Northern Wilds Magazine
Peter Finnegan, general manager at Overhead Door in Duluth, shows a selection of vertical windows in the company’s office and showroom on Airpark Boulevard. | TAMMY BAIN
Along the Shore

Garage door logic: Overhead Door Company

More than a half-dozen colors to choose from, the option to open your garage door with your smart device and every design from retro-modern to the same style you’ve seen for decades.

Choosing a new garage door can be an unexpectedly fun home renovation. It can also pay off. Replacing a dented or worn-out garage door can make up to 87 percent of its cost back in home valuation, according to the financial advice website

You can find many of these options, and commercial overhead door options, at Duluth’s oldest garage door dealer. In Duluth since 1951, the Overhead Door Company has been in service for more than 95 years. Overhead Door is also located in Hibbing and other areas in Minnesota and across the country.

Overhead Door Company also sells rolling steel doors, mall gates, security shutters, “all kinds of loading dock equipment” and semi-trailer truck doors, said Peter Finnegan, general manager at Duluth’s location. The company also sells equipment to area mines. Overhead Door will service both the doors it has sold and doors sold by competitors.

While some sources indicate that upward-acting doors were advertised as early as the 1900s, they began being mass-produced in 1921, thanks to Overhead Door Company’s founder, C.G. Johnson. Overhead’s website says the first electrical door came from Johnson in 1926.

Today, a newly-installed garage door can last for 40-plus years, Finnegan said. A replica of an early electric garage door can still be found in Duluth’s Overhead Door office on Airpark Boulevard.

“We like to do it right the first time,” he said.

Doing it right is also on the customer. Maintenance at home can range from visual inspections to preventative maintenance. A homeowner should wash their garage door at least once a year in the spring. They should also lubricate all moving parts, Finnegan said. Some parts, like the torsion spring, should be replaced at least once a year.

The garage door’s steel strength has improved over the decades.

“What’s really changed is the insulation,” Finnegan said. Even if you don’t have a heated garage, insulation helps improve conditions, such as condensation on your car windows, he said. It also gives garage doors better resistance to losing heat.

As in many home renovations, what’s old is once again new. Retro “art deco” has become popular, creating an “ultra-modern look,” Finnegan said.

Vertical windows are also popular, and Finnegan showed off numerous examples in Overhead Door’s office. Although, he added, windows are largely a cosmetic feature to the garage door and can add hundreds to your price.

The garage doors themselves aren’t the only improvement. Customers today can design their own garage door on an app, and even add a photo of their own home to test out the look. They can choose from a variety of colors on a “soft palette,” Finnegan said. He said that one such color, Black Frost, is popular this year. In the office, a dark evergreen garage door also stood as one example.

Original garage doors were made of wood or Masonite, which became heavier with moisture, Finnegan