How to Buy The Best Garage Door? An Unbiased Opinion.
Author: Stan Klugman
There are dozens, if not hundreds of garage door buying guides all over the internet, so what makes this one so different?
You see, most garage door buying guides are written by people who have zero to none knowledge in this field, and the sole purpose of the article is to insert as many affiliate links as possible so they can make a small commission if you purchase anything using their link.
On the other hand, there is a small portion of blog posts that do not contain any affiliate links. They are still written by garage door manufacturers themselves, basically comparing their products and selling the idea that other garage doors do not exist or are not a viable option.
We decided to write a comprehensive garage door guide based on our own two-decade-long experience of installing, repairing, and maintaining different garage doors from the most popular manufacturers.
We want to clarify that all the information in this post is our own opinion based on our personal experience, not sponsored by any garage door brand. It's also important to mention that we're located in Calgary AB., and we have very distinct four seasons, including extremely cold winters. That's why we have a pretty good understanding of how different brands and different types of garage doors perform year-round.
So how do you buy the best
garage door for your property?
Here are the steps:
Set your budget.
Measure your garage door.
Choose the material.
What Insulation Value do you need?
Choose the design.
Choose the color.
Decide whether you need windows or not.
Compare different garage door manufacturers.
Find a well-rated supplier in your area.
Get your door installed professionally.
Don't forget about routine maintenance to protect your investment.
Set Your Budget For a Brand New Garage Door Purchase.
Before getting into different garage door designs, styles, and options, you should set yourself a budget for this purchase. Garage door prices vary significantly, and you can increase the total cost by hundreds of dollars by simply choosing a unique color or a couple of windows to let more lite into your garage. Having a clear understanding of how much you're willing to spend on a brand new garage door will save you lots of time, preventing you from checking the options you can't afford.
Choosing the right material.
Choosing the right material can be confusing, mainly because you have to make sure you stay within the budget. As with garage door sizes, materials play a major role in garage door pricing. We'll start from the cheapest and continue to the most premium garage doors you can get.
Steel garage door.
So the cheapest garage door you can buy would be a steel garage door with no insulation at all. It's a sheet metal that is processed to look like a garage door panel. In most cases, those panels connected using very cheap hinges and metal rollers. They are so noisy that your neighbor will be checking up on you whenever you leave out for work.
You can usually get this type of door at Homedepot, Lowe's, or other major hardware retailers. We suggest you avoid this type of overhead doors unless that's all you can afford, and your current garage door is so bad that it's embarrassing. There are several reasons for this conclusion:
No Insulation equals to higher energy bills. If you live in a colder climate, having a door like this makes no practical sense. You will end up paying huge heating bills during the wintertime.
Build quality and materials are so bad, you'll get your bottom panel, cables, and brackets eaten up by rust in a few years. Leading to frequent garage door service requests. Which won't be cheap.
Your upper panel will start flexing after a couple of years, and you'll have to reinforce it with metal struts, which will add more weight to your door. And if you add weight to your garage door, you need to account for that by changing your current springs or adding extra tension, which will make them snap sooner.
One Brand We're Not a Fans Of.
The next option will be a garage door by a particular brand. As mentioned earlier, we don't have any bias in favor of or against any specific manufacturer. Still, we've found that Wayne Dalton garage doors are arguably the worst doors you can get if you live in Canada. Let's dig in and find out why we think that's the case...
First of all, we'll start from the fact that it is extremely challenging to get Wayne Dalton replacement parts, as you have to be their authorized dealer to put your hands on their replacement parts. And when a company like ours contacts Wayne Dalton dealer with an intent to purchase a specific part, they'll never sell any of their products.
Virtually any other garage door manufacturer uses a certain type of hinges and brackets that can be easily replaced in case they break. But with Wayne Dalton, that's not the case. All hinges and brackets designed differently, and you can't use a different type of hinge.
