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The Big Door
If your garage doors creak or stick, it may be time to start anew

In Felicia Kitay's Fresno, Calif., neighborhood, many of the homes have older garage doors that flip out to open. When one of her home's three-car garage doors started acting up, she started searching for a new door.

While doing that, another door stopped working.

"They were crooked and horrible," said Kitay, 45, a secretary who got new doors about a year ago.

As she looked for new doors for her garage, she had some ideas of what she wanted, such as windows.

"We had the wooden crank-out windows" on the house, she said. "I wanted the window panes (on the garage door) to match the windows in the house. I wanted the whole view to be the same. And I wanted a little light to come in."

Her new doors have windows similar to those on her home. "They're quiet. They're dependable, and they're really attractive," she said.

Shopping for garage doors isn't a simple and easy task. You may be amazed at the number of styles, decorative details and materials you can choose from.

"There are so many options," said Misty Esau, the office manager of Phillips Garage Door in Clovis, Calif. "So, depending on the look of the home, you can go with a lot of different styles."

To help you prepare for your search, here are some areas to consider.

Roll up or flip out?

Sectional roll-up garage doors have three to four panels, and are 7 or 8 feet tall for single- or double-car garages, or 14 feet for recreational vehicles. The doors have rollers that move along tracks. Shafts with torsion springs sit above the doors, attached with cable pulleys. The springs allow you to pick up the doors without them being dead weight, says Jerry Guinn, president of Fresno Overhead Door Co. in Fresno. "It's the counterbalance."

To use garage doors, there must be enough overhead above the door opening, at least 15 inches for standard ones. However, conversion kits are available for the track to allow for smaller overhead spaces. These need a minimum of 5 inches.

In older homes, garages may not allow enough room for these newer doors. The traditional garage doors that flip out or tilt out must be used, and they can still be bought - for now.

"It's a dying door type," said Guinn. "They used to be cheaper, but because of supply and demand they're at about or above the cost of sectionals."

Made of 25-gauge steel, they are custom-ordered to fit openings and come in one design and one color - gray, which is a primer, Guinn said. Generally, they cost about $200 more apiece than basic sectionals, he said.

Metal or wood?

Sectional garage doors can be made of aluminum, copper, or the most common material, steel. Steel doors can be 24- to 27-gauge, with 24 being the thickest. Metal doors can be plain with no windows, have decorative hardware to give them a carriage house look, and feature various raised or recessed panel designs.

The cost of basic non-insulated, 25-gauge steel doors for a single car garage can start at about $500 to $600, depending upon the style.

Wood options include recycled composite wood or solid wood. Composite wood garage doors can start at $1,000-$2,000, depending on the style. Solid wood ones can start at $3,500-$3,750, depending upon design.

"A lot of people like (composite wood) because not only does it look like wood, it is wood," Esau said. "But because it is wood, it (needs) more maintenance. It comes already with primer, so it needs to be painted."

Solid wood doors, she said, can come primered or plain, ready to paint or stain. Repaint it once every three years.

Care tips

To make sure your garage door continues to operate, here are some maintenance suggestions from Misty Esau, the office manager of Phillips Garage Door in Clovis, and Jerry Guinn, president of Fresno Overhead Door Co.

Lubricate moving parts, such as hinges and the roller stems attached to the garage, a product such as WD-40, every six months. It's not necessary to lubricate the tracks on either side of the door.

Lubricate the spring above the door. You can use WD-40 or lightly pour on clean motor oil, Esau says. Wipe off any extra from the bottom lightly.

If the spring breaks, do not touch it or try to adjust it. You can hurt yourself. Call a garage door expert to fix it. "The spring is the most dangerous part on your garage door," Guinn said. "No manufacturer wants people messing with it except professionals."

If the garage door opens but won't close and you have an opener, check the sensors. Make sure they're aligned and aren't tilted. Use a Q-tip to clean the sensors of dust, dirt and cobwebs. Check the wires attached to the sensors to make sure they're still connected and haven't been chewed by a pet or critter.