Garage Door Panel Replacement or Repair?

Photo: dr coop/flickrYour sectional roll-up garage door is composed of at least three hinged panels (usually steel, although some are wooden). Occasionally one of the panels may be damaged by a vehicle -- crrrrunnnch!!! Or weather, wind, and age may take their toll.

If a panel or two of a home's garage door ends up looking less than its best, what should a homeowner do? Is it preferable to opt for garage door repair, or just  to contact your local garage door installation company to replace the entire garage door? Read on to learn more about the factors that you need to consider when you are deciding on a quick panel replacement or if you can repair the existing door. 

Age of Your Garage Door

Your decision will depend in part on the age of your door. The typical garage door life expectancy is 20-25 years. If yours is only, say, 10 years old, you may lean toward simply repairing the broken panel. However, unless you find a used piece for sale, you might have a hard time purchasing a single panel for an older door, since it must be similar in terms of weight and size as well as looks. What's more, changes in your door's appearance due to weather exposure will tend to make matching the replacement section even more difficult (although painting is a possibility).

The determining factor in your  garage door panel replacement or repair decision could well be the fact that garage door technology has been updated in recent years. New features like electronic eye sensors, pinch-resistant doors, automatic reversing mechanisms, and high quality insulation make your garage safer and more energy efficient. Planning to sell? Full garage door replacement is the most esthetic option, and best for your home's curb appeal.

Cause of the Damage

Another factor is what action resulted in a damaged garage door panel. Normal wear and tear can produce minor cosmetic blemishes on the damaged section such as small scratches, dents, rust patches, cracks, or warps. Consult with a professional to assess the seriousness and see whether the problem is confined to just one of the panels. If so, it may be possible to repair your garage door panel with wood filler, paint, and/or a strut.

On the other hand, if the door was struck by a car, someone tried to use the automatic opener when the door was locked, or your garage was hit by a hurricane or earthquake, the damage may affect much more than the individual panel and could threaten the safety of anyone using your garage. Essential garage door system mechanisms including the struts, track, spring, or door opener may have been compromised, even if the damage is not apparent. One indication of damage is difficulty closing the door even though you are able to open it normally.

Cost for Replacement or Repair

Panel repair is one of the more expensive garage door fixes. The cost to repair your garage door panel is likely to depend on the garage door repair company's or service person's hourly rate. One hour's wages is the usual minimum charge, plus any materials, of course. Installation of a new panel starts at $250 for the simplest 9' panel, up to a high of $700 or more for a more elaborate 16' replacement panel. Compare this to garage door replacement cost which, including labor and supplies will run you about $1000. Check what is covered by your warranty, get price estimates, and decide which solution is the most cost-effective.

Safety First!

When weighing costs and benefits, remember that safety is paramount. If there is any kind of damage, do not continue to use your garage door opener until you can repair or replace the door. Even a minor garage door panel repair can become more serious if you don't take care of it promptly and can lead to further break down of garage door parts.

For example, a dented garage door panel may lead to cracking, which in turn will permit water penetration and rusting in the entire door. You might end up having to completely replace a neglected garage door ... and that's the best-case scenario. At worst, you could be putting your home at risk of burglary via the garage entrance or even endangering  your family's wellbeing.

As you can see, a lot of thought needs to go into whether or not you need garage door panel replacement or repair. You need to evaluate a variety of aspects of your garage door, like its age, what caused the damage, the cost associated with either action, and what is safest. Last but not least, check whether garage door replacement is governed by your local building code.

Laura Firszt writes for

Updated January 26, 2021.

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