Issue number two is the type of materials they use for their garage door panels. It looks like for some of their models they use thick cardboard wrapped in some sort of aluminum foil. No joking here. The aluminum "wrap" is so thin that the screws that hold hinges in place often rip through and leave you no choice but replace the panel, which let me remind you isn't easy to get. We've been reaching out to their official dealer in order to get replacement panels and were quoted 800$ for one panel. To put things into perspective, you can get a brand new high-quality insulated door for about 1600$ Installed.
Issue number three with Wayne Dalton garage doors is a Torquemaster spring system. While it seems like a great idea (having your garage door springs enclosed in a tube), it has a pretty adverse side effect.
When a torsion garage door spring breaks, your door becomes significantly heavier, which puts more stress on your motor. But in most cases, the homeowner can see the broken spring and call for help. With the Torquemaster system, your springs hide inside the tube, and you may not even realize you're having an issue until either your opener gives up or the middle bracket snaps, leaving you with a hole in the top garage door panel.
The fourth and final issue I would like to mention is the type of metal that's used for their retainer and bottom brackets. Customers that have water accumulation under the door experiencing huge rust issues across the bottom section of their garage door. We had clients asking us to replace their garage door after three years only, which is a laughable performance for a product that is not that cheap.
The bottom line is, in years of dealing with different garage door brands, we haven't seen a single model from this brand that would perform well in our region. However, if you reside in a warm and dry climate, this might be a good fit for your property.
Now we're getting to bread and butter for most garage door manufacturers. It's an aluminum garage doors. They come in different designs, colors, thickness, and insulation values. There are several brands that I would like to mention here that make some good quality aluminum doors. C.H.I garage doors, Clopay, Amarr, and Steel-Craft. What's interesting in this category, is that most companies started to offer more unique garage door designs by taking their flush panel aluminum doors as a base, and installing a wooden overlay, creating a very appealing and premium look. This technique offers several benefits when comparing to custom wood doors.
Aluminum garage doors with wood overlay offer that special premium look, while being much lighter than custom wood doors, thus using a standard set of hardware. We've had a pretty good experience with aluminum doors from all the brands I've mentioned above. If you're looking for more affordable steel/aluminum garage doors, you might want to have a closer look at the Lincoln garage door series by Amarr or Classic series by Clopay. C.H.I offers a Timeless Collection, and Steel-Craft has it's Thermo- Craft products. All of them were proven to be a solid choice for challenging climate conditions.
Wood garage door.
The next category will be a wood garage door. Thirty years ago, wood garage doors were extremely popular here in Canada. Back then, it was pretty much a standard choice for most homeowners. But not anymore.
These days some companies produce custom made Mahogany wooden doors or other exotic types of lumber. As you can imagine, doors like that will cost 5 to 10 times more than standard aluminum garage doors. Thus it's not the most popular choice for most homeowners.
Garage Door Insulation Value (R-Value)
This section will completely depend on the region you live in. Having a well-insulated garage door is essential if you live anywhere in Canada, Alaska, or even in most States. Keeping that utility bill low by reducing the heat exchange through your garage door will make your wife happy, as you'll have some extra money to spend on other "essential" things.
Now let's understand what insulation value is and why hunting for the highest R-Value is not necessarily the best idea.
R-Value is a measure of thermal resistance that's being used by professionals in the construction industry. Essentially, R-value is thermal resistance to a flow of heat. All garage door manufacturers use R-value to showcase how energy efficient their products are.
R-Value is calculated based on the thickness of the insulation material and its chemical properties.
The higher R-value is, the better the insulating properties of the material. However, an R-32 value is not twice as good as an R-16 Value. R-32 does not offer a 100% increase in thermal resistance or twice the energy savings of an R-16 insulation score. R-32 insulation provides a 97% reduction in heat flow and a 7% improvement in energy efficiency than a value of R-8. See the chart below for R-Value comparisons.
Choosing the design for your brand new garage door.
