An uninsulated garage door can be an energy leaker.

How to Evaluate the Quality of Garage Doors

by Kathy Russell

While garage doors may not seem that complicated at first, quite a few factors come into play when evaluating their quality. Perhaps you are building a new home, installing a new garage door in your existing home or evaluating the doors in a home you are considering purchasing. Certain factors involve personal preference, but others provide indicators of the worth of the door.

Materials Options

Sectional, overhead garage doors can be made of aluminum, steel, fiberglass or wood. An aluminum door is ideal for large doors, as it helps keep the weight down and costs less -- but they dent more easily. Steel works best in locations that may potentially have more wear and tear, or have to withstand higher wind loads. In locations where maintenance and corrosion may be a concern, such as in a seaside areas, go for fiberglass -- but expect to pay more. Wood doors are chosen quite often for high-end homes, given their aesthetic appeal and ability to stain well, but they require more maintenance and provide less insulation.


Look for insulation as a quality feature. In warm climates, insulation helps keep the garage cooler; in cold climates, it keep the garage warmer and saves on energy. A door is typically 9 feet by 9 feet or larger -- a big area to leave uninsulated. Most doors won't have as much insulation as a wall, but what they have will be better than nothing. You can more readily find insulated aluminum, steel or fiberglass doors than wooden ones.

Torsion Springs

One the most complex and dangerous parts of the garage door, the torsion spring, spans the width of the opening above the door. The spring aids in lifting and closing the door. Information about the quality of the springs appears in the product literature and warranties from the manufacturer, supplier or installer. Find out the lifespan of the springs, which are measured in cycles, such as 10,000 to 15,000 cycles. Each cycle represents the door going up and down once. A spring should also be guaranteed for a length of time such as three or five years. The weight of the door affects the lifespan of the springs as well.

Motors and Controls

To evaluate a motor, look for the horsepower and the type of drive. A heavier door made of steel or wood needs more horsepower. Residential garage drives can involve a chain or a belt. A belt drive will be quieter but a little bit slower.

Controls options have evolved quite a bit from the on/off radio controller or a button inside the entry door. Today, controls can be integrated into a smart phone or an electronic house lighting and security control system.

Another important feature is the safety eye -- a laser going across the door opening about 4 to 6 inches above the ground. If it senses that a person is lying in the opening or a child is standing there, the sensor reverses the door so it goes back up if it is closing. Some homeowners may disable this, so make sure it works if you are evaluating a door in an existing house.

About the Author

Kathy Russell has been a practicing architect for more than 20 years. She is licensed in the states of Montana and Washington and holds a National Council of Architectural Boards certificate. Her professional experience has been large, high-end homes; multifamily housing; commercial and industrial projects.

Photo Credits

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