Today there’s much more to choosing a new garage door than buying the best-looking model for your budget. Thermal performance, security and potential maintenance are increasingly vital. “Ease of access and fast, smooth opening and closing operations are crucial too,” adds Simon Hipgrave, managing director of Garador.

If you’re a self builder, you’re at a distinct advantage, being free from constraints such as choosing a garage door to fit an existing opening or a configuration which suits the width or height of an existing garage. But it also pays to begin your search for a garage door prior to starting on site. “Taking your plans to a garage specialist early on could make the difference between making a small change to your house design and choosing the door you want, or being limited to buying a door which fits,” says David Newcombe of Hörmann.

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“A few years ago, garage doors tended to be an afterthought — with budget spent on the kitchen and bathrooms towards the end of a project, with only a couple of hundred left, perhaps for a steel single-skinned up-and-over door. Yet, an integral garage door can make up as much as 30 percent of the façade. What’s more, a garage with a single-skinned door can, at night and on winter days, be colder than a fridge. If you’re using it as a utility, gym etc, then this isn’t going to provide a comfortable temperature.”

With an array of materials (steel, timber, GRP and PVCu) and types (side-hinged, up-and-over doors, sectional doors and roller doors) available, how do you go about choosing? And how do you find a door which delivers on both security and thermal performance, too?

What should I be paying for a new garage door?

Garage doors vary in price, depending on the type of door, the material (GRP, for example, being higher in price than some other material choices) and the quality. At the lower end of the market, you can pick up a pair of unfinished timber side-hung garage doors for as little as £250 at a local DIY shed, with steel up-and-over doors starting at upwards of £300. Add to this installation costs, while automation will add another couple of hundred at least, too.

“Starting at entry level, a branded steel up-and-over door will cost in the region of £700 fitted,” says Chris Sidoli of Evander Garage Doors, who supply doors and provide a site survey and fitting service. “Then, sectional doors are likely to cost upwards of £1,300 fitted, with roller doors costing from £1,400 fitted.”

Will a ‘non-standard’ door add to the price?

“There’s not much difference between specifying a standard-sized door (a standard-sized sectional door would be 2,438×2,125mm or 8x7ft in the UK) and a non-standard size these days. The lead-in time may be a little longer though,” says Hörmann’s David Newcombe.

“However, if you specified a non-standard size, with a non-standard colour, non-standard glazed openings, etc., then the price would inevitably increase.”

With so many products now available online, is it still advisable to visit a door specialist in person?

Not necessarily according to Chris Sidoli: “There are some brands – such as Hörmann, Garador, Wessex, etc. – which are synonymous with quality, and so there’s less of a need to go and view these in person. If you’re concerned with the colour though, you can order samples and swatches before purchasing. However, with door manufacturers you don’t recognise then it’s advisable to view the product in person, to get a feel for the fabric and quality of the door — does it feel too thin and flimsy for example?”

What does a low-quality door feel like?

“It’s difficult, but with steel doors in particular there are some tell-tale signs,” says Chris Sidoli. “Look at the internal face of the door: are there sharp or rough edges, burrs in the steelwork, does the paintwork look unfinished — these are signs of an inferior door. Always buy from a reputable door manufacturer/supplier, ensure the door is CE marked and check it carries a suitable warranty. If in doubt, I’d recommend buying through a reputable installer.”

Are there any garage door types which offer better performance than others?

“Double-skinned sectional doors offer a high-performing door, with superior insulative properties and good security,” argues David Newcombe of Hörmann. “The only thing you really need to consider with a sectional door is whether you can accommodate the tracks (which can be mounted overhead or side mounted).”

”Roller doors are another option and are perfect for garages where there is limited headroom or if you want to retain access to the roof,” says Simon Hipgrave of Garador. “The benefit of roller doors is their convenience — they roll up into a box of around 300mm in diameter, mounted above the opening. However, one of the biggest misconceptions is that this type of door offers an insulating product,” says David Newcombe. “The U value of a roller door is around 6W/m²K, compared to 1.3W/m²K for a double-skinned sectional door. This myth has perhaps arisen from the fact that they are made of 70-75mm laths with foam between, but the foam is designed to reduce noise during operation, not for insulative purposes.

“Not all roller doors are created equal either. In the UK, it can be common for roller doors to be sold without a cover/box. We supply our roller door with a cover/box as standard, but many don’t. Boxes are important for safety, but they also tend to keep roller doors clean, which helps with operation and prevents scratching,” finishes David Newcombe.

Is timber still a good choice, and how much maintenance is involved?

Timber doors are a good choice for period homes, especially for those properties where material options such as PVCu and steel would look unsympathetic. The downside of timber is that it requires maintenance, and a wood-effect GRP door can be an alternative for homeowners seeking the look without the maintenance.

So how much maintenance is involved? “If the doors are provided untreated, then manufacturers tend to insist that they’re treated with a microporous stain (check the manufacturer’s information carefully though, as treating an unfinished door in the wrong way will invalidate the warranty). Ideally this should be done as soon as installed if its a dry day (if raining, the door will soak up moisture),” explains Chris Sidoli of Evander Garage Doors. “We tend to recommend that customers opt for a factory-applied finish though, as it’s longer lasting.

“In terms of on-going maintenance, this will depend on three factors: the quality of the original stain, the orientation of the door, and the weather conditions in your area. If the door is south facing then it’s a good idea to treat your door once a year; this is also the case if the door is exposed to high levels of rain and prevailing wind. Otherwise, maintenance every other year tends to be fine.”

What about security?

Garages are no longer used simply to house the car — instead they’ve become overspill areas for the home, doubling up as utility areas, home gyms, storage space, or perhaps as a dry place to store power tools, etc. As such, security is becoming much more of a concern. Specifying a door with Secured by Design accreditation (given by the Association of Chief Police Officers to products specifically designed to prevent an intruder breaking in) is a good idea.

But what exactly differentiates these products? “Secured by Design doors tend to include locks with anti-snap cylinders and additional steel plates which are fitted to protect the locking anchor points,” explains Chris Sidoli of Evander Garage Doors. “Up-and-over doors also feature eight braces on the back of the door (there’s typically two as standard); this provides additional strength, but also means that if an intruder was to cut through the door, they’d be unable to climb/crawl through.”

“Today it’s worth checking the security of any remote because, as with modern cars, savvy thieves can enter electronic operating systems through their own devices,” adds Simon Hipgrave.

Is professional installation essential?

“Installation is very important,” says David Newcombe. “Garage doors can be well manufactured and engineered, but if poorly installed then the door can fail. The vast majority of call-outs on warranties are due to poor installation, which could be the result of work by the DIYer or by a builder/subcontractor unfamiliar with the task.”

The advice from industry experts is to opt for a ‘responsible’, experienced installer; ask your supplier or manufacturer, or try the DHF Garage Door Group or installers such as Evander Garage Doors. ”There is another reason why professional installation is essential too when it comes to automated garage doors,” adds David Newcombe. “When a door and automation kit are combined, the door is defined as a ‘machine’ under the Machinery Directive and as such, installation needs to comply accordingly. Both the manufacturer and installer need to provide the homeowner with a declaration of conformity — I doubt many builders would be able to provide this on installation.

“Professional installation could cost around £250-£300. Two single sectional doors could be installed in as little as a couple of hours. However, swift installation is down to getting the base and walls level and true in the first instance.”

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