Here in Canada, the most common garage door design is short panel design. You can see it everywhere, and it looks dull. Luckily, most garage door manufacturers started to offer different designs like flush panel, long panel, ribbed, etc. at no extra charge. Hopefully, more and more homeowners will be choosing different options to add some unique touch to their property, especially as it doesn't cost any extra. The same type of door with the same color will look so much better if you choose a long panel design instead of a boring short panel door.
Choosing garage door color.
Choosing garage door color is as even more important than choosing the design. Here are just a few tips to consider. Most garage door manufacturers have several standard color options that don't affect the price.
Usually, those are white, dark brown, sandstone, grey, and several others. However, if you would like to get some unique colors or finish like, Golden Oak, Mahogany, etc., you'll have to pay a premium. Some manufacturers only offer discounts on white doors, charging a few hundred dollars extra for any other color. So some homeowners decide to get a white door and then paint it themselves. We find it to be not a good idea at all.
Here's why you shouldn't paint your garage door. You see, the original finish that comes from the factory is designed to stay for decades. They use special paints that won't fade over time while offering solid protection from the particles. When you decide to re-paint your garage door, you'll have to repeat the process every couple of years, and your garage door finish will never look as good as the original paint that comes from the factory. That's why we suggest choosing the right color from the get-go.
Should you have windows in your garage door?
Okay, let's assume you were able to find the type of door you want, picked the color and design, and are still within your budget. Now would be a good idea to consider having windows in your garage door. There are several things you need to consider, and we'll walk you through.
Having windows in your garage door can be an amazing addition to your door. It offers a beautiful look and lets natural lite inside your garage. However, there are some downsides you have to consider. First of all, it's much easier to break into your home if you have a garage door window. All the thief has to do is smash a glass and pull the emergency release cord to disengage the door from the opener. Then he can simply lift the door by hand and have access to your garage. And if you don't lock your inner door, he'll have access to your entire home. That's why having garage door windows makes even less sense if your garage door faces a back alley.
There are several things you can use to cause a huge deal of disappointment to anyone who would try to get access to your property using this tactic.
First would be purchasing a Liftmaster garage door opener that comes equipped with electronic lock. The lock wouldn't allow anyone to lift the door from the outside even if they were able to disengage the emergency release.
Second and third will be a budget variation of the same idea. You can put a vise grip right above one of the rollers during the night. You can use a zip tight to secure the emergency release lock, which would make it much harder to disengage it.
In short, you can get creative if you understand the main principle.
Compare garage door manufacturers and their quality.
Now, when you're positive on your garage door size, you've chosen the type, design, and color of your door, you decided whether you need windows or not. You should decide which brand will be the best fit for you, as most of them offer very similar standard options unless you choose to go with a unique design that will limit you to a particular manufacturer.
In this section, we'll compare the overall build of Steel-Craft, Overhead Doors, Amarr, C.H.I, Clopay, and Wayne Dalton garage doors. Our conclusions here are based on all garage door repair service requests we've had in previous years. Again, it is our opinion only, and you should always do your own research.
Our Garage door manufacturers' ratings.
In our experience, position #1 in terms of quality and durability is shared by four companies, equally offering an excellent quality product that is durable, affordable, and, most importantly, easy to maintain. The companies are C.H.I Overhead Doors, Clopay garage doors, Amarr Garage Doors, and Steel-Craft garage doors.
We've seen these doors being damaged by accident when homeowners were backing up while the door was closing. We've seen them getting off tracks as a result of snapped cables, and in most cases, we were able to bring them back to life with no complications.
Position number two will go to Overhead Doors. We've noticed that the older models had much better build quality, and some of their new doors have plastic hinges that are impossible to replace.
We've seen a pretty new door snap in half right in the middle after the customer tried to open the door, not realizing that one of the springs was broken. All plastic hinges simply snapped, and the door was separated in half. If a situation like this happens with Clopay or Amarr, all we would have to do is replace the springs and replace the hinges, and that's all. But with Overhead doors that have plastic hinges, we had to replace the whole door.
