ANYONE WHO HAS EYES MUST ADMIT that we've come a long way from the days when the garage door was a boring slab. Garage door manufacturers have stepped it up with different panel configurations, glass options, and materials. But with the growing trend toward garage-as-living-space, manufacturers are forced to up the ante even more.

Home buyers' increasing interest in keeping the garage design on par with the house design is forcing manufacturers to offer more styles. This is one reason Cincinnati-based Clopay Building Products offers windows with glass that have a beveled look. Other manufacturers are following suit.

“The carriage-house look is still on a roll,” says Keith Tolbert, marketing development coordinator for Amarr Garage Doors in Winston-Salem, N.C. “The look has now progressed into the steel realm.”

This trend toward steel garage doors that look like custom wood doors pushed the company to introduce the Classica Collection, inspired by carriage-house doors of the 18th and 19th centuries. It is available in 32 design combinations and features a closed square or arch top, and six decorative window styles. Because the doors are steel, home buyers like the ease of maintenance, Tolbert says. “They also like the cost,” he continues. “In our case, Classica is almost one-third less than the cost of a custom carriage-house product.”

Robert Deisher, product manager for Overhead Door Corp. in Farmers Branch, Texas, says the garage also is playing a bigger role in new construction because people are exploring other uses. “I think people are using the garage for more than storage and not just for parking the car,” Deisher says. “They are using it as a living space as well.”

A 2003 survey sponsored by garage door opener manufacturer Chamberlain Group in Elmhurst, Ill., seems to confirm this theory. According to the results, almost 45 percent of Americans have turned to the garage as a “room” in the house to renovate. Among the most popular uses for the space include a gym or workout room, bedroom, child's playroom, home office, or party room. This trend has carried over into new construction. Buyers, anticipating other uses for the garage, are asking for bigger doors up front in order to open up the space even more to the outdoors.

“Across the industry, a lot of manufacturers are seeing increased requests for larger doors,” says Pat Lohse, Clopay's director of residential marketing. The trend is stronger in some areas, such as the temperate climates of the West, but requests for large doors have increased all around. “In some cases, this is due to people having bigger automobiles and SUVs and RVs,” she says. But, “some want an expanded space and want bigger doors to go along with it.”

Consequently, Clopay has increased the size offerings of many of its products. The Coachman Collection, for example, used to come in heights of 8 feet, but the company now offers 10 feet. Other Clopay lines feature doors measuring 12 feet.

Some companies have found success offering doors with other features. Klamath Falls, Ore.–based Jeld-Wen, for example, has seen sales increase with the introduction of its Carriage House line of composite garage doors. “Because it is a trouble-free product, it has taken off like a rocket,” says Dave Hill, director of sales and marketing.

Available in swing style or a modern look, the doors feature trim pieces that are made from the same material as the door, says Hill, so the pieces expand and contract at the same rate. “This makes for a good-looking door that will not come apart,” Hill says, adding that builders won't have any callbacks. The doors come pre-primed and can be painted in the field with ordinary latex paint.

What's next for the garage door? Deisher expects to see a continued demand for aesthetics and for doors that are more weather resistant. After that, he says, the field is wide open for even more customization.

For more product information, visit ebuild, Hanley Wood's interactive product catalog, at or