Garage Door Materials: The Ultimate Guide

In the last 10 years, there’s been a huge expansion of garage door option. While steel and wood are still on the table, they’re now joined legions of modern materials like fiberglass and composite wood. So here are the pros and cons of the most popular options you have if you’re thinking about revamping your garage.

But first, some basics

The material you select will have the biggest impact on your garage door – not only is it about 30 percent of your total front exterior, but the material you pick will effect what opener you use, how long it will last, and any safety features you might have in mind.

Any prices quoted are for a 16 foot by 7 foot double garage door, and are a guide only. Contact your local garage door company for more detailed info.

Insulation is measured in R-values. The higher the value, the more insulated something is. An R-value of 0 is outside, and an R-value needed in the middle of Montana is about 30.

Steel

Steel is the stalwart workhorse of garage doors. It’s durable, relatively inexpensive, and can come in a huge range of colors. Steel comes in a variety of layers too: single, double, and triple (sometimes called premium) and can be used in conjunction with a foam core to insulate more effectively. Steel is absolutely worth considering, but there are some drawbacks. Namely, steel is prone to denting, and if it’s a layered steel/foam door, it’s difficult to fix. Also, steel garage doors tend to be noisy, no matter what you do to them. (TOP TIP: Use nylon rollers instead of metal ones – they’re more expensive but much quieter)
Pros

Simple, cost effective, and can be made to look like wood and stucco

Cons
-Prone to denting
-Extremely noisy

R-Value
-R0 for single layer
-R7 for double layer
-R15 for insulated steel

Wood

Wood isn’t as popular as steel but definitely retains a core following of fans. It’s more expensive and more maintenance-intensive than any other material; however, it’s has absolutely cornered the market on aesthetics. No other material has quite the look-and-feel achieved with wood. Popular woods for garage doors are Douglas fir and Redwood.

Pros

-Looks amazing

Cons

-Needs to be stained or painted every year

-It can splinter, crack, swell, and is prone to insects

R-Value

It needs a polyurethane backing to give it any insulation, and even then it’s not that much (R3-R6)

Aluminum + Glass

Aluminum and glass are new on the scene for garage door materials. Essentially, it uses aluminum and frosted glass to turn a garage door into a giant window – the aluminum makes up the frame, and frosted glass makes up the panes. It creates strong and light garage doors with low maintenance and a sleek, modern feel. However, they tend to fit the aesthetic of a small number of houses.

Pros

-Looks superb – with the right house

-Low maintenance

Cons

-Glass can crack and shatter

-Doesn’t insulate at all

R-value

-Virtually zero

Fiberglass

Fiberglass is when a plastic resin is interwoven with a special glass fiber to reinforce it. It’s one of the world’s best modern materials. Common uses include warships, bathtubs, and recently, garage doors. It’s relatively cheap to manufacture, it’s strong and lightweight, and can be molded into a variety of complex shapes, which is why it can be molded to look like wood extremely easily. However, fiberglass does tend to be brittle. It it’s under pressure, it won’t bend: it’ll just break.

Pros

-Great at mimicking other materials, but generally without the myriad of drawbacks like moisture, insects, and swelling and cracking

Cons

-Can be brittle, especially if it’s a single layer, and will crack under pressure (TOP TIP: This problem can be mitigated with steel supports and a foam core)

R-Value

-R4 – R12

Wood Composite

Wood composite does a great job of balancing practicality with aesthetics. It’s made from wood fibers, sawdust, or just really small pieces of wood bonded together with extremely strong glue and set in a weather proof resin (usually plastic). Wood composite provides a very similar look-and-feel to real wood, but without the high cost and extensive maintenance.

Pros

-Often made at least partially from recycled wood fibers

-Can be molded to look very authentically like real wood

Cons

-Is usually factory-stained, so customization is harder and more expensive

R-Values

-R5-R8

Vinyl (PVC)

Vinyl is the newest trend in garage doors. And for good reason – it can be molded and shaped to accurately mimic any other material, it has a high R-value, especially when combined with insulation, it’s very quiet and requires little to no maintenance. Plus, it’s colored all the way through the various layers, so scratches are very hard to see, and it doesn’t dent (like steel). To top it all off, vinyl is inexpensive for the quality and expected lifetime. However! Vinyl is regarded as one of the worst building materials for the environment. PVC (the core material) is dangerous to make for the workers, and once made it’s extremely hard to safely dispose of.

Pros

-Really durable

-Great value for money

-Can be whatever color you want

-Easy to customize

-Extremely quiet

-Impervious to all the problems of wood (moisture) and steel (scratching/dents)

Cons

Has a huge range of detrimental environmental effects, from its construction, its use, and its disposal

R-Value

-R4-R12

So those are the material that you’re likely to encounter. They all have their benefits and drawbacks, so it really depends on what look you’re going for, how long you want it to last, and how much you want to spend. Our advice? Ask around some local suppliers and see what material they recommend. They’re likely to know the best material for your environment to get the most life out of your garage door.

Doorcare

About Neb Aleksic

Neb grew up in the garage door business. Since joining Doorcare he has moved up in the ranks, and now oversees a team, in addition to Doorcare's marketing efforts. He is passionate about what he does, and enjoys the small things in life.
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