Garage Door Surround

Recently I’ve spoken to several folks in a nearby neighborhood, all with a similar problem. Their garage doors were framed and then cladded with aluminum fascia material.  It looks nice, doesn’t need to be painted, and is usually called “maintenance free.”  The problem is, some 10 years later, many of these are completely rotten.  (From walking this whole neighborhood, I estimated that perhaps as many as ten percent of the double garage doors I saw have this problem.)

It’s not that aluminum cladding is a bad idea – I have the exact same thing at home on my garage doors.  The problem is in this picture at the right.  Above the frame, exposed to weather, this aluminum was pieced together, a gap left unsealed, just waiting for water to infiltrate.  The water gets in behind the aluminum cladding and can’t get out.  It only takes a few years for the entire frame to be rotted like this picture on the left.  And eventually, if nothing is done, this rot will spread to the header assembly.  That’s structural – and it’s a HUGE deal.  More than a handyman who works by himself can deal with.  That’s essentially rebuilding your entire garage.  Expensive?  Take a guess.

Here’s a checklist if you are concerned about something like this:

  • First, look in the center of your garage door opening to see if the aluminum is pieced (pic above).  (Use a ladder if you can’t see above the door framing well.)  Especially check the top side in the center of the span, just outside your siding to see if there is a gap open to the weather.  Even a ¼ – ½ inch gap over a few years could mean trouble.
  • Another trouble sign is any discoloration, either on the aluminum cladding or streaking down the garage doors.  Dark stains and oxidation that won’t clean away are a sign of wood rot inside.
  • If you suspect rotting, you can try another simple test.  Squeeze the 1 & ½” board through the aluminum.  If it feels “spongy” at all, the wood underneath is probably rotten.

The good news is, caught early, this is a cosmetic repair and won’t cost a fortune to fix properly.  I usually follow these steps:

  • Remove the aluminum cladding (I don’t save it)
  • Remove all rotten wood and replace with two layers of treated lumber (One I’ve already done in this neighborhood had regular (non-treated)  framing lumber installed in this location!)
  • First I frame the opening with “regular” 2 inch treated framing lumber, routed on the facing edge (for a finish), then I add another layer of 5/4″ treated lumber, also routed on the facing edge for an additional seal on the garage door.
  • Add aluminum drip edge above all for water resistance.
  • I then caulk, paint and replace the PVC garage stop molding.  With vinyl siding I remove the “J” channel as needed, re-install afterward and seal with silicone caulk.
  • A typical estimate sheet (I bill by the hour plus materials) for this type of repair is HERE.

No, this repair is technically not “maintenance free” – but I’d much rather put a coat of paint on this every few years instead of replacing the whole thing again in a decade!  (Or have this show up as the “Deal Breaker” on the inspection report that scares a buyer away from your home.)

(Click any image for photo gallery)

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