If you have never attempted a do-it-yourself home improvement project, insulating your garage door would be a great place to start. The installation process requires only a few hand tools, with the methods we will describe here, can be a very cost effective project that pays more dividends the longer you own it.
We’ll break down the basic steps, but you’ll want to follow the manufacturer's instructions for your particular materials. We’ll also toss in a couple of pro tips here and there to make your project more professional looking.
Why Insulating Your Garage Door Is Crucial
- Reduce Energy Bills
You might be surprised to learn that a garage door that doesn’t fit well and/or is uninsulated can indirectly affect your utility bill. As a rule, garages are not considered “living spaces” because they are not heated, nor cooled. However, outside winds blowing past your garage door will cause a vacuum, and if your garage door needs maintenance, air will be pulled from inside the garage.
- Protect items and tools from harsh temperatures
We tend to store tools and house items in our garage. We store everything from decorations (which often melt), to paint (which can freeze) and everything in between. Even just maintaining an ambient temperature between 40-80 degrees fahrenheit will prevent much of the damage from occurring.
- Reduce Street Noise Entering the House
If you live close to traffic and street noise, you’ll benefit from the additional sound-absorbing materials found in insulation. Whether you use foam or fiberglass-faced batting, you may notice as much as a 50% reduction in noise entering the home through your garage door.
- A Sound Investment
Pardon the pun, but insulation, regardless of where it is installed, almost always pays for itself. Insulation doesn’t wear out, and generally speaking, will last as long as the house.
- Add Value
Believe it or not, garage door insulation is a small, but simple way to add value to your home. Buyers often see the extra effort and attention to detail as an indicator that the rest of the house must be high quality as well.
How To Best Insulate Different Types Of Garage Doors
As with most home improvement projects, the overall cost of insulating your garage door will be a balance of time, effort, and money. There are no steadfast rules unless your local code requires it.
In this project, we will briefly discuss how to insulate using a garage door insulation kit.
Purchasing a kit will be your best bet, especially if you haven’t done a home improvement project before. The kits available today are designed specifically for the task, include everything you need, and are very cost-effective. Most will have a smooth surface, making cleaning much easier and have fire retardant properties as well.
Some have slightly better R-Value, and some are better at retarding moisture, but they are all well designed, with ease of installation in mind.
Please note that when choosing how to insulate your door, taking the weight of the insulation into account is important. Since most of us use garage door openers, the operational capacity of your particular opener must allow for the additional weight of the insulation.
Check the weight of the materials for your kit and make sure your opener can be adjusted accordingly if needed. Once you have selected the method that works best for your door and climate, you’re ready to go!
How To Insulate a Steel or Aluminum Garage Door
The same basic steps will be used from method to method, as well as the same tools. Here are the tools (or household items) you may need:
- Utility knife with a new blade. Any sharp knife will do, but the cleaner the cut, the cleaner the job will look.
- Straight edge. If you already have a level at least 2’ long, that will work great. If not, any straight edge 2’ or longer will work.
- Gloves and eye protection (e.g. safety glasses). A mask is also recommended.
- Tape measure.
- A step stool, or small ladder if your door is especially tall.
Garage insulation kits come in a few forms, but generally speaking, will fall into the categories of polystyrene, fiberglass batting, and foil tape. Foil tape is more of a reflector than insulation, so we’ll concentrate on polystyrene and fiberglass batting.
Installing Polystyrene Sheets or Panels
You’ll need to measure the panel you want to insulate first. For some doors, the measurement will be the same for all the panels. To begin, pick a panel on one end or the other and measure from side to side, and top to bottom. Make sure you measure all the way inside the panel because as with any insulation, you’ll want a snug fit. Make note that one side of your insulation may have a foil backing.
Pro Tip. The foil is designed to reflect heat, so if you live in a hot climate you’ll want to have the foil facing the door. Doing so will allow your insulation project to function at full capacity. If you often need supplemental heat in your garage, install the insulation with the foil facing towards the garage.
