It’s not every day that you’re in the market for a new garage door. So if you think you know what to expect when shopping for a new one or feel that current models are the same as your 15-year-old door, you’re in for a surprise.

Today’s doors are stronger, more secure and better insulated, and they require much less maintenance than their predecessors. And you’ve never before had such a range of choice in materials, styles, colors and window treatments.

Steel

Most new garage doors are made of steel backed by rigid-foam insulation. Panels made of 24-ga. steel are the strongest (26- and 28-ga. steel is also used); most are produced with an embossed wood-grain pattern or with a smooth finish. Look for a model with a baked-on primer and polyester topcoat for maximum rust protection. Warranties for steel doors start at 10 years; limited lifetime coverage is not uncommon.

Wood

Once the mainstay garage door material, wood has taken a backseat to other materials in the middle of the market. This is largely due to the added maintenance and regular painting wood doors require. Most wood doors are constructed with a hemlock frame and hardboard panels. But custom doors are often made from solid Douglas fir. The typical warranty for a factory-made wood door is one year; many custom doors are backed for 15 years.

Plastic

Plastic doors are fairly new to the scene, and they might eventually be the door of choice. Like steel, plastic doors offer lightweight durability without routine upkeep. Unlike their metal and wood counterparts, they’re corrosion- and rot-free, and they operate almost silently. Because they contain UV-resistant additives, light-colored versions can take sun without fading. There are polyethylene doors on the market made from the same high-density plastic used for truck-bed liners. Plastic doors carry 20-year or longer warranties.

To Insulate or Not?

An insulated garage door is better if you live in a three- or four-season climate and your garage is attached to your home, or if there’s a finished space like a guest room over your garage. Not only does it cut down on cold, but it also dampens noise and makes the door skin less vulnerable to denting.

A look behind the steel skin of a door reveals two types of insulation options: a 7/8-in. polystyrene layer bonded to the metal.

A steel-door “sandwich” made of thick-gauge steel outer skin, a core of insulation adhered to this skin and a light-gauge backing material of steel or plastic make a strong but lightweight door. The thickness of this insulation can range from a thin sheet of polystyrene to as much as 2 in. of polyurethane or polystyrene.