Garage door hero

How to shop for a new garage door and door opener

If you have an attached garage on your home, chances are the garage door occupies a significant amount of aesthetic real estate that can hinder or help your home’s curb appeal. If you have an ugly, outdated, or improperly functioning garage portal, it’s time to think about a replacement. And while you’re at it, give thought to the door opener, which may be nearing the end of its lifespan.

Replacing each of these essential components could increase your home’s security, climate comfort inside your garage, and resale value. In fact, Remodeling magazine’s 2020 Cost vs. Value Report reveals that a garage door replacement recoups 94.5% of its cost, on average – making it one of the highest return-on-investment upgrades you can choose nowadays.

“It’s time to get a new garage door when you see cracks or dents in the panels or when the garage door starts to buckle when it comes up. Any peeling material or paint falling off the door is also a sure sign,” says Ray Dal Soglio, co-owner/technician for Always Open Garage Doors in Scottsdale, Arizona. “A garage door opener should be replaced whenever the remote becomes unresponsive after you change the batteries, if the sensors malfunction, or if your garage door becomes incredibly noisy, which may indicate a loose chain or belt.”

But if you’ve never replaced your garage door or door opener, or even if it’s been a while since the last ones were installed, it’s important to do your homework and learn about the latest features, materials, and options available.

“The biggest change in garage doors is their ability to up your curb appeal. There have been huge improvements in colors, designs, and finishes that can be a beautiful benefit to your home, although they have made garage doors more expensive over the last few years,” notes Dave Krzyzak, owner of Goodyear, Arizona-headquartered Palm Valley Garage Doors.

Garage doors today are primarily made from a handful of popular materials:

  • Heavy-gauge steel embossed to resemble stucco or wood grain that provides an insulating value between R-6 and R-17
  • Fiberglass, famous for resisting warping, humidity fluctuations, moisture, and bugs (R-4 to R-12)
  • All wood (redwood, cedar, or cypress) or composite wood designed to resist moisture and boast an attractive finish (R-3 to R-6)
  • Glass or acrylic panels set within anodized aluminum frames, creating a visually pleasing appearance (R-value varies)
  • Vinyl, a lightweight but sturdy and weatherproof choice (R-4 to R-12).

Additionally, garage doors feature either single-layer, double-layer, or premium construction, with the latter providing the highest insulating values and durability.

“If you are looking to work or hang around in your garage, you probably want to choose a door with a good insulation level. But if you are looking for a door to increase your home’s attractiveness, consider a wood or glass-designed garage door,” advises Krzyzak.

Modern manufacturing processes have made garage doors easier to build, but that doesn’t mean you’ll pay less than you would have years ago.

“A low-end garage door will likely cost over $1,000 versus an upscale door that may retail for $5,000 or more,” Dal Soglio says.

When it comes to openers, they typically come in four flavors:

  • Chain-drive types, which employ a metal chain and trolley to lower or raise the door and are less expensive
  • Belt-driven types, which rely on a belt versus a chain to manipulate the trolley and reduce noise
  • Direct-drive types in which the motor serves as the trolley and fewer parts are needed, leading to less vibration and noise
  • Screw-drive types that operate via a threaded steel rod used to move the lifting mechanism

Also, included features in modern garage door openers are commonly plentiful. In addition to one or more remotes, wall-mount keypads or buttons, a security light, and a manual release that often come standard, bells and whistles to look for include a pocket remote, built-in Wi-Fi and smart home connectivity, automatic close functionality, battery backup, and soft-stop/start motor.

“The biggest change to openers is that they are a lot safer now. Many new openers have better sensors, multi-speed energy-efficient motors, and smartphone connectivity,” Dal Soglio notes. “Expect to pay around $350 to more than $600 for a garage door opener with installation.”

Diane Vukovic, a security and emergency preparedness expert from upstate New York, says it’s crucial to consider security features before committing to a door and opener.

“The garage door is generally the weakest point of entry on a house, which is why many burglars will break in through the garage,” she cautions. “Opt for a garage door opener that uses a rolling code system where the code is automatically changed every time you open the door. And invest in a keyed emergency release for your garage door or install a guard plate in front of the emergency release so that it can’t be accessed from the outside.”