Renovation Design Group
Solid wood is a timeless option for garage doors but also requires maintenance — restaining, sealing or painting it every couple of years to keep it looking fresh.

Last week's column touted the importance of a high-functioning, well-designed garage. But it also cited a reality check to the costs involved. If you already have a garage that functions but lacks luster, there are ways to upgrade without paying for a new garage.

Our first "renovation-alternative" is to change the garage door. Changing out that old garage door can do wonders for your home's curb appeal as well as its energy-efficiency and safety.

Many older homes still have the bland metal door popularly used decades ago. These old doors aren't very aesthetically pleasing, they aren't insulated, and they actually can be dangerous. But garage doors have come a long way, both in functional design and visual design. If you are thinking about swapping out that old door, you have many options.

Garage doors are comprised of two main elements: the sections and the overlay. The sections make up the basic unit of the door. They are the large panels hinged together to create the door. Overlays are added for decorative effect. These consist of pieces applied to the base sections to give the appearance of something more interesting than the usual embossed metal and can be designed to look seamless.

The most commonly purchased garage door does not include an overlay. It is a standard door with steel sections that have a design pressed or embossed into them. The shadow lines are only about 1/8-inch deep, and the attempt to mimic wood grain is not very convincing. These are the least expensive type of garage door, running from $450 to $1,000.

Doors with overlays are more expensive, but they give a garage door more style and character. Overlays can be made of several different materials. The most expensive (as usual!) is real wood. You can choose from many types, including cedar, exotic hardwood and salvaged barn wood. Doors finished with a real wood overlay are quite heavy and often require commercial grade operators. There is also some maintenance with wood overlays, such as staining, sealing or painting. Single-size wood doors range in cost from $2,000 to $5,000 or more for custom designs.

Another option for material is cellular PVC. This is a vinyl material whipped with air and then extruded into lightweight pieces made to mimic wood. These pieces are applied to sections made of steel or cellular PVC. These doors are lighter in weight, they are moisture-resistant, more economical, and they hold paint better than wood. The cost range for this type of door is $1,400 to $2,000.

Overlays are also made of a composite material of wood fibers and resin extruded into pieces with a wood-like texture embossed into them. Composites are moisture-resistant and less expensive than wood, though they have not been used for very many years so their longevity is still unproven. Composite doors cost around $700. Another overlay option is steel. "Boards" are created with an embossed texture and then applied to the base sections to create the carriage-house look. These doors run from $750 to $1,000.

Besides looking updated, new garage doors can be insulated, which will help prevent cold air from infiltrating your home with an attached garage. In addition, new garage doors are now designed so that fingers cannot get caught between the sections when the door is moving.

Garage door operators have also improved. Most operators are required to have an electric eye and an automatic reversing system to prevent anyone from being trapped under the door. Even if you decide not to replace your door, you might want to replace the operator to keep your family and pets safe.

Once you have the outside of your garage looking like new with a safe and updated door choice, it is time to look inside. Next week we will talk about tapping into the space in the garage that will make your whole house function better.


Architects Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the founding principals of Renovation Design Group, www.renovationdesigngroup.com, a local architectural firm specializing in home remodels.