DEAR TIM: It is time for a new garage door. Doors I have owned in the past have been noisy, drafty, leaked water during rainstorms and looked rather plain. I'd like for my natural light to enter through the door, but am worried about security. Also, how secure are the radio controlled garage door openers? Is garage door installation and service a DIY project? Paul, Tucson, AZ
DEAR PAUL: I've got great news! They don't make garage doors like they used to. Well, they do and they don't. Virtually every part of garage doors has been improved in one way or another. Advancements in technology allow you to install insulated, quiet, secure doors that are very handsome and for the most part maintenance free.
Garage doors are undergoing their third period of metamorphosis. Wood used to be the material of choice in the first generation of doors. Approximately 20 years ago, insulated, steel garage doors appeared. Fiberglass and other composites are now bringing about further change and advancements. The use of a fiberglass outer skin in garage doors allows you to duplicate the rich look of natural wood on a surface that otherwise would appear very plain. If your door faces the street, a stainable, fiberglass door may be ideal for you.
Many older garage doors allow wind and wind blown rain to enter. This problem has been solved by a new tongue and groove feature on the edge of many doors. In addition, some doors have a weatherstrip gasket that seals tightly as the door sections close upon one another. Certain doors offer a unique crush-resistant safety feature. Should fingers get in between the panels as the door closes, the door design actually can push the fingers or other objects out of the way.
Your security concerns are valid. Often people store valuable possessions in a garage. With standard glass, a thief can easily see your late model motorcycle. New plastic windows are available that appear to be glass. They allow light to enter but obscure the view into your garage. If you want an elegant look, be sure to look for the leaded or brass acrylic panels. These can create a wonderful match to your windows if you have a Victorian or Tudor style home.
Radio controlled garage door openers can be a problem. Deceptive high-tech thieves are routinely stealing the codes from cellular phones and remote controlled burglar alarms on cars. This same technology can easily grasp your remote control code out of thin air. Certain garage door opener companies have technology that changes the code every time the door is opened. There are billions of code choices. High-tech thieves will not waste their time at your house if you own such an opener!
When your door is installed, be sure that the company installs a high quality bottom door seal and perimeter weatherstripping. Air infiltration is the biggest energy thief in garage doors. Your new, well insulated door may prove useless if cold or warm air can easily enter your garage. Insist on a tight fit.
Garage door installation, in my opinion, is not a DIY project. Garage doors are the largest mechanical objects in your house. The springs that are used to open them can store and release deadly force. People are seriously injured and killed each year when they try to install garage doors or perform advanced service on existing doors. The only service you should attempt is the periodic lubrication of the wheels, hinges, and tracks. Use a light weight oil to accomplish this task. Never use heavy bearing grease.