It's often the first thing you notice as you pull into a driveway: the garage door. For years, it was plain, white and metal — but that trend is changing.
Manufacturers are offering materials, designs and innovations that turn garage doors into custom pieces that add beauty and personality to a home.
Websites such as clopaydoor.com and wayne-dalton.com allow users to upload a photo of their home and then digitally "try on" a wide variety of doors.
"We probably have 1,000 different combinations between panel styles, windows, hardware, colors [and] materials to choose from," says Mischel Schonberg, a representative for door manufacturer Clopay. "You can build any door you want ... and just play around until you find something that's a great fit."
A current top trend is carriage-house doors, which have an old-fashioned feel and swing open — or appear to. "It's been at the top of the list for a few years now," says John Southard, marketing director for manufacturer Northwest Door, in Puyallup.
A top improvement
- In its 2011-12 Cost vs. Value Report, Remodeling magazine ranked garage-door replacement in the top five home-improvement projects for return on investment at resale. Nationally, it recouped almost 72 percent of the job cost; in Seattle, it recouped almost 78 percent of the cost. For details, visit remodeling.hw.net.
The modern look of glass is also a top trend. "The new thing on the block is the all-glass door; they have an aluminum frame, and every panel is glass," says Jesse Cotton, owner of Better Built Door, in Kirkland.
Glass doors offer more natural light, as well as a means for exhibitionists to show off their cars.
"You can see the outline or, depending on the type of glass, you can actually see the vehicle inside the garage, protected instead of being out in front of the house," says Southard.
"We call it the men's china-cabinet door," Schonberg says. "The glass is tempered; it's very secure."
For those who want a bit more privacy, aluminum is a great alternative to wood, says Southard. Aluminum doors come insulated, with a realistic-looking woodgrain finish.
"Honestly, they even feel like wood when you touch them," Southard says. Plus, they're durable. "It will take abuse; it's not going to chip," he says.
Real wood will always have fans, though. "A lot of people just love the beauty and the warmth of wood," says Jeff Hohman, president of Northwest Door.
While aluminum, steel, composite and glass doors are mostly maintenance-free, wood doors require some TLC to prevent warping and cracking. Wood also isn't a top pick for insulating ability.
"We are noticing a trend that people want more energy-efficient doors, especially if they have a room over the garage," Schonberg says.
Once a homeowner has figured out the style, color, material and other features of a door, it takes three to six weeks to get it manufactured and installed, costing anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars. The investment, though, results in a door that really wows, Hohman says.
"Consumers today really like the concept of customization without it having to be a long-lead-time product," he says. "[They] are really starting to enjoy having the garage kind of set them apart and make their home look a little different."