For most home owners the garage door came with the house, and few of us give it much thought other than to make sure it was open when we drove through it and closed at night when we locked up the house. But when it comes time to replace an old worn out door, we are suddenly confronted with an array of choices we didn't even know existed for garage doors.
The first choice you must make is what type of material you want your garage door to be made of. The most popular material is steel. Steel is reasonably priced, low maintenance, and is available in a faux wood or can be custom painted. The quality of steel will vary depending on the gauge of steel. Thin steel at 27-28 gauges will dent easily but be a less expensive steel door. A mid level 25-26 gauge is at a mid range price that won't dent as easily as the thinner gauge. The highest quality steel is a 24 gauge door that should be able to endure more impacts and bumps without any surface impacts. Steel isn't as good of an insulator material as wood, but it can have insulation added to make it more energy efficient.
Wood doors were the original door material for garages and have the advantage of being a good insulator against the elements. Wood can be painted or stained depending on preference, but it also requires high maintenance and if it is neglected it can crack, split, and experience expansion or shrinkage, so it shouldn't be the material of choice unless you are prepared to maintain it.
Wood composite doors are a little more expensive than steel doors but cheaper than wood doors and have the advantage of looking like wood but not requiring the high maintenance of wood. The wood composite doors can be made out of a variety of composite materials including plastic and wood fiber or wood and resin. This type of material can resist cracks, splits, rotting, shrinkage and expansion. It can be a good door choice in a mid price range that offers the best of both steel and wood.
Vinyl and aluminum are two other material choices that are not very popular because they dent easily, look cheap, and don't hold up to the weather or time as well as other materials. The only good thing about this type of material is it is cheap, so you get what you pay for with it.
Figure out how you want your door to look, how it will be finished, if you need to withstand the elements of heat and cold, wind or rain, and then pick materials. Of course, the next step is to decide what style you want, but that's a whole new discussion.
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