D+AS MAGAZINE

FEATURES — The Future of the Composite Garage Door

© 2007 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Fall 2007
Author: Christopher McClure
Pages 52-53


The Future of the Composite Garage Door
By Christopher McClure, McClure Consulting

Curb appeal. Those two words have been driving the major design shift now taking place in the residential garage door market. Two other words are having a growing role in that design shift: fiber composites.

In my nine years of experience in the composites business, I’ve observed a significant shift in the materials used in residential entry doors, and I see the same shift now in garage doors. This new material has helped to improve the design and quality of entry door products and is positioned to do the same for the garage door industry.

Learning From the Entry Door Market
In the residential entry door market, “fiberglass reinforced plastic composite” is the leading material in terms of style, cost, quality, versatility, and overall value. Over the past five years, these composite exterior entry doors have surpassed wood doors and have grown more than 20 percent annually in volume.

Smooth and wood-grain composite doors have carved out their own niches in the residential door market and have displaced more traditional materials such as wood and steel as the material of choice for designers. This has led to better pricing for the composite product as well as better quality in production equipment and technology.

Previously this niche was dominated by a few specialty players such as Therma-Tru and Peachtree. Now, large door-manufacturing companies such as Plastpro, Masonite, and Pella have fully integrated the manufacturing of fiberglass composites into their product lines.

Machinery advancements now allow the manufacture of doors up to 8' in length, two skins at a time, versatility of design, and better adhesion for insulating foam and surface coatings such as stain and paint. Since these materials are stable in a wide temperature range without cracking, rotting, or rusting, these doors stand strong in an exterior environment.

Composites Descend on Garage Doors
So, why garage doors? Are they too big? Is the market ready? What features are possible with a “composite” door?

First, the carriage house style garage door has been posting annual growth in the residential market for the past five years. The style of these doors, with various moldings and claddings, has allowed for the increased use of composite materials.

In many cases, these moldings and claddings have been made of some form of composite. This was one of the first ways that these alternate materials were introduced for garage doors.

The residential entry door market caused the molding presses to become larger, but not yet large enough to mold a standard two-car garage door. But since two-car carriage house doors usually mimic the look of two one-car doors, a one-car composite mold can be used twice for these wider doors. Thus, the same features and benefits that apply to composite entry doors now apply to garage doors.

Garage Doors: More Composite Models
Is the market ready? This is already being answered by several large garage door manufacturers.

For example, sales of Wayne-Dalton’s fiberglass 9800 series are increasing rapidly, according to Bill Earnest, Wayne-Dalton director of marketing and product management. The door was developed in cooperation with Therma-Tru, who makes entry doors using the same material.

The industry is realizing the unique sales appeal of offering a matching front door and garage door, with identical wood grain and a rich, deep stain accenting the depth of the panels. In some cases, these doors have higher insulation values than traditional materials and are inherently dent proof, rust proof, and rot proof.

C.H.I. Overhead Doors has also released a fiberglass option in carriage house doors, demonstrating the harmony between style and functionality this material can offer. This summer, the company began showcasing a new raised-panel wood-grain fiberglass door.

Jeld-Wen has developed new materials for their entry doors, using fiberglass and thermoplastic composites known as LFT. A wood composite material is featured on Jeld-Wen’s carriage house garage doors, which are also distributed through Amarr.

Since 2005, Ankmar has been strongly promoting its Manor House carriage house door made of wood composite materials. Called CladPanel, the door’s panels are made from 100 percent recovered and recycled content.

Composite Capabilities
So what features are possible on a “composite” door? Deep panels, rich-color stainability, and wood grains of many different species can now be molded into a product. Innovations in widths and lengths are being made to allow for maximum utilization of this material as a “skin,” with minimal drop from cutting or shearing.

The features and benefits are present now more than ever in these composite materials. The market is ready, and systems are beginning to form that will allow these materials to offer greater value to garage doors.

In the eyes of a buyer, that value is curb appeal. In the eyes of garage door companies, that value is increased sales.

Since 1998, Christopher McClure of McClure Consulting has worked with composites and molded products for companies such as Therma-Tru, Masonite, Plastpro, Pella, Stanley, and many others. Contact him at mcclureconsulting@windstream.net or 440-964-2335.