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Garage door - can you add rigid insulation?

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Good afternoon,

My shop space has insulated walls and I just blew r36 in the attic. I am thinking the garage doors are a weak point. Can I add insulation to the door itself? Rigid insulation? Another product?

Also wondering how to test for draft?

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Can I add insulation to the door itself? Rigid insulation? Another product?

Also wondering how to test for draft?

The answer is a strong "probably".

 

The biggest show stopper you're likely to run into is weight. The garage door system is balanced to the weight of the garage door panels. You're about to add weight, which is going to change (or possibly throw out) the balance. If you have a double door, the insulation would add enough weight that your door needs to be very "light" in balance before you start. If you have a smaller single door, you've got more wiggle room because the foam you're going to add will weigh less. Unhook the trolley from the opener's chain/belt/screw so you can raise and lower the door manually. Run the door all the way open and then all the way closed by hand. The door will have a "tipping point" when it's part way open above which it'll want to lift itself the rest of the way open and below which it'll want to shut itself all the way.  For a double door, I'd want to have this tipping point very close to the ground, maybe only 18-24" inches off the ground, because you're going to add so much weight to it. You should almost have to push it down to the ground. Technically, this is an incorrect install by whomever installed your door the first time but it does happen. For a single door, if the tipping point is more than half way down you've probably got enough headroom to get away with adding foam.

 

If your door is currently balanced too "heavy", you can always have a garage door service man come out and swap springs to stronger ones if you still want to add the foam. Keep in mind garage door springs are very dangerous. There's one and only one correct way to de-tension and re-tension them that doesn't put you at a significant risk of a potentially fatal head injury, so this is one where it's worth calling the pro unless you're the kind of guy that never uses a push stick/block.

 

Before you look too hard at that, though, tackle the air sealing first. If there's much of any air leaking, the air is a bigger source of heat loss than the door itself so adding insulation won't help you any. The easiest way to do this is to just look for light leaks. With the interior of the garage as dark as possible and with bright sun outside, move your head all around all 4 sides of the door and look for any light leaks. Now, have someone push inwards on the outside of the door to simulate wind pressure while you do the looking around again. Then have them push outwards on the inside of the door to simulate negative wind pressure and look a 3rd time. See any light? Then there's air going through there and fix the leak before you bother insulating the door.

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If you have a sectional roll up garage door you might have to re-tension the torsion spring to adjust for the additional weight. Those things are under a scary amount of tension. I did it once in my younger days but do not approach it casually! Today I would get an experienced garage door technician to give the door a once over.

As to the insulation a 3/4 or 1" ridgid foil faced sheet should work nicely.

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I put 3/4" foil faced insulation on my shop doors, but before I did that I put a sheet of plastic over the whole door.  It cut down on air infiltration between the panels.  You can cut the insulation on the table saw.  Check to make sure you bevel the edges so the panels fit tight and allow clearance.  As wdwerker said, you might have to add tension to the spring.  Oil the springs first and run the door up and down all the way a couple times to work the oil in so the coils slide on themselves.  Then add tension to the springs, but be very careful!

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+1 to williaty's response.

 

I have sectional doors and inserted foam.  Mine were "light" as he put it so everything was okay after installing the foam (it made them "heavy", but the opener had no problem).  Later, I added hooks so I could store guiderails on the door. That adds much more weight than the foam.  I had a garage guy retension my springs and I can now lift the door by hand with minimal effort with the 3 rails on there.

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I went to Home Depot or was it Lowes? Can't remember. Anyhow, they have/had kits to insulate garage doors. It really helped keep things cooler in the summer and warm(er) in the winter. Yes get those air leaks under control.

 

I went the extra step and used white duct tape to help seal the insulation to the door panels. 

 

-Ace-

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You are getting lots of advice that may or may not have value depending on the door style. Your question can be better answered with a closeup. Open frame doors can handle two or three inch rigid foam easily. Wooden doors would hardly benefit. Preinsulated doors would hardly benefit. Hollow core doors can sometimes be filled with foam if no parts move through the interior. It really depends on the door. Most of the time insulation of the rigid type has no value without the right style of door. Better gain is found through the application of an air barrier and careful attention paid to the exterior seals.

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Wooden doors would hardly benefit.

This is almost always going to be untrue. Many "wooden" doors are two thin layers separated by an empty space. They're R1 or less, so they'll definitely benefit! Solid wood doors are hardly better. A typical 1.75" thick solid wood door will be around R2. Considering with just an inch of polyiso you can add R7 plus a radiant barrier, it's absolutely worth doing. Going from R1 to a total of R8 will reduce the energy loss through the panel by 87%!

 

Preinsulated doors would hardly benefit.

Depends on the real insulation in the door and most manufacturers lie, so it's hard to judge. However, if you know you've got an inch of EPS (styrofoam) in there, you know the panel itself is about R5. However, the inner and outer metal skin of the door is probably NOT thermally broken, so heat is conducting through the metal skin, bypassing the insulation! In this case, adding rigid foam to the inside will help tremendously because the foam will isolate the non-thermally-broken door skin from the interior air.

 

Most of the time insulation of the rigid type has no value without the right style of door. Better gain is found through the application of an air barrier and careful attention paid to the exterior seals.

I absolutely agree with you that air sealing is ALWAYS step 1 any time you're looking for better energy efficiency. However, I think you're absolutely backwards on the utility of adding rigid insulation. Unless you have one of the very few door panels made right, you'll benefit from adding foam to the interior surface.

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Do it for a living. Check the numbers often. They leak air like a sieve. Insulation can very often be the wrong place to put your money. If you open a window a crack and then glue insulation to the glass, you operate at a net loss. Insulated doors are a designed system. Adding insulation to a door that lacks the rest of the system can often be a wasteful expense.

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That appears to be a pre-insul door. You'll have to determine how often you want the door open because your biggest weakness will be at the top and sides of the door.

The easy:

If your concrete is irregular start with any kind of draft stop but the factory bottom treatment should seal all but really bad spots. If your panels are friction fit tongue and groove, measure both T and G. If you can get away with a super thin compression foam in the G go for it but don't make it too thick.

There is just no really great way to address the top and sides. This is why they are weak. As your door raises it swings away from the opening. This is why they use sweeps inside the door opening on the exterior. This should all be checked for fit. From the outside, push on the door at the edges to see if that sweep maintains contact. You can attach more insulation to the inside of the door but you need to bevel the edges for the door to articulate and you have all that hardware to account for. If you leave the door shut for long periods, I would try to slide a board along the wall behind the door track. I would attach compressional foam along the edge so that you are sealing against the wall and the edge of the door. This is not a great idea if you intend to use the door often.

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i've thought about borrowing a friends fog machine to see where the air leaks. i don't think it would work though.... i'd love to get a hold of one of the professional home envelope testing kits which test the air pressure in homes. basically, fill the garage up with some type of fog/ smoke and watch for air leaks outside. but then you'd need to pressurize the building in order to really see the smoke pushing out of the air leaks. hmm... there must be a DIY way of testing for air leaks...

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what is your budget?

 

after my last garage door went bad, my landlord installed one of these steel, foam, steel doors. It provides excellent insulation, and sound dampening. I just wish i could get him to put insulation in the attic and the one exterior wall.

 

 

http://www.homedepot.com/p/Clopay-Premium-Series-16-ft-x-7-ft-18-4-R-Value-Intellicore-Insulated-Solid-White-Garage-Door-HDP20-SW-SOL/204598318?N=5yc1vZar38

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