Types of Garage Doors Explained

Types of Garage Doors Explained

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Garage Doors come in all flavors. Here’s a quick primer on your choices.

Choosing The Right Garage Door For Your Home

Garage Door Opener Buying Guide - shopping for garage door

Aside from knowing the size of your garage door, there are four things you will need to decide in order to buy the right garage door for your home. These include:

  • budget
  • type of door (panel system)
  • material
  • type of opener (drive system).


The total cost to install a single garage door (single or double car) will run from $1,500 to over $20,000.

The cost depends on the type of door, the material choice and whether a custom installation is required.

Most standard installations will come in around $2,000 to $4,000. This cost includes the cost of material and installation labor, but not the cost of cutting and building a door frame, etc.

3 Door Types

There are 3 basic types of garage doors, defined by how they function mechanically. These include:

  • Sectional: the most common type of garage door today, the sectional door is broken into 5-8 horizontal panels connected by hinges. This allows the door to roll-up inside of your garage and over the top of your car, laying flat on rails as it enters.
  • Single panel: a rigid, single panel door lifts up at an angle, then slides into the top of the garage in a single piece. More common in Europe than the US.
  • Roller door: operates like a sectional door, but there are many more panels and the door actually rolls onto itself, sort of like a beach mat.

Single Panel

Single Panel Garage Door Repair


Sectional Garage Door Repair


Roller Garage Door Repair

The vast majority of garage doors installed in the US today are Sectional Doors.  You can, and should, shop for sectional doors online.


There are several material choices available for garage doors. Your choice of material will boil down to the color and style you need to match your home, the environment you live in and your budget.

Your material choices include the following:

  • wood: heavy, requires refinishing every year and expensive. But gorgeous!
  • aluminum: lightweight, resistant to corrosion and moderately priced. But rich textures and paint jobs are difficult to achieve.
  • steel: heavy, durable and inexpensive. Compared to aluminum, steel doors are easier to paint and to add rich textures.
  • fiberglass: lightweight, durable, cheap and easy to paint. The only downside is the perceived “cheap” factor.
  • vinyl: lightweight, durable and cheap. May warp in extreme heat.
  • premium insulated doors: excellent choice for extreme/cold climates.

Wood Doors

Wooden garage doors are the highest-end doors you can find. They can dramatically improve the curb appeal of a home.

Most wooden garage doors are constructed in a frame-and-panel design. You will need to decide on the panel style – typically either carriage house or flush panel.

Your choice of wood for the panels will make a huge difference in price. Softer woods such as pine will break down faster in sunlight and rain than hardwoods like oak.

All wood garage doors should be refinished with waterproof varnish or another suitable weatherproof coating (touched up, really) every 1-2 years, depending on climate. While not expensive to do, this is a chore that many people do not want. If this is not done, the doors will eventually decay and need replacing.

Cost is always an issue with wood garage door systems. The lowest-cost wood doors are widely available for sale online at major home improvement retailers.

Many home owners want a unique design for their wood doors, but be warned: a custom-build can easily quadruple your costs.

Vinyl Doors

The popularity of vinyl doors has increased greatly during the past decade – and for good reason.

Vinyl is durable, lightweight and easy to paint. Costs are very low, too.

The two downsides include the fact that vinyl garage doors are difficult to repair, and vinyl garage doors can warp or deform in extremely hot / sunny climates.

Fiberglass Doors

Fiberglass garage doors are a great choice in environments where wood, aluminum or steel doors may not work well – such as the seaside, a ski village or any place that salt, sun or water could break-down these materials.

Unlike vinyl, fiberglass garage doors will not deform in heat and are relatively easy to repair. Why do you think boats are made of the stuff?

Premium Insulated Doors

Insulated garage doors are often built to a higher, commercial-grade standard and provide a high R-value. This saves you energy and money in colder climates. Style-wise, they are also a great fit for modern-style homes.

Types of Garage Door Openers

Chamberlain MyQ Whisper Quiet Belt Drive Garage Door Opener review

There are four types of automatic garage door opener systems sold in the US today:

  • Chain Drive: most common, noisier, inexpensive, easy to repair
  • Belt Drive: quieter than chain drives, slightly more expensive ($50 more), still easy to repair
  • Jack Shaft: use when a ceiling mount cannot work (drive is mounted on garage door wall), quieter, more expensive, rarer
  • Direct Drive: quiet, slightly more expensive ($50 more than chain), rarer, most of these are made in Germany

If your ceiling is uniquely high or low, then your only choice is to purchase a Jack Shaft system.

If you are mounting the opener motor head under a bedroom floor, then buy a quieter Belt Drive or Direct Drive system.

To save money over the long haul, shop for a Sectional Garage Door with a Chain Drive unit – they cost the least up front and use cheaper and more widely available parts – which will matter it comes time for garage door repair.