choose a door that complements your architecture. “On a traditional house, you might want the door to disappear or blend in. But if your home is modern, you can celebrate that, perhaps by choosing all glass or a unique design,” says Francesco Di Sarra. Below are general guidelines on door styles and features that will match your house type.

1) Victorian/georgian/colonial

  • Panelled wood (or lookalikes)
  • Coach house or stable look
  • Divided-light windows, ideally coordinated with house windows
  • Decorative hardware, like iron hinges or handles

2) Arts & crafts/edwardian

  • Raised panels or sections
  • Arch-top or divided-light windows to match or complement your home’s windows (but nothing too fussy looking)

3) ’50s ranch style

  • Plain finish with simple, horizontal emphasis in design, like wood slats or banding
  • Simple hardware or windows that create balance with overall composition of home’s exterior
  • For a streamlined look, consider forgoing handles

4) Contemporary/modern

  • This style offers the most design freedom – choose materials and details that make a statement
  • Options to consider: stained wood, V-ribbed or horizontal banding, frosted or pebbled glass


Pick the right colour

  • Generally, the colour should complement your home and blend in with the overall structure rather than stand out; avoid vivid colours and extreme contrasts.
  • Consider matching the garage door to your home’s window trim rather than to the front door. Or go for a colour that blends in with your siding or brick.
  • For less contrast with red brick, choose a beige or tan that matches the mortar in the brick, instead of a white.

Choose finishing details to customize your look and add character

Design choices aren’t limited to the basic door itself. Many manufacturers offer decorative accents and hardware.

  • panelling Options include multiple square or rectangular sections for creating everything from a colonial to a coach house look.

  • decorative hardware Hinges and handles come in a variety of designs, including a forged-iron look to evoke the styling of a coach house or stable doors.

  • decorative strapping An X or Z shape formed with strapping (and perhaps in a contrasting colour) can introduce a nostalgic country or barn door look.

  • windows Styles include arch tops, divided lights, large panels and etched glass; textured and sandblasted styles are also available for less transparency.


Consider other options for convenience & comfort

  • installation “Make sure the door is properly installed and maintained,”says Bette Davies. “Installation isn’t a regulated profession yet. For safety reasons, use a reputable company that carries a recognized door brand.”
  • insulation The higher the R value of the door’s insulated core, the more protection from noise and the elements. “Garage use is changing. For a lot of people, it’s not just a place for your car, but a workshop or even extra living space,” says Jean-François Morin of Garaga. “So people are asking for increased insulation – R14 or more – and better weatherstripping to make it more comfortable.” If you use your garage as a workspace, or have a living space over or attached to it, consider a higher R value to save energy and increase comfort.
  • safety Most automatic door openers retract if they sense an obstruction, but you might also want finger guards to prevent pinched fingers. Hire a professional installer – steel doors especially can be dangerous if they fall down.
  • door openers While a ½-horsepower opener will operate all but the largest and heaviest door, it may not last as long as a ¾-horsepower model. At the higher end, in-line openers dispense with chains and have fewer moving parts, so they make less noise. “Some newer automatic openers include track drive, which uses a nylon track and is quieter,” says Philip Coleman of RONA.
  • security According to Philip, there are now some good security features available: a keypad that allows your kids to enter the house through the garage without a key; handleless doors to foil thieves; remotes that change frequencies easily, so only you can program the door.



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How to: Pick the right garage door