Garage doors done right

When Norm and Dana Litwack were making plans to update their Sandy Springs home, replacing their white garage doors were not on the "to-do" list.

Recent empty-nesters, the Litwacks planned to upgrade windows and replace the vinyl siding on their Cape Cod-inspired house, where they have lived for 24 years.

Last spring, the home improvement project grew into an exterior makeover, which included architectural roofing shingles, a stone front stoop, plus gutter and shutter replacement. Other updates included new front, back and garage doors.

"I never realized what a big difference a garage door can make to the look of your house," said Dana. "Especially, if your garage faces the street, like ours does."

Paul Springer, of Dunwoody-based Hatteras Construction, agrees.

"Homeowners often overlook the garage door or take the garage area for granted," said Springer, who worked with the Litwacks on the project. "But as the largest door in your house, it can be an important architectural feature. And, if done right, it can help improve energy efficiency."

As home improvement projects go, garage door replacement is one of the most popular. In its recent cost vs. value report, Remodeling magazine ranked garage door replacement No. 3 on a list of 35 common home remodeling projects for return on investment at resale.

"Garage door replacement was one of the least expensive projects in the survey," said Allen Pfenninger, a spokesman for the garage door industry. "Replacing a garage door also can be the difference between a "plain vanilla" home and a stylish, attractive home."

If you have not been in the market for a garage door, you are in for a surprise. Today's garage doors are better insulated. They also are stronger and safer. And with a mind-bending range of styles, colors and new materials, choosing a garage door may seem overwhelming. To help, and Amarr Garage Doors offer these tips.

What to consider

Pick a door material. Do you want the natural beauty of wood or the durability and low-maintenance of steel? For low-maintenance in any climate, steel doors are a smart choice. Other garage door materials include fiberglass and aluminum.

Size. Garage doors are typically offered in standard sizes. However, some manufacturers often custom-fit sizes.

Design. Choose a design (finish and detailing too) that complements your home' style and best suits your lifestyle. Popular designs include carriage house doors and contemporary doors.

Color. Many steel doors are prepainted and available in a limited number of colors. If you want to customize the color, paint steel doors with off-the-shelf, exterior latex paint. Wood doors, which come in their natural finish, can be stained or painted.

Energy efficient. Insulated garage doors, which cover the largest opening in the house, can block cold air from coming in and help keep energy costs down. An insulated door can be especially effective if you have a room over the garage.

Hardware. Accessories depend on the style of your door. Carriage house doors offer options for decorative handles and strap hinges. Because of its clean lines, a modern or traditional garage door may not need any decorative hardware.

Windows. Windows (called lights in the industry) can bring natural light into your garage. They also can add another decorative option. Garage windows come in a variety of sizes, shapes and designs -- from contemporary to Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired colors and patterns.

Safety. All new automatic garage door openers have federally mandated safety features to help keep children and pets safe.

Security. Garage doors paired with open-door alert systems, miniature key-ring remote controls and numerically coded or fingerprint keypad entry systems keep unwanted visitors out of your home and away from your family's belongings. But keep the door closed when it is not in use.

Price. A homeowner can spend under $1,000 to nearly $10,000 to install a garage door. Factors such as size, style and installation affect price. So do:

  • Construction materials, which vary greatly in price. Generally, stain-grade wood doors are the most expensive. Single-layer (hollow) steel doors are the least expensive. By choosing the material first, you will get a better handle on the price.
  • Architectural features. Windows and decorative hardware add to the cost.

Find a dealer

  • Ask friends and neighbors for references.
  • Also check and Enter your zip code to find a local dealer or installer. Also check the site if you need a garage door repaired.
  • If possible, purchase from a local supplier, who can quickly and cost effectively provide service and parts, said Paul Springer, a builder and designer in Dunwoody.


  • Carriage house doors. The trend started about five years ago and continues to be hot. The garage doors roll overhead but resemble the hinged, swing-out door style of carriage doors of the past. Carriage doors are available in real wood (or wood composites) -- and steel.
  • Color choice. In the past, color choices were often limited to white or brown. Not anymore. Manufacturers offer a variety of prepainted colors. Or choose your own custom color or stain.
  • Get noticed. Use garage doors to make your home distinctive, especially in a subdivision where many homes look alike.
  • Three or more. Newer homes offer three-car garages, a feature that families with teenagers appreciate.
  • Not for cars only. Consider glass or stylish garage doors in the other parts of the house. Homeowners are using garage doors that open onto a patio from the kitchen or living room.
  • Popular accessory. New openers have a battery back-up system that allows you to use your garage door opener 24/7, regardless of any loss of power to your home. Since many people use the garage door as the primary entrance to their home, battery backup prevents a potential lockout.