wood paneled garage door on a brick house

EXTERIOR Q & A: How do I pick a Garage Door?

Learn the best sources, ways to save money and how to pick the right garage door for your home’s style.

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Knowing how to pick the right garage door for your house can be one of the most difficult exterior decisions you’ll make.  They range in price from expensive to shockingly expensive, so it’s not something you want to mess up.  And did I mention they’re expensive?

But the visual value you get from installing a new garage door is unmatched in the world of curb appeal.  You get a lot of bang for your buck! Remodeling magazine found that the ROI on a new garage door is really high, almost 100% in most areas! This is why new garage doors are one of the first items I like to budget for when working with clients. 

So today, I’m going to walk you through the things you want to keep in mind as you think about updating your garage door.  Not only some of the best brands to look at but all of the questions you’ll need to have answers to before you get ready to buy.  









Garage doors have a bazillion different options. They fall into a unique situation of ‘stock customization.’  This means you make your selection from a stock range of options that make your final garage door unique to you.  While ‘ready-to-ship’ options are available, you still need to wait the same amount of time as a customized part. You’ll be spending almost the same amount of money for those boring-looking ready-to-ship options, too.  So why not get what you want?

How long does it take to get a garage door?

Ordering a door takes much longer than you think. So, first things first, determine when you’d like to have it installed.  Not who will do it, but when it needs to be finished. A garage door will typically take 16 to 24 weeks of lead time to be built from the day you order it and another 2-4 weeks to schedule installation once it arrives.

What size garage door do I need?

Next, you want to figure out what size door opening you’re dealing with. Measure your existing door opening and then the door itself.  

Garage doors built today typically come in 2 standard sizes:  16 feet wide by 7 feet tall for a 2-car garage or 8 feet wide by 7 feet tall for a single car garage.  But often, if your house is older, your door will be a slight variation of these sizes.

If your door falls into this slight variation category, I would first consider modifying the opening (meaning the walls of the garage itself) to accept a standard-sized door.  Changing the opening to receive a standard door can possibly save you thousands of dollars because of the upcharge required to have an odd-sized door made.

How much do garage doors cost?

Garage doors in standard sizes and using stock selections can cost between $1500 for a simple white steel door with no panels or windows and $25000 for an aluminum frame door with full windows. Custom wood doors go up from there. Pretty big range, right?  

I would give as much of your budget as you absolutely can to the garage door.  Because even though doors are costly, they add so much curb appeal to your overall design that it’s worth it.

If you simply cannot get over the sticker shock of what a new door would cost, I would see if you could modify the existing door with paint or panels to update the look.  You can also add decorative hardware to freshen up the design if you have a steel door.  Often, these are DIY updates that can really be a budget saver.

And if your existing door is dented?  Sometimes, if the dent is located far from the edge of a panel, it can be patched or removed just like on a car. You can sometimes buy replacement panels if you know the original manufacturer of your existing door and have its serial number, too.  But keep in mind easy fixes like these are rare situations.  

What style of garage door should I buy for my house?

After you know your timeline, dimensions, and budget, you can start thinking about what it should look like.  We are blessed to have a vast range of doors on the market these days.  No longer is the only option white raised panels with arched windows!  But this can also make it so hard to figure out the right choice for your house. 

Start by looking at the inspiration images you’re using for your project.  What style of doors do you see? If you’re saving the same style of the door over and over, that’s what you should start looking for.  

Next, determine the style of your home.  Some doors make more design sense for a suburban cottage than a farmhouse or mid-century modern, and almost everything will look good on a ranch house.  Do you want a wood or wood-look door?  Or a colorful door?  Do you want windows? How many windows – and do you need privacy? These are all things to ask yourself before you start shopping.

Here are some of my favorite doors for a few different house styles:


best mid-century garage doors in 2022


best cottage garage doors in 2022


best rand garage doors in 2021 for your ranch house


best farmhouse garage doors in 2022


best modern garage doors in 2022

Who makes the best garage door?

There is no true answer here.  Because the best garage door for you is the one that meets your style, function, and budget needs  – and hopefully has the best lead time!  And there are many teams you can work with to get your door ordered and installed, from both independent dealers and big-box suppliers. 

But there are a couple of brands that consistently provide great doors for great prices, no matter where you’re buying them from.  


On the (slightly) more affordable end of the spectrum, Wayne Dalton makes mostly traditional-style aluminum, steel, or fiberglass doors in various colors and wood finishes.  They offer a very affordable Steel Contemporary Panel line (Models 8300 & 8500) that is great for modern houses and can be painted on-site to match your exterior design. Available nationally at Lowe’s and locally at independent dealers.  