Last but not least, #3 in our rating is Wayne Dalton garage doors. We've seen their doors underperform significantly across Canada. Cheap build quality, cheap materials but not so cheap price tag.
Find the right garage door supplier.
This is one of the most critical steps of the process. You need to find a well established, highly rated, and reliable garage door supplier. Otherwise, your garage door buying experience can turn out to be a complete nightmare.
Do your research! I'll explain what to look for.
You see, garage door repair and sales is a very profitable business, mostly because of the repair aspect of it. When someone has a garage door emergency, maybe their spring broke, or the cable snapped, customers tend to call the first number they see in a Google search without proper research. And unfortunately, it leads to hundreds if not thousands of fake Google My Business accounts that have been created by leed generating companies.
In case you're not aware, but the lead generating company is basically an advertising agency, that is fishing for unsuspected customers, receives the call, and then sells the lead to a subcontractor for about 50% cut from the job. It will increase the price tag for your service, as both the subcontractor and the agency want to make as much money as possible.
Here's how to spot a fake company on Google maps.
First, have a look at their reviews, if the company has dozens or even hundreds of reviews, chances are they've been in the business for a while, but that's not all. You can see how long ago they've got their reviews. If you find a company with ten reviews that were all placed four weeks ago, that's a red flag. See if their Google my Business Account has a website. If there is no website listed, run, and don't look back. Check the name of the company and see if that makes sense. If this is something like "neighborhood"+garage door - that's a red flag as well.
Once you think you've found a company that looks legit, give them a call, and listen to how they answer the phone. If they say something generic like "garage door services," ask them what's the name of the company and see if it matches the name on their Google listing.
Don't Click on Ads!
Another mistake you should avoid is clicking the first three Google results at the top. Those are paid results, and you will never guess how much money they pay Google to be there. For example, in Calgary, a single click for a keyword such as "Garage door repair Calgary" can cost over 60$. Yes, that's not a typo! It's sixty bucks for a click on their add, without you even calling them. Imagine how much extra they need to charge you as a customer in order to cover their advertising expenses and be in a profit.
Your best bet would be scrolling the page result below the maps and choosing garage door companies listed in the organic search results. In most cases, those are the companies that have been in the business for a while and don't pay Google to be where they are in search results.
Talking To Suppliers.
When talking to suppliers, make sure you ask for a full price, including parts, labor, and any additional fees. Some shady companies will win you as a customer by giving you the lowest price on the market, but will surprise you later with extra charges such as removal and disposal of your old door, fuel, labor, etc.
Garage Door Installation.
Once you have the deal and it's the installation day, make sure you prepare your garage before the team shows up to install your brand new door. Try to move all your belongings away from the door. Technicians will need enough room inside your garage to complete the installation safely.
When it's all done, and your garage door contractor wants to get paid for the job, make sure you verify what's covered by the warranty and ask them to demonstrate that the door is balanced.
To check if your garage door is balanced, all you need to do is pull that red emergency cord and disengage the door from the opener. Now try lifting your door by hand and release the door about halfway up. If the door slides back down pretty fast, that means the door is too heavy, and the springs need more tension. If your garage door keeps rolling up when you release it in the middle - there's too much tension on your springs. As the technician to fix that before you pay and before they leave.
Garage Door Care.
Now when the whole process is behind you, and your house just got a lovely facelift, you want to make sure you protect your investment. Lubricate your garage door regularly! Do not use a regular WD-40, that's a de-greaser. Use a lithium-based lubricant instead. We suggest lubricating and inspecting your garage door every quarter by yourself, and once a year, hire a local contractor that will check your garage door for you.
We hope some of you will find this information useful, and if so, don't be shy and share it on your social media! Than's for your time and enjoy your brand new garage door!