As the weather cools, it’s the perfect time to gird your garage against the colder temperatures on the way, especially if you’ve got your home workshop in there. Metal garage doors block strong winds but do little to maintain a comfortable temperature. But if you’re not ready to plunk down upwards of a thousand dollars for a new, pre-insulated model, consider gearing up the garage door you’ve got. We’ve assembled all the info you need to understand how to insulate a garage door successfully, plus tips to help you get the maximum benefit out of the project.
For most homeowners, controlling their garage’s temperature is a challenge. Keeping a constant temperature in a room which has a door that opens several times a day, or is even left open for hours at a time, can be problematic. Constant temperature fluctuations have the potential to damage items such as tools, cars, or toys stored in the garage. Further, a poorly insulated garage can also wreak havoc on energy bills. Luckily, there are steps you can take to ensure a quasi-comfortable temperature in your garage.
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Why Insulate the Garage?
There are many benefits to insulating a garage that may not come to mind right away. For example, energy conservation is a huge plus, as you’re able to maintain a more consistent temperature. In turn, you don’t have to overwork your A/C unit, which can lower your energy bills. Further, insulation acts as a sound barrier. The extra buffer can keep noise from the street, and the home contained. Are you someone who performs a lot of projects in their garage that require power tools? Insulation’s soundproofing feature will keep you in the good graces of your neighbors.
Areas to Insulate
There are three main areas within the garage that you should insulate. If you’re unable to insulate all three areas, at least take care of whichever ones you can. Insulating one area is better than none if you’re interested in taking care of the other parts, considering investing in a professional service to help you reach those areas.
The overhead garage door is the main barrier to the outside and is often the thinnest part of the garage. Most doors consist of thin aluminium that heats and cools with the weather. As such, we strongly recommend getting some insulation, especially if the garage connects to the home and shares a wall. Insulating the garage door is the easiest and cheapest thing to do. You can purchase different kinds of “stick-on” insulation or kits that will have everything you need. Additionally, you can also purchase a new, pre-insulated door.
Many garages have an attic above them. This is a wide-open, drafty space that homeowners typically use for storage. But what many may not know is an uninsulated attic drains energy and money. At the same time, if there is a bedroom above the garage and not an attic, the same concept applies. In this case, you would want to insulate the garage ceiling. Adding insulation to this area is a bit more challenging but isn’t impossible for DIYers. Many professionals out there will love to help you out if you aren’t confident tackling it yourself.
Insulating the walls is an easy process. You can purchase huge rolls of insulation in the exact width needed to fit in between studs. Assuming contractors used proper technique when building your garage, meaning they spaced out the studs correctly, the process is simple. All you have to do is unroll a piece of insulation long enough to stretch from the ceiling to the floor, staple, and repeat. However, before you choose any old insulation, you want to ensure you get one with the appropriate R-value for the garage’s climate. R-value refers to how well the insulation resists heat loss. The higher the value, the better it insulates. If you live in the north, you’ll want to get a higher R-value better to insulate the garage from the extremely cold winters.
For any homeowner looking to be more energy-efficient, insulation is a vital component. As we’ve covered, insulation prevents air from escaping areas such as stud cavities, attics or ceilings, and doors. By doing this, homeowners can save money on heating costs and utility bills. Before installing insulation in your home or hiring a professional to do so, it’s a good idea to understand the types of insulation and their benefits.
Why Should You Learn How to Insulate a Garage?
These are the top reasons homeowners insulate their garage:
- To decrease heat/cold transfer from the garage to the house and vice versa. Insulation helps your furnace and air conditioner not have to work so hard, reducing your carbon footprint.
- To lower utility bills
- To decrease the noise level coming from outside, making it a quieter environment.
- To help prevent potentially hazardous gases (like solvent fumes) from entering the home.
- To create a livable space or a workshop that can be efficiently heated in the winter or that at least doesn’t have the extreme temperature fluctuations of a garage without insulation.
Whether your garage is attached or unattached to your home, it has the potential to be a highly functional space. DIY garage insulation is a hassle-free, relatively straightforward way to enhance the space and make it more valuable—both for you and your family now and in terms of future re-sale value.
What Can I Expect from Insulating My Garage Door?