To ease installation, you can deduct a half-inch or so from your measurements if needed. Due to the rigid nature of the insulation, getting a snug fit without breakage can be a challenge. To solve this, many companies mold grooves into the back of the panels, allowing them to flex, making the job much easier. Another solution is just to just cut the section into two pieces and install them one at a time.
Pro Tip. Don’t cut the section in half, but rather very near an edge so the joint is harder to see. It is just an eye trick, but it is easy and looks very clean.
Due to the molding process, these doors have small ridges around the perimeter of each panel, and this ridge holds the panel secure once it is in place, so no adhesives or fasteners are needed.
Installing a Fiberglass Batting
Fiberglass batting is also commonly used to insulate garage doors, and modern manufacturers have made the installation process easier than ever. The basic process is the same as described earlier, but there are a couple of key differences.
As with other methods, fiberglass batting is easy to work with and is cut in a similar manner. The key difference is that fiberglass batting requires a mechanical fastener. These fasteners are usually just a two-part clip with double-stick tape on the back. Just remove the backing and press it onto the door.
Usually, two per panel will do the trick. Carefully using your knife, just cut a small slot in the batting where the fastener can pass through. Then pop the batting into the panel, allow the first clip to pass through the slot, and snap a second clip onto the first. This will hold the insulation in place, but allow for removal later should you need to replace the door.
Pro Tip: You might need to adjust your garage door springs depending on the weight of an insulation kit that you installed.
Installing Reflective Foam With Double Sided Tape
When installing foam tape you won't have to make any cuts in the middle of the tape and let it roll over the entire length of your garage door. It's recommended to remove garage hardware during this installation to keep it clean.
Here's a video that show entire tape installation process:
Can You Insulate a Wooden Garage Door?
Normally, insulating a wooden door isn’t necessary, as wood is considered an insulator. Replacing the seals on a wooden door is often the best solution, as many wooden doors have sagged away from their seals due to age.
Replacing these seals is easily within the skill set of the average homeowner, and only slightly more involved than insulation. If you live in a harsh climate, you can still add insulation to your wooden door using a kit, as well as add expanding foam where needed. Just remember that you don’t need much, so don’t overfill. More often than not, a fiberglass solution will be best suited for wooden doors, as the mechanical fasteners make the job much easier.
Can You Insulate A Vinyl Garage Door?
Vinyl doors are typically insulated from the factory, so there won’t be any need to insulate them yourself. If you’re in the market for an insulated vinyl door, check the ones with polyirethane insulation and an R-value above 11.
How To Insulate A Garage Door On A Budget
- Replace the Seal if it Needs it
Reducing drafts can be as beneficial as insulation. Home centers and building supply houses will stock new seals for just about any garage door. They are usually made from extruded PVC (the same material your plumbing drain pipes are made from) and can be installed by most homeowners. Replace the exterior seals first, as these will eliminate drafts most efficiently. If needed, replace the seal on the bottom of the door as well.
- Use Styrofoam
An inexpensive, but uncommon method for insulating a garage door is sheet styrofoam. Most big box home improvement stores will have it. It usually comes in 32 square feet, 1” to 2” thick sheets. That is often ideal for garage doors because most are 1”to 2” thick as well. Styrofoam will be measured, cut, and installed just like polystyrene, but you’ll need an adhesive that does not contain acetone, which will simply melt the foam. Just apply the adhesive to the door panel and press it on. We don’t recommend using loose fiberglass batting in non-kit form, as typical wall batting is too thick and must be compressed to fit. This greatly reduces the R-Value and can look messy.
A Job Well Done
Well done! You have completed an important, rewarding home improvement project effectively and safely. Now when you back out of your garage the first thing you’ll see in your mirror is the fantastic job you completed. Insulating your garage door can be just a stepping stone to larger projects, so take your new confidence and tackle another one!