There are few things that dominate the facade of homes more than their garage doors. According to Clopay, garage doors represent up to 40 percent of a home’s façade. That can either work for your home’s curb appeal, or it can work against it. In the case of our 1930’s Spanish style home, the garage door was most definitely working against it. I spent a good deal of time and effort working on details of the home to enhance its visual appeal, but the garage door was one glaring eyesore that needed to be corrected. We talked to our friends over at Clopay garage doors about what we saw as a stellar before/after opportunity. They agreed to sponsor this review and makeover project with one of their Canyon Ridge garage doors. Read on, and we’ll walk you through just about everything you might consider when shopping for a new garage door, and we might even entice you into action with some inspiring before and after shots!
The Garage Door Before
To get a true impression of how far a new garage door went in our case, we need to begin with the state of our garage in the b.c. era (before Clopay). Although we were not able to carbon date the door, estimates put its origins around the 1960’s or 70’s. While some things from the 60’s or 70’s are now considered “vintage” or “shabby chic”, our door was going more for just “shabby.” It sported what was likely the original coat of dull brown paint that had faded so much that it was more of a chalky dark beige. The door was powered by an opener that was so old I had push the button and then sprint to the door to physically help lift it open before it would stall out (to be replaced by a LiftMaster opener, more on that in an upcoming separate review).
The original door also “featured” the opposite of insulation. The door turned into a giant radiator when the southern California sun hit it, although that was significantly improved with the addition of a Reach Radiant Garage Door Barrier. If I had to categorize the style, I’d describe it as “stamped/dented sheet metal.” Aside from one actual dent, the panels were stamped presumably to mimic the look of wood. However, we definitely were NOT fooling anyone. Like many garage doors on older homes (and, some newer homes), this one desperately needed a change.
Selecting a New Clopay Door
The same reasons that make a garage door have such a powerful impact on a home’s appearance, also make it vital that you get the look of the door right. Clopay garage doors offers a myriad of door styles and aesthetic details to cover a broad spectrum of budgets. The last thing you want when selecting a new door is to pick a style that clashes with your home’s existing architecture and style. However, with so many styles, options and materials, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Aside from spending some time browsing the options on Clopay’s website, we employed several strategies for selecting a door.
Visiting a Local Clopay Garage Doors Showroom
Once you have spent some time browsing online, going to a local showroom with a good selection of doors can help you narrow down your options. We visited a local Clopay garage doors showroom, however, depending on where you are in the country, you might find yourself visiting a dealer showroom instead. After looking at photos online, it’s easy for your eyes to start glazing over. An in-person visit to a showroom is a quick cure for that. What looks good online, doesn’t always look good in person. Being able to walk right up to various door styles can help you rapidly eliminate styles you don’t like and start focusing on the styles you do. As useful as the showroom visit was, one tool from Clopay was indispensable in our decision-making process: the Clopay Garage Door Imagination System.
The Clopay Garage Door Imagination System
No, the Clopay Door Imagination isn’t just a quiet room you close your eyes and think in, it’s much more. Selecting the right door is all about picking a door that works with your home, and the best way to do that is to actually see the door ON your home. Clopay makes this possible by sending a giant 18-wheeler to your house and having a very strong man hold each style of door over your existing door until you find one you like. OK, actually they just use the Internet, no 18-wheeler or strongman required. Step one for this process is to take some photos of your home. Or, if you’re obsessive like I am, take dozens of photos of your home in varying lighting conditions. I recommend having at least two good shots; one that focuses mostly on your garage with just a little bit of the house, and another that shows the full street view of your house and garage door. Using two perspectives can help give you a better sense of how the door looks close up, and how it ties in to the overall vibe of your home.
Once you have your photo(s), you’ll select one of them to load to your visualizer. After uploading, Clopay will ask for your door measurement and will have you stretch a little box over the area that is your garage door. From there, the Door Imagination System will walk you through all the options including the door category or collection (which is the biggest determinate in your budgeting), type of door material, insulation, decorative details, window options and even hardware on some models. One little trick I liked to use was to open multiple visualizers at once in different browser windows. That way, I could compare multiple styles side-by-side at the same time. Given my obsessive nature, I also went to the extreme of creating my own visualizer in Photoshop so I could see the doors at a higher resolution. I’m a little crazy that way, so rest assured the Imagination System will likely be perfectly adequate to help most normal people narrow down their door style and options. It’s the next best thing to a strongman holding each door style in front of your garage.
Stalking your Neighbors
Another tip for once you’ve narrowed down what you’re looking for is to stalk your neighbors. Just ask your friendly neighborhood Clopay dealer if they have any reference homes you can do a drive-by on. We did that and it actually turned into multiple drive-by “shootings” – I was creepily taking photos of the garage doors from the street. I lucked out and either no one called the cops, or I departed the scene before they rolled up on the “suspicious guy with a camera” call. Seeing a couple doors I liked actually installed in the real world was really helpful. After more obsessive research using various combinations of all these techniques, we narrowed our door choice down to the Canyon Ridge Collection.