Adding insulation to the door’s interior channels can help keep your garage an average of 10 to 12 degrees warmer in winter and as much as 20 degrees cooler in summer. Insulation also reduces noise transfer, so not only will you avoid hearing street traffic when in your workshop, you’ll spare your neighbors the sounds of your son’s rock band practice.
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Benefits of a Garage Door Insulation Kit
The simplest way to insulate a garage door is with a kit containing either vinyl- or foil-faced batts or foil-faced rigid foam boards. Kits start around $50, and as they increase in price often offer a complete set of supplies—adhesive, tape, a utility knife, gloves, and perhaps even a dust mask—than just the insulating materials. The prime benefit of a kit, however, is its specially designed retainer pins. Made of lightweight plastic or metal, the pins have plates attached that adhere to the garage door channels’ back to help anchor rigid foam or batts in place. This stabilizes the insulation, so it won’t fall on your car when the door is open. If you opt against a kit, you can use other methods to hold the insulation in place.
Purchase the Right Rigid Foam Insulation
Skipping the kit? Most DIY-ers opt for foil-faced rigid foam board panels that you measure and cut with a sharp utility knife or table saw to fit the channels inside your garage door.
- The main types of foam board are expanded polystyrene (EPS), extruded polystyrene (XPS), and polyisocyanurate (called “polyiso” or simply “iso”). Any of these are acceptable for garage door insulation as long as they are foil-faced and fire-rated. Do not use non-faced foam board, which is flammable and will produce dangerous fumes if it burns; in fact, using it might very well violate your local building codes.
- Choose foam board slightly thinner than the thickness of your door’s interior channel enclosures. For example, a standard garage door channel is about 1-¾ inches deep, so you would want to cut pieces from a 1-½-inch thick foam board.
- Although they can vary, most garage door channels have “lips” that hold the boards in the channels, but rigid foam boards can still rattle around a bit if they don’t fit snugly. A bit of foam-safe adhesive, applied to the garage door channel’s back before inserting aboard, will help hold it in place. You can use expanding foam to seal gaps around the sides if necessary, but a little goes a long way. Check the label of any adhesive and expanding foam spray to ensure compatibility with the foam board you’re using—some adhesive will melt foam board.
Working with Batt Insulation
While standard batt insulation is readily available—you might even have an extra roll laying around—and it’s often slightly cheaper than foam board, it’s probably not the best choice for garage door insulation if you’re not using a kit. The thinnest standard batt, at 3-½ inches thick, is too thick for most garage door channels, and compressing the batts greatly reduces their ability to insulate a garage door. If you’re set on batt insulation, find thinner, 1-½-inch thick foil-faced batting—the kind used for wrapping HVAC ducts at plumbing supply stores or order it online (do-it-yourself centres don’t often carry it). To hold the batts in place, you’ll also need to use the correct adhesive and tape recommended by the batting manufacturer.
How to Insulate a Garage Door
Measure, mark and install the retainer pins.
Measure to find the spot that’s 12 in. from each edge of the panel and midway between the horizontal rails. Mark the location. Then peel off the adhesive backing paper and press the retainer pin base onto the panel. Install two retainer pins in each panel.
Cut the batting
Roll out the batting with the vinyl side down and mark the cutting lines. Place the batting on scrap plywood. Then compress the insulated garage door with a straightedge and cut with a utility knife.
Lock the batting in place
Line up the insulation, so it’s centred in the panel and push it against the retaining pin until it punctures the vinyl facing. Then push the retaining cap over the pin until it snaps into place.
We chose the R-8 fibreglass insulation kit from ADO Products for our door, so we won’t be showing you how to cut and install XPS foam panels in this story.
Start by washing each door panel with household cleaning spray and rags. Then rinse the areas with clean water and let dry. Next, install the retaining pins. Measure the height and width of each panel and add 1 in. to the length and width when you cut the batting to size for a snug fit. Panel sizes may differ along with the door, so measure each one as you go rather than pre-cutting all the panels based on one measurement. Fit the cut insulation into the panel with the vinyl side facing into the garage. Then secure it to the retaining pins. Repeat until all the panels are insulated.
