So you want to buy a garage door and be an expert your first time out. Here are a few tips to aid the process of finding the right door for your home.
Some people break the process of looking for a garage door into very simple terms of trying to find something to fill a large hole in front of their home that looks good and is cost effective. That's a good start. Cost, appearance and functionality are part of the process, but safety, warranty, adaptability and value should also be part of the mix.
Here are some general guidelines:
There are a wide range of options out there. You don't have to buy a white garage door with a lot of squares any more. In fact some manufacturers can give you a door with no squares at all. Pattern and design options are multitude for most major manufacturers.
Most manufacturers have two or three colors, but some offer the flexibility of dozens of factory baked-on colors. What will look best with your home and bring out the features you think are important? Those are the key issues to ask.
Material and Design
Steel garage doors come in embossed, ribbed and flush designs. Garage doors come in steel, copper, glass and aluminum, so there are multiple options to consider. You have more options than just the one door you may be looking at in the showroom. Some manufacturers specialize in customizing your door within a very short time, so lead time for a customized door with the right material and look is another option to consider.
The value of the steel in your garage door is also a major issue. Hi-tensile steel is best in at least 25-gauge for protection from denting. Ensure that you inquire about the gauge of steel used and whether the paint is baked on, or simply sprayed. This will give a very clear picture in a hurry about the quality that went into your potential purchase.
Any garage door can be purchased with optional windows. A myriad of patterns and designs are now available that allow in natural light to liven up the garage. Weigh safety issues in your choice and whether the windows are made of acrylic or glass.
Some manufacturers tout the insulation value of garage doors. Most people question this concern, since the garage in most homes is neither heated nor cooled. If insulation is a concern to you, lightweight polystyrene foam insulation can be added to most doors. Insulated doors will help to reduce the amount of outside temperatures that enters your garage, thus keeping it more comfortable for you. An insulated door is generally quieter and has a more attractive interior than an uninsulated door.
The spring is perhaps the most undervalued part of a garage door initially but makes its value known very quickly. Low-cost doors tend to use extension springs. Make sure an internal safety containment cable is included in case of breakage.
Springs tend to be the first part of the garage door to need service or replacement. Many springs are tested to operate between 5,000 to 10,000 cycles while some manufacturers make a spring that will last up to 30,000 cycles or more. That's a wide difference in longevity and value when you add it up. Most homeowners use their garage doors up to 3,000 times per-year so a 10,000-cycle spring could break within 3-4 years. Replacement usually costs $150 - $250. Check the manufacturer's warranty on the spring. Never buy a door with only a one-year warranty on the spring.
This is another defining difference in quality and value. Is the manufacturer giving you hardware that will last for five years or 30 years? The coating on the hardware will be one of the first clues and makes the difference in rust, so common in humid areas. Check for at least a G-60 zinc coating on the hardware.
If you live in a high-wind region, you'll regret skimping on your garage door. The garage door industry set standards on wind loads that a door should be able to tolerate. Make sure the door you're looking at meets local building codes. Conventional garage doors usually can handle a wind load up to 35 mph, while others build one that is standard at 70 mph. Additional struts can increase the wind resistance on any door.
How much of a warranty can you get? This is where manufacturers tend to thin out in a hurry. Many offer one-year warranties and limited use warranties, but there is at least one company that offers a lifetime warranty on its product. Who is willing to stand behind their product? When you're investing money in a garage door this should be a big consideration.
While you may save $100-$200 in buying a cheaper door, you will actually be paying more in the long-run when considered in terms of how much you spend on your door over any given period. In many cases you get a much greater value, by spending the extra $100 to $200 up front. In general, look for a garage door warranty that covers moving parts for at least 15-20 years, and that covers torsion springs for at least 5-10 years or more.
This is another defining difference among garage door manufacturers. The industry tends to be lightly regulated and so the range of safety options among manufacturers is quite broad. Each year the Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates there are thousands of injury associated with garage door use. In 2001, for example, there were an estimated 17,000 incidents related to the garage door, many involving children.
The most common area of trouble is between section joints. A finger caught in a section joint can easily be broken or severed. Several manufacturers have redesigned their garage doors to protect the fingers, by blocking access and shrinking the size of the gap in the joint. For some this is found only on the higher priced model, but for at least one it is universal on all of its garage doors.
Track hardware and the cable used to move the door up and down are also key. Many of the track systems, common today, have gaping holes or entrapment points where a child can stick their finger though and can easily result in a serious injury in a thoughtless moment of play. Take time to consider the safety factors of your family, especially if you have younger children, before your finalize your garage door purchase.
Garage Door Opener
Openers are usually available with a belt or a chain drive and a ½ or 1/3 horsepower drive. Power is usually only a factor in choosing an opener when a large door is involved. Safety standards initiated in 1993 require that a door reverse its direction when something crosses the path of photoelectric eyes in place that cross the door opening----a key safety feature. But new standards aside, many openers are still noisy and carry limited warranties. Noise can be a factor if there is a bedroom or room above the garage.
Ask for a demonstration of the garage door opener before buying. Finer door openers do not vibrate and the noise level is minimal. Look for at least a 10-20 year warranty that covers all parts.
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