Editor’s note: This is the second in a two-part series.
Last time, we talked about the various types of garage doors found in older homes. This time, we’ll look at the modern standard for garage doors, along with some tips on choosing the right style for your home’s architecture.
Today’s most popular door type by far is the sectional overhead door, which comprises four or five horizontally hinged sections that roll up into the garage ceiling on a curving track. There’s little doubt that this is the most easily operated garage door design since the Victorian biparting door — a fact that explains its wide use as a replacement for older types.
First, a quick rundown on sizes: Single-bay doors are typically 8 or 9 feet wide by 7 feet high, while double-bay doors are typically 16 feet wide (occasionally 18) by 7 feet high. Double-bay doors are mainly found on broadly proportioned home styles such as California Ranchers.
As for choosing a door design to suit you home’s architecture: Although the current fashion in sectional doors is for very showy and elaborate designs with raised or recessed panels, ornate windows and the like, these aren’t necessarily the best choice for your home. Ranch-style houses, for example, typically look best with very simple and unrelieved doors, and anything more ornamental can look overwrought, drawing attention away from the front entrance.
On the other hand, a bland, unadorned garage door will look very strange on a traditional home style. The best approach is to reflect the same general level of detail that’s found on your home: If you have a traditional-style house with lots of exterior moldings and trim, then a moderately ornate garage door will probably look fine. However, if it’s a relatively clean mid-century home style, you’re better off choosing a simpler door with a plain plywood finish.
Pre-Depression-era homes, which were originally fitted with either biparting or bypassing garage doors, present a special case. The horizontal proportions found on most stock sectional doors, whether plain of fancy, look foreign on houses of this era. Door manufacturers do offer super-high-end designs that attempt to hide the sectional door’s telltale horizontal joints, mimicking old-fashioned bypassing or biparting doors. But the prices of these doors can be astronomical, sometimes ranging into five figures.
Therefore, if the original doors are still in place, you’re probably better off reconditioning rather than replacing them. And regardless of what naysayers tell you, an automatic garage door opener can indeed be installed on biparting doors (they’re even occasionally installed on the inner leaf of bypassing doors).
Lastly, a word about windows: Most sectional door manufacturers offer optional glass transom lites for their doors, as well as a whole array of muntin (divider) patterns to fit over them. Although additional light in the garage is always welcome, choose these window designs carefully. The now over-familiar sunburst pattern, for example, is very well suited to Colonial-style houses, but not to much else. Likewise, arch-topped windows are probably not the thing for a California Rancher.
Take your time choosing the right style of garage door for your home — after all, it’s the biggest, baddest door you’ve got.