Try This!

Upgrading garage doors
By James Dulley
Try This!

After clips are stuck to garage door, the fiberglass batts are pressed over the clips. (Photo: Owens Corning)

Garages are used in a variety of ways, to house cars and store seasonal goods and tools, and as workshops for projects. You can increase your garage's energy efficiency, safety and comfort by insulating the existing door or purchasing a more efficient one.

Before you invest in a new garage door, inspect your existing door. If it's in relatively good condition and there are no significant drafts coming from the joints between the panels, consider using a garage door insulation kit. Some kits provide an insulation value as high as R-8, but they won't seal air leaks through the joints between the door panels.

Owens-Corning makes an easy-to-install garage door insulation kit. It includes vinyl-backed fiberglass insulation batts, retaining clips and tape. Several other advantages of insulation kits are reduced outdoor noise and lower lighting costs. The exposed white vinyl backing reflects light which may reduce your need for interior lighting.

If you decide you need a completely new door, the most common garage door materials are wood, insulated steel, insulated fiberglass, and aluminum/glass. Of these, the insulated steel or fiberglass offer the best efficiency because of the insulation value and the probability that the door will remain airtight over its life.

Many insulated steel doors are "wind rated" for severe weather. Even if your area doesn't have frequent high-wind storms, install the horizontal galvanized steel supports if they were included with it. Without the supports, the panels may flex and begin to form cracks over time.

If you prefer the appearance of wood but want higher efficiency, select a clad-insulated steel garage door. Clopay developed a method to apply a half-inch-thick polymer coating on the exterior steel skin. It has authentic wood grain molded into the surface so it looks identical to real stained wood. Another option is an embossed simulated wood finish that's painted on.

A very popular garage door style today is a simulated swing-open carriage type. It still rolls up like a typical panel garage door, but from the street it appears that two doors would swing open. These attractive doors often have some type of decorative glass across the top panel for aesthetics and for natural light.

An insulated steel door is probably the least expensive design to meet your efficiency and comfort needs. Some foam insulated steel doors, such as the Clopay Gallery Collection double-wide door that I installed at my home, have insulation values as high as R-19. The foam inside the door can be either glued-in rigid polystyrene or blown-in urethane foam.

When choosing a steel door, look for one with a thermal break separating the outdoor and indoor metal skins to reduce heat loss. This is not a factor on a fiberglass door.

If you have children, look for pinch-resistance panels. These are designed to push a finger out of the panel joints so it doesn't get pinched as the door closes. If you want glass in the door, make sure it's at least double-pane, insulated glass or low-E for better efficiency.

About the Author

James Dulley is an engineer and syndicated columnist for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. www.dulley.com

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