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There are handsome replacements for that ugly steel slab


From Friday's Globe and Mail  - June 2, 2006 at 2:00 AM EDT

I've had garage doors on the brain lately, mainly because we have three. They're putrid-peach coloured, windowless, creaky, steel slabs. And they're unsafe to boot, refusing to stop screeching downward even when something big like a car, or me is in the way. And now that the honeymoon stage with the new house is ending, I'm beginning to loathe the big, peachy faces the triplets present to the world.

The design approach many home builders take with garages has always bothered me. Drive around any modern subdivision in North America and you're bound to see lots of garages, each with a house tacked on at the rear.

With this style of building, the garage is the dominant feature, the main event, the thing you see first from the curb. There's nothing especially wrong with that, but if you're going to have a domineering box sticking out into your front yard, why let it be despoiled by a lacklustre steel slab in a boring colour with boring hardware and no aesthetic connection to the rest of the house's exterior except that maybe it shares a trim colour? Yawn.

I say it's time to give garage doors a status upgrade, especially if they're in charge of curb appeal and first impressions. Making them beautiful and proud to be front and centre is a great way for a house to stand out from others on the street.

Upgrading your garage door is less expensive than redoing your brickwork or putting on a fancy tiled roof, and it can pack a visual punch. Just make sure the door's style is appropriate for the home's architecture. A good salesperson should be able to advise you on that count.

A Google search for "garage doors Canada" came up with almost three million sites. Always one to toot the horn for homegrown manufacturers, I glommed on to one called Canuck Door Systems Co. (, figuring what could be more Canadian than something called Canuck.

The company offers a wide range of options from the high-end gorgeous, drool-worthy, custom-built doors in solid wood, with cedar, mahogany and oak being the most popular to more budget-priced steel doors, with a slew of face designs, hardware and windows.

But I wanted to know if there was a middle-of-the-road option. Matthew Schrader, who handles residential sales for Canuck Door Systems, confirmed that there is. It's a door with a one-inch-thick cedar overlay on top of plywood on top of foam-injected steel panels. It costs less than the solid-wood type and offers good weather protection because it's solid and has a thermal break separating the outer face of the door from the inner face.

Canuck Door Systems serves Southern Ontario and the Greater Toronto Area. If you live elsewhere, try to find a local supplier who offers a comparable range of material, design and price options, and be sure to ask them about the warranty and expected life cycle.

In Sheri Koones's 2004 book, House About It, she explains that industry standards require 10,000-cycle hardware on garage doors (which means springs and other moving parts must be able to withstand 10,000 ups and downs), but that some manufacturers' doors don't measure up. If your spouse, kids and pets use the garage door as the main entrance to the house, you'll want to be sure a new one is made to specifications that will work for that level of use.

Ms. Koones provides a formula for figuring out what your life-cycle requirements are: C/(N x 365) = Y, with N equalling the number of times you open and close your garage door every day, C being the rated cycle life of the door you are thinking about buying, and Y equalling the number of years the door will work fine before needing major repairs.

According to Ms. Koones's example, if you buy a 10,000-cycle garage door and use it six times a day, your door will probably break down in about 41/2 years (10,000/(6 x 365) = 4.57). This is why Ms. Koones also suggests looking for a door with a minimum 10-year warranty on springs, the most expensive cycle-rated part, and other moving parts.

This might also be a good incentive to train that pesky spouse, the kids and pets to use the back door instead. Or, you could follow my practice: Just leave the garage door open all day. Though, I have to admit, I'm not worrying about wear and tear. I'd just rather look at the rear end of cars than anything peach. Until we can afford to get new ones, or until one of them squashes me, it'll have to do.

Elizabeth Rand-Watkinson is the principal of Terrier Group, which specializes in interior design. Reno Adventures appears weekly, covering all aspects of home renovation.


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