Mount the doorstop weather stripping
Place the doorstop against the top and side jambs, so the vinyl weather stripping is at a 45-degree angle. Temporarily secure it in place with nails pounded in only partway.
Readjust to accommodate door movement
Apply pressure to the door to simulate the effect of a strong wind. Then move the doorstop inward to maintain a good seal. The gap may not be the same in every location along the sides, so check it in several spots and readjust accordingly.
Starting at the top of the door, tack the doorstop weather stripping to the top jamb. Mount the side doorstops the same way. Then press against the door to simulate how much it might move in strong winds. Readjust the doorstop, so it seals against the door even in windy conditions. Then pound the nails in all the way. If the door has too much played to adjust the doorstop properly, or you can see the light through the doorstop weather stripping, replace your existing hinges with spring-loaded versions that press the door against the weather stripping at all times.
Install a new bottom seal
Jam a fat-blade screwdriver into the crimped area and twist to gently blend out the aluminium track. Repeat on each end of the track.
Slide in the new bottom seal
Slather some dishwashing detergent onto the slots along the bottom track or spray them with silicone. Then insert the vinyl seal and pull it into place. Cut off the excess vinyl with a utility knife and crimp the ends of the track with a pair of pliers.
Most steel doors have a track along the bottom to hold a vinyl seal. The vinyl can harden from sun exposure and crack or break off in sections, letting in cold air. Installers usually crimp the slots at each end of the track to retain the seal. Open the crimps and slide out the old seal. Then install the new one.
Test the door
A properly balanced garage door should stay in place if you lift it partway and let go. However, insulation adds weight to the door, and that may throw off balance. If your door falls after you let go of it, hire a garage door service company to readjust the spring tension. Leaving the door in an unbalanced state can damage your garage door opener.
Consider all aspects of insulating your garage — not just the walls, but also the garage doors and the ceiling, particularly if you plan to add a heating or cooling system. And don’t forget to take flooring into account. For example, while an epoxy coating will add a protective layer to the floor, it won’t necessarily add insulating values.
There are several insulation types you can use, including batt or blanket, blown-in and spray. Spray insulation is best performed by a pro and requires a good bit of setup in advance. For this discussion, we’ll cover batt and blanket.
Beyond the typical functions of keeping heat, cold, and dampness in or out, insulation can also help you keep the din of the outside from entering your garage and the activities you pursue in that space from escaping to your neighbours or the rest of your house. A new option on the market for batt or blanket insulation adds a slight soundproofing quality. This is an extra layer added with the vapour and is no more difficult to install than typical batt and blanket insulation. Remember that with insulation, it’s all about the R-value – the higher, the better. This will, however, be limited to the thickness of your walls.
- Determine the area of the space you plan to insulate and add 10 to 20 per cent to account for mistakes and odd spaces you need to fill.
- Count the spaces above doors and windows.
- Measure the space between joists and studs to determine the width of the insulation you need.
A basic rule of thumb is that these are spaced 16 inches on centre, but this can vary widely.
Select your type of insulation. While fibreglass is most common for blankets and batts, there are many natural material options available. Whichever type you select, finding one that isn’t made with formaldehyde is a top priority.
Take your square footage figure and divide it by the square footage that each roll or package of insulation will cover. This will determine how many packages of insulation you need. Install as directed, typically cutting to fit and using a staple gun to attach the studs’ vapour barrier.
If you’re adding new garage doors, be sure to install insulated options. If you’re using old, uninsulated doors, pick up a retrofit kit that adds insulating panels.
To keep the floor a bit more comfortable in the cold months, add interlocking foam or PVC mats. They’ll offer a slight amount of insulating effectiveness, but are more about keeping the floor warmer and cushier underfoot.
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Maximizing Your Insulation Project
To make the most of your garage door insulation project, replace the rubber sweep on the bottom of the door. Also, install weather stripping around the sides of the garage door to prevent icy drafts from blowing in. And while insulating the doors is a great first step, you’ll enjoy more heat-retention if the rest of your garage is insulated as well—heat can still escape through a non-insulated roof or sidewalls. But whatever steps you take before Old Man Winter comes calling will keep you toastier inside your workshop. But we warn you: You’ll have no excuses to get things done in there!