Clopay Canyon Ridge Collection
The Clopay Canyon Ridge® Collection, offers high R-value faux wood composite carriage house doors that can be painted or stained. The goal here is to mimic the look, texture and appeal of real wood with the energy efficiency and low maintenance of an insulated steel door. The materials used to clad and overlay these doors are moisture resistant, so you can avoid the displeasure of installing a beautiful new wood door, only to watch it rapidly warp, shrink, crack, rot and be devoured by termites. I for one, will sleep easier knowing are insanely hungry local termites won’t be feasting on the new garage door.
The composite cladding Clopay uses in the Canyon Ridge Collection is molded from actual wood pieces and then adhered to a steel base door for maximum durability. The result of all these layers is one of the highest R-values in the industry: 20.4. Whether you’re in a warm climate like ours, or, particularly a cold climate, the Canyon Ridge delivers impressive insulation. That insulation will be even more important to you if your garage is attached to your home. But beyond solid performance, just like a Hollywood movie star, the Canyon Ridge collection is about looks.
By molding the cladding and overlay from actual wood pieces, Clopay managed to replicate the natural texture and intricate grain patterns of several wood species. Mahogany, Cypress and Pecky Cypress are three options you can choose from. In the case of the rustic, Spanish style we were working with, I really liked the combination of Pecky Cypress cladding and Cypress overlay. Being able to mix and match two styles opens up some fantastic design options. From there, you can choose a factory applied finish in Medium, Dark or Walnut stain, painted white, or primed for custom finishing on site. We opted for the darkest finish, Walnut, to match the door with the various similar hues on the house’s existing brown wood trim, doors and windows.
Although it’s made with faux materials, you’ll still need to expect some maintenance of the Canyon Ridge Collection. If you had a factory finish applied, Clopay recommends you re-coat, “with a layer of exterior grade, UV resistant, clear protective topcoat at least every 2 years for maximum longevity. In locations of severe weather exposure, more frequent maintenance may be required.” For more details on finish and paint maintenance, check out these suplemental instructions specifically for the Canyon Ridge collection.
I really debated between real wood and the Canyon Ridge Line. Given that our door has a Western exposure with lots of Southern California sun, I ultimately decided going with a wood door was just a recipe for damaged wood, lots of maintenance and an all-you-can-eat buffet of epic proportions for our hungry termites. Notice I said “our” termites? It’s almost like they’re part of our family. Although I had decided on the Canyon Ridge Collection and general door design, we still had a few more decisions to make.
Windows or No Windows in the Garage Door?
The biggest debate for me in selecting our door was whether or not to include windows. Given the age of our house, many homes from that era had solid wood garage doors. Naturally, there were some with windows as well. If you’re contemplating windows in your garage door, you’ll want to consider a few different factors. The first factor for many is style, and this largely comes down to personal preference rather than rigid architectural standards. Some people like the look of windows, others simply do not. Another factor is utility, and comes down to what you use your garage for. If, unlike most Californians, you actually use your garage for parking your car (gasp!), your car probably won’t care whether or not it has a view. However, if you use your garage for a workshop, game room or other form of (wo)man-cave, then having natural light and a view outside can be a big bonus.
If you live in an extreme environment in terms of cold temps, then insulation can also play a role. Even double pane window options won’t have the same R-Value as a door without windows and good insulation. Lastly, security can also be a consideration. Will windows give your neighbors a view of you and your peculiar habit of doing the laundry naked? Will windows show off your prized vintage Ferrari, tempting neighborhood thieves, or your delinquent son Cameron and his friend Ferris? If so, window-less might be best for you. Since I don’t usually use the garage for car storage (no Ferrari quite yet), and I’m often working on projects in it, I ultimately decided to add windows. I also felt they helped soften and add character to an otherwise bland garage.
The Canyon View Collection offers your choice of rectangular, square, or true arched window designs in clear, obscure, seeded or insulated glass. As an added bonus, they also have removable window grilles which make cleaning the glass or maintaining the finish (or painting) a breeze. I tested the clips out and was able to easily remove each of the four grill dividers in about 30 seconds. Ultimately, I was very happy with my decision to add windows. Going into the garage used to be somewhat claustrophobic, but now it’s a much more inviting space. The natural light also makes a huge difference. Windows on a garage door aren’t for everyone, but in our case, the choice to add glass wasn’t regretted in the slightest. In fact, I’m very happy we went with windows, and get reminded of how good that decision was every time I walk into the now far less dreary man-cave.
Stylishly Arched or Hip to be Square?
