By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon

We’ve talked about doors for a few weeks now, and we’ll conclude with a discussion of the largest door in your home: your 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 don’t add any zing to the look of your home, 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.

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Older garage doors can be an eyesore as well as a pain to use. This old garage door has the character of wood panels, but it has to be manually opened and requires ongoing maintenance with paint.

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 an 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 and more economical, and they hold paint better than wood. The range for this type of door is $1,400-$2,000.

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New garage doors are designed to function better and can complement the character of your home. The most popular look today is to mimic doors from old carriage houses, like this garage door.

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. New garage doors are also designed so that fingers cannot get caught between the sections when the door is moving. Garage door operators are also improved, now being 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.

Cost estimates courtesy of Smart Choices, Taunton Press. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at as*@re*******************.com.

New garage door can add zing