New choices in garage door design

Style: Designs have evolved over the past five years, in large part because the doors often take up a major share of a home's front.

April 10, 2005|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

Nearly 100 years ago, the garage was "invented" by turning carriage houses into places for cars instead of horses and buggies. Now technology and science have advanced the style of garage doors to their trendiest pinnacle to look like ...

Carriage houses.

Yes, garage-door design has come full circle.

Of course the carriage-house look is only one popular style these days. You can find designs ranging from the traditional to the contemporary, made from wood, aluminum, glass, steel, even vinyl.

Much of the evolution beyond a plain, solid-color door has occurred in the past five years. One reason is that garage doors can take up a major share of a home's front.

"Nothing adds to the curb appeal of a nice home like a good-looking garage door out front," said Ed Bagwell, sales manager for George Doors in Anaheim, Calif. George Doors are custom-made and aren't cheap, averaging around $10,000 each. What do you get at the pinnacle of the price range? Beautiful designs in all kinds of wood - even the very best Honduran mahogany.

But style comes in less-expensive models as well, and with a wide range of materials, including steel, vinyl, aluminum and even see-through glass.

Which type of material is best? All have advantages and disadvantages.

Wood is more easily designed in custom styles, though maintenance is the highest among the materials.

Steel offers strength but limited choice of design and customization. The colors are increasingly varied as are their designs, but they still lag far behind wood doors in both respects. Also, the owners of such doors would be better off not trying to repaint them. Not having to paint them again (or, at the least, for a very long time) is one of the advantages of such doors.

Vinyl doors may the easiest to maintain, but they are relatively new to the market and come in few designs. Their limited number of colors so far is a disadvantage. Like steel, these doors usually have the advantage that you'll never have to repaint them. These are the only doors that are fairly resistant to minor denting, although some types of steel doors boast the same advantage.

Glass doors offer clean, contemporary looks but can be more insecure if for no other reason than a lack of privacy.

The many choices come as sectional, roll-up doors as well as the one-piece, lift-up style.

What will you pay?

You can find doors with attractive designs that range from $900 per door to more than $10,000. Steel doors and wood doors can be among the cheapest but wood doors can also be the most expensive. Most mass-produced steel garage doors are fairly inexpensive, but some wood doors - like those custom hand-made ones by George Doors - can cost more than $10,000.

Vinyl doors are relatively new to the market so there aren't many unique designs yet, but their prices hover around $800 to $1,600.

Glass doors also can vary in price, but some of the more unique designs with better materials can go for around $1,500 apiece or more.

Increasingly, mass-produced doors with special designs are available through a widening variety of garage-door specialty companies. You can also find them at the large warehouse chains such as Lowe's and Home Depot.

Just because you don't see the design you want in a showroom or on a warehouse floor doesn't mean you can't find it in a catalog available at the garage-door desk or through the special-order desk.

Also you can often find appealing designs on Web sites of many local and national companies. Additional companies can be found by browsing through the yellow pages.

Changes over the decades

When home garages came into existence in the early 1900s, their doors were pretty much like those on a barn.

That makes perfect sense, because the first garages were mostly converted carriage houses. Before the auto arrived, these separate small buildings to the side and back of many homes housed a horse and buggy, and sometimes one or two other animals. The two doors would open outward on hinges.

As the garage evolved, one change involved a track system in which a single, large door could move across the face of the garage, instead of doors opening outward. The problem was that the garage had to be fairly large in front to accommodate the track and the door sliding across its face.

Then came the folding door, which had hinged sections that would fold back to one side of the garage.

The most important invention was the overhead door that could be lifted. Made of one piece, the door was often heavy because it was made of solid wood. This led to the invention of the electric garage-door opener in 1926.

Next came new materials, such as steel, and garage doors that folded overhead.

Garage doors became much more important in the late 1950s and 1960s as the garage was moved from the back or side of a house to the front because land in many places became so valuable.

When garages moved to the front of the house, architects and home designers paid more attention to them, often including them prominently in their new-home renderings. As styles of new homes began to have broader range, their garages reflected those styles, such as Old English, French, Colonial and Craftsman.

With variety of style came technical innovations. Better steel tracks, better wheels and screw drives were used.

Knight Ridder/Tribune

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