If your old, flip-up garage door is beginning to splinter into kindling with each yank of the automatic opener, if it sags like a plug mare on the way to the glue works, if it has ever whacked you in the shins, banged your car or booted the family cat, if dry rot and termites are adding decorative touches never intended, or if you are simply bored with a door that looks like it belongs on the side of a barn, then you might take Jim Cramer's advice and make the switch to sectional.
"Sectional roll-up garage doors are more durable, more stylish than one-piece doors," says Cramer, operations manager for Anaheim Door, one of Southern California's largest dealers of sectional garage systems. He also predicts that "in the next 15 years almost every home built in Southern California will have a sectional garage door. The one-piece will be dead."
Cramer is a man who has seen the future. Not surprisingly, it is a future that comes in roll-up panels of teak, cedar and Douglas fir.
Virtually unknown in Orange County just 10 years ago, roll-up garage doors are now the portal of choice for builders of upscale houses as well as for homeowners who are replacing old doors. According to Cramer, his company alone installs as many as 200 roll-ups a week in the Orange County area.
"Southern California is the home of custom," he says. "Everyone wants their house to look a little bit different than their neighbor's. People are now finding out just how important their garage door can be in achieving that custom look."
Aesthetics aside, sectional doors are tough.
"They are very strong," Cramer says. "They won't fall apart like a one-piece door, and they can't be pried open because they're secured to a track channel. It'd take a sledgehammer to break one down."
Other Orange County garage door suppliers agree that the advantages of a sectional system go beyond looks. For one thing, a roll-up door leaves a heck of a big hole in the front of a garage. This is all the better to store vans and RVs because it allows full access to the garage. On the other hand, a one-piece door cuts off about a half foot of available space when open.
Also, because sectional systems open straight up, it is no longer necessary to clear a no-man's land of 3 to 4 feet in front of the door as protection against close encounters of the one-piece kind. This is especially handy for people with short driveways and long cars. Now the bumper of the family Volvo can practically kiss the garage door without getting smacked in return.
The benefits list goes on.
Sectional doors seal better against weather, dirt and creepy crawlers than one-piece models; they require less maintenance, usually just light oil on the hinges (Cramer's rule of thumb: "If the door works, don't fix it; if it makes a noise, get rid of the noise"); they open easier and more smoothly, which puts less strain on hardware and automatic openers, and they can enhance the value of a home when it comes time to resell.
Despite such praise, however, could the rise of the sectional garage door really spell the end for the traditional one-piece plywood workhorse? Is the flip-up door destined to go the way of the potbelly stove, gas lamps and the outdoor commode?
"Probably," says Jeff Lonner, production manager of Total Access, a Fullerton-based installer of both sectional and one-piece garage doors. "I can't remember the last time we put in a lift-up door on a remodel job."
Lonner says that about the only requests for one-piece doors come from customers who have accidentally bashed their cars into a neighbor's door and want the cheapest replacement possible.
"Even then they're looking at $500 or $600 installed, where a nice sectional door would run about a thousand," he says.
Many Orange County builders still use one-piece doors on tract homes, according to Lonner. But he believes this trend should eventually give way to roll-up models, even on less expensive homes, as public acceptance and demand for sectional chic grows.
Or, as Cramer puts it, it is all part of the "dishwasher syndrome."
"Twenty years ago the automatic dishwasher was optional in most homes," he explains. "Today you can't buy a home without a dishwasher because that's what people expect. It's not a luxury item anymore."
Roll-up garage doors have long been a necessity in the cold-weather states of the Midwest and East Coast. A door that swings out on hinges isn't much use when the snow lies a foot deep on your driveway.
Years of practical application, however, may have robbed these out-of-state doors of a sense of style. It took Southern California, home of the designer doghouse and other architectural wonders, to elevate the garage door to status symbol.