Clopay has the broadest range of designs, finishes, colors, and prices.  They also offer factory paint options with their ColorBlast service in cooperation with Sherwin-Williams, meaning you can get the exact color you want without painting on site.  Their doors are manufactured in North America with a long history of quality.  Available nationally at Home Depot and locally at independent dealers

One tip specific to Clopay for a modern full window frame door:  

While so gorgeous (and totally worth the cost if you have it), If the price of an Avante door gives you sticker shock, you should look at the Modern Steel line. You can configure a full window Modern Steel door in one of their new Lustra finishes, using four ‘Full View Long Panel Windows’ on all four panels to get a look similar to the Avante, at almost half the price.  The major difference is that while the Avante window frames are integrated very cleanly into the door structure, the Modern Steel window frames are separate frames set into the door panels that stick out a little bit from the door panel.  So this isn’t a 1:1 exchange, but it’s a relatively subtle difference that can save you a few thousand dollars. You should absolutely work with your dealer to see the differences up close before you make this decision!

What else do I need to know to buy a garage door?

There are a few other non-design questions you’ll need to think about before you place your garage door order.  Things like construction, insulation needs, locking, and opening.  

Garage Door Construction 

Construction deals with how well your door is insulated from the environment. Because garage doors are typically an entire side of your garage structure, you really need to treat it like a wall and think through how much warm or cold air you want to let in or out of your garage.  Typically based on R-Value, meaning the higher the number, the more the door will insulate the garage interior from the heat or cold. Each supplier will offer a range from ‘Better’ to ‘Best’ based on your climate needs and budget.

Garage Door Materials

The material your door is built from goes a long way toward determining what your long-term maintenance will be.  

  • Looking for low or no maintenance (other than a yearly hose-off)?  Go with Fiberglass, Aluminum, or Steel.
  • Have a door that faces south or bears the daily brunt of super strong UV rays?  Avoid Fiberglass and Genuine Wood.
  • Love the look of wood but live in a region with lots of sun or rain? Go with Wood-Look Steel.   

Environmental Requirements

Depending on where you live in the US, there are also requirements regarding wind.  This is what the Wind Code or Wind Load number notates and is typically set by the Texas Department of Insurance, the Florida Building Code, and, more specifically, Miami-Dade County Codes. This can affect not only how the door itself is designed (particularly the windows) and what the door is made from but also how the opening in your garage is set up.  Your dealer will be able to help you narrow down the available options for your local requirements. 

Locking & Opening

The last thing to keep in mind is how the doors operate.  Manually or with an opener?  With handles or without?  Locking with a key or an interior latch?  Also, depending on where you live, you may be required to update your opener at the same time you update your door; California requires child-safe openers to be installed with any new door.  New openers can cost anywhere from $500 to $2000, so you’ll want to make sure to include that in your budget.

Do I need a permit to get a new garage door?

Probably.  Most places, but especially climate-sensitive ones like California and Florida, require you to obtain a permit to install a new door.  This is because it’s essentially a wall of the structure, and it must be safe and solid.  Even in the case of DIY installation – you still need a permit.  And if your garage is already unpermitted (it happens!), a new garage door is probably not possible without also bringing the garage up to local code. 


How do I save money on a garage door?

I know, they’re so extremely expensive. But there are a few design ways to save some money on the door itself without compromising the function or construction.

  • KEEP THE DESIGN SIMPLE: A door full of windows or complicated panel overlays will add cost quickly.  Lean towards no windows, or four windows or less, and stick with flat-panel designs for the most affordable door
  • USE A STANDARD SIZE: Custom sizes will add upgrade charges right front the start.  Consider modifying the structure to fit a standard door to save money overall
  • STICK WITH STEEL: Steel holds up the best in every climate and is available in a range of finishes – even realistic-looking wood! Even though it’s beautiful, genuine wood is going to be your most expensive option. 
  • MAKE DIY UPDATES: Avoid buying a new door by updating your current door with decorative panels, faux wood painting, or accent hardware.

What is the process of buying a garage door?

Once you’ve thought through everything, have decided on the best style for your home, and know when you want your door to be installed, you can start the ordering process.  If you’re working with an independent dealer, they’ll take it from here, which is such a luxury.  But if you’re buying from a big box store, the process goes something like this:

  1. Configure your door design using the online tools for each supplier
  2. Pay the full amount for the final design and place the order online
  3. The store will contact you to confirm everything and will then have someone come out to re-measure and confirm everything once again onsite
  4. The store places the order and then confirms your estimated delivery day. 
  5. After the door arrives, the store will then schedule a day to remove your existing door and install your new door (and door opener).  It’s not recommended that you remove your own door, so let the professionals hand that from start to finish.  

Is the cost of a new garage door worth it?

So is all this time and effort really worth it? Is the cost of a new garage door worth it?

YES. This is one of the few times during an exterior renovation when you really do get what you pay for.  So, absolutely, all the time, stress and money are worth it!  

If you ever need help figuring out which door is right for you or want to see what a specific door might look like on your house, I can help!  Because wIth a purchase this big, you certainly want to be confident with your final choice and make sure you’re spending your money wisely!

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this post may contain affiliate links, and As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.  which means that the company might give me a few pennies if you purchase with my link.  Thanks for your support!

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