Whether you go with windows or not, depending on the model you choose, you may have the option to do an arched or square detail across the top of the door. Since we decided on windows, the next decision was rectangular windows, a single arched design, or dual arches. While I liked the single arch of windows, it made the door look less like traditional carriage doors. Our door was too wide to look like a single pair of doors so I decided to opt for the dual arches. This helped create the look of two pairs of traditional, side-swing carriage house doors. If you’re going for a carriage house door look, be sure to factor in what looks reasonable and realistic for the given door size.
Garage Door Hardware – It’s All in the Details
Clopay’s Canyon Ridge Collection offers a great selection of decorative hardware. Since my goal was to replicate a traditional wood door and blend with the Spanish style as much as possible, I wanted to include some wrought iron details. Initially I planned to include decorative hinges. Once again, the Clopay Imagination System came to the rescue. With the dual-door style I was opting for, it seemed unconvincing to have strap hinges floating in the middle of the door (without any type of fixed post or divide). It also seemed weird to have hinges just on the side which would have left the dual pairs of doors without hinges in the middle. Most people probably wouldn’t notice these details, but I knew they would terrorize me if I went against my better judgment. Ultimately I decided going without strap hinges altogether made for a cleaner and more convincing look.
I did opt for two pairs of old world style handles available from Clopay. There was some debate about what height to install them at. For what are obvious reasons you don’t want to span two vertical sections of the garage door or you’ll have an unhappy surprise the next time you open the door. I again deferred back to shooting for convincing details. In old side-swing carriage house doors, the handle was generally mounted in a position that was easy to grab in order to swing open the door. I’ve seen some people mount them about knee height and I just don’t get that (unless of course the handles are horizontal to mimic old doors you lifted up manually).
Sizing Things Up Before the Order
Clopay set us up with a local installation company called Radford Overhead Doors. Believe it or not, they’ve been in business since 1945. They came out about six weeks before the actual install to take measurements and make sure there weren’t going to be any installation surprises. Our opening size meant there would be a little bit of overlap between our garage and the door. In other words, a couple inches of the top and sides of our door would be obscured. Ultimately, we couldn’t even notice. Measurement was speedy. Most importantly, there were no “ooops” moments when the crew came out to install the door.
Also, while you may not think you need an insulated door because you’re in a mild climate, an insulated door is thicker and can’t be damaged or bent as easily as a single layer uninsulated metal door can. That extra strength makes for a door that’s less likely to be pried open by thieves. Most people would not think a single layer of steel is adequate for a wall on their living room, but that’s not far off from what you get with an uninsulated garage door. Whether you live in Fargo or Phoenix, or any climate in between, I think it’s worth going with an insulated door for both security and energy efficiency.
Value & Curb Appeal
In a 2012-13 Cost vs. Value Report published by Remodeling
Magazine, garage door replacement ranks in the top 5 exterior home improvement projects, “netting a 75% cost return at resale, on average, nationwide.” Apparently our neighbor didn’t read that study. . . when she saw the new door she said, “you just added $20,000 to the value of our home.” When you see the official “after” pics, we think you might agree. The great thing about the value you add with a garage door is that it’s value you can add literally in a matter of hours, rather than the tedious days, weeks, months (or in our case, years) associated with many typical home improvement projects that can add value to a home.
Coordinate Your Garage Door with Your Entry Door
One thing unique to Clopay is that in addition to their garage door options, they also offer entry doors matched to the style and finish of your chosen garage door style. These steel and fiberglass doors range from simple, smooth finishes to traditional Craftsman doors, you can further increase the benefits to the appearance of your home by timing your garage door project with a front door replacement. You can check out various Clopay garage doors styles and options on their Entry Door page.
The Garage Door Installation
While some more basic steel garage doors can be installed with just one installer, our door was definitely a two person job. Radford sent out two of their more experienced teams, Justin and David. Like an Indy pit crew, they made it look easy, and the job was wrapped up in approximately 1/50th the time it might have taken me, and with zero hernias! They started in the morning and were done by mid afternoon several hours later. A one person crew would definitely be slower, but regardless of your door and crew size, all but the most complicated installations can be wrapped up in a single day. How’s that for instant gratification?
Most new garage door installs also add weather stripping. In our case we opted out. Our existing wood trim provided a nice overlap, and given San Diego’s temperate climate, aesthetics trumped any minimal additional insulation value we would have gained. Here are the photos of the door installation process leading up to the official “after” shots (we left out a few details you’ll be able to see when we post our review of the LiftMaster 8550 opener the guys installed):
The Official Before and After(s)
This is definitely a case of a picture is worth a thousand words, so without any further commentary, see this extreme Garage Door Makeover for yourself!
Street View Before
Street View After
More After Shots
We’ll be including a video of the door in action when we post our review of the LiftMaster 8550 Belt Drive garage door opener. In the meantime, I’ll just say I was amazed and how smoothly a door of this size and weight operates. What used to be a cacophony of rattles, squeaks, groans and booms is now a delightfully tame and quiet experience. I think the multiple layers, insulation and heft of the Clopay door actually makes it open and close more smoothly than some of the lightweight steel doors on the market.
The overall look of this Clopay Canyon Ridge door is impressive. Although Clopay makes doors that would look right at home in any architectural style, from traditional to transitional, Craftsman, Mediterranean, Victorian, Tudor, or even contemporary, this door presented a perfect match for the 1930’s Spanish style. I don’t want to say the door looked incredible, because, in fact, it look credible! While some faux options (like our previous stamped metal wood grain) scream fake, this Clopay Canyon Ridge door exudes a convincing finish. With a little dust accumulation, I suspect the door will only become more convincing with time.
I had trouble finding much to find fault with on this Clopay door. What minor concerns I did have were related to two minor cosmetic details. Most “normal” people wouldn’t even notice, but when it comes to a faux door in particular, I believe the details play an important role in the overall effect. It doesn’t take much to throw off how convincing a faux product appears. My biggest issue was actually with the interior frames around the windows. Like the inside of the door itself, they’re white. That’s great for a clean look on the inside, however I believe it throws off the look a bit from the outside. If you view the outside of the door from straight ahead, it’s a non-issue. If you view the door from an angle, it’s hard not to miss the bright white interior pieces right next to the exterior wood detailing. It becomes a little hint that what you’re looking at likely isn’t real wood.
Clopay suggested painting the interior window trim / retainers to match the exterior wood, and I may still do that. The window retainers can be painted with a latex paint and Sherwin Williams has Clopay paint formulas. However, painting the trim might look a little odd from the inside where everything is crisp white. The weather stripping seal for the bottom of the door also has a chrome strip which does little to tie in with the style of the door. This is an even easier fix with a little paint to cover up that small chrome edge. We’d love to see Clopay offer an interior trim option that continues the exterior wood look all the way through to the interior window retainer pieces, and a black or brown option for the aluminum trim piece on the bottom seal. Keep in mind I’m notoriously particular about details like this, but I still think they’re valid points in the game of convincing faux finishes.
Garage Door Pricing
It’s my opinion, maybe just because of the their sheer size, that many homeowners overestimate the cost of a new garage door. While garage door pricing is hugely variable based on size, construction, material, design, finish (paint or stain), insulation value, insulation type, decorative windows/hardware, etc., I wanted to provide a rough range of what you can expect in the various Clopay garage doors Collections. We’re listing very general prices for standard size single and double garage doors – 9′ x 7′ and 16′ x 7′. These price approximations are for doors only and do not include openers. They also do not include installation since that varies by dealer, region and the particulars of your specific garage.
Basic Classic Panel Steel Door
Starts at $250 single/$450 double.
Mid-range insulated 3-layer Classic Panel Steel Doors or Gallery Collection Grooved Panel Steel Doors
Range from $450 – $1000.
Coachman Collection Steel and Composite Doors
Start at $1,000 and go up to about $2,500.
The Canyon Ridge Collection
Starts at about $2,300 for a single door and goes up to $8,000 for a double door.
As an overall range, garage doors typically range in price from $300 for a basic door to $10,000 for a custom door, which incidentally, Clopay can also make.
If you have an ancient garage door like ours that offered more “curb repulsion” than “curb appeal”, we hope this makeover might nudge you into taking the plunge for a new door. Whatever range your budget might be in, there are appealing options available in styles galore. Depending on how hideous your old door might look, we think it can even make sense to invest in a door when you’re planning on selling your home. Small details often contribute to whether or not a home is enticing enough to a buyer walk into, which might ultimately lead to an offer. The garage door isn’t just a small detail either, it’s often a huge element that’s hard to overlook when it isn’t up to par. If you’re not planning on selling, prioritizing your garage door might be the single most significant change you can make to the appearance of your home. And, even at the high end, you’ll spend far less money than you would on a kitchen remodel or many other projects that consume far more time and energy. If you’re ready to paint a giant frowning emoticon on your garage door like we were, it’s probably time to head to your local Clopay dealer and see what garage door might be a good fit for your home. Do it, and your neighbors will not only envy you, they’ll appreciate what you did to spruce up the neighborhood.
Special Thanks to Those Involved in this Makeover
First and foremost, a big thank you to Clopay for sponsoring this makeover and to their fantabulous PR folks who coordinated everything to a stellar conclusion. Thanks as well to LiftMaster, which you’ll see and hear more of in our upcoming review of the LiftMaster 8550 garage door opener that was installed on this project. Last but not least, many thanks to Radford Garage Doors of San Diego, including the owner Fred, and installers Justin and David. If you’re in the San Diego area and are looking for a new garage door, give them a ring.