The vast majority of garage doors installed today are sectional doors—doors with four or five horizontal panels joined together with hinges that allow the door to bend and follow a curved path as it opens and closes. But there are other options when it comes to a garage door, and one that is often overlooked is the single-panel door, sometimes called an up-and-over or swing door.
What Is a Single Panel Garage Door?
Single panel garage doors were all the rage before sectional doors came into fashion. These doors are single, solid slabs that slide up and into the space above your car when they’re opened. They occupy a similar amount of space as a sectional garage door but can function quite differently.
Instead of being hung on overhead tracks, most single-panel garage doors are hung on a very strong hinge system attached to the jam. Once fitted with springs, this allows the door to swing easily without a garage door opener. On occasion, single-panel doors are also hung using a system similar to a sectional door so they can be attached to an opener.
Advantages of Single-Panel Garage Doors
Single panel doors offer a number of advantages over sectional garage doors, but they’re not for everybody. Many people use them as part of a retrofit into their existing garage door hardware, but if you’re choosing a door from scratch, there are several reasons why you might want to choose a single-panel style:
- Cost: Single-panel garage doors tend to be considerably cheaper than a sectional door made from the same materials. And the cost will also be less when you need to replace a garage door torsion spring or cables. Because they’re easier to install and have fewer moving parts, single-panel doors can save you a bundle when compared to the costs of sectional garage doors.
- Material and design variety: It's true that sectional garage doors come in a lot of styles, but they’re generally limited to options that function well in 2-foot segments. This makes various frame-and-panel designs quite practical, but other mechanical and stylistic designs can be hard to execute. If you like a garage door to have the appearance of a large block, the seams between panels usually interfere with the look. But with a single panel door, you’ve got one giant palette to work with, in nearly any material you can imagine, with no pesky panels to interrupt the look.
- Simplicity: A sectional garage door comes packaged with a huge array of tiny parts, springs, and other bits that make it difficult for a DIYer to install properly. Single-panel doors, on the other hand, have relatively few parts and require less attention in hanging. Fewer parts mean less to maintain and, hopefully, fewer bits to break over the long-term.
- Vintage appearance: Many older homes are a better stylistic fit for single-panel garage doors. Many mid-century modern homes, as well as contemporary homes, are natural fits for garages fitted with single-panel doors.
Drawbacks of Single-Panel Garage Doors
Of course, single panel garage doors aren’t all fun and games. Some potential negatives of single-panel doors include:
- Safety: Perhaps the most important reason homeowners have abandoned single-panel garage doors is because of the safety factor. These older doors use extension springs, which can fail catastrophically when not properly maintained. Springs have flown off rusted connectors and gone through drywall, garage contents, and even car windows.
- Space limitations: Newer homes mean increasingly less space between neighbors, especially in tightly-packed planned communities. The extra few feet a single panel garage door needs to tilt has to come out of the driveway, meaning that you’ll have to park further back while the garage door is opening. There can also be slightly less space inside the garage as a single-panel garage door opens. For example, in a smallish garage, a tall pickup truck with a full shell over the bed may interfere with the angle of the garage door as it swings open. If space is at a premium, a sectional garage door is the best way to go.
- Expensive repairs: Although your single-panel garage door can certainly handle some trouble, a sectional garage door may be better in extreme weather. When a single-panel garage door fails, it fails dramatically, with the whole door coming down at once. A failed sectional garage door may be dented or crushed in just a single section, providing an easier, less expensive recovery. If a teenage driver bumps a garage door, for example, a single-panel door is an expensive repair, since the whole door needs to be replaced.
The Bottom Line
Garage doors come in a variety of configurations, with a style perfect for every home. When it’s time to choose your next door, consider the single-panel garage door if you’re into DIY or if you own an older home that can benefit from the unique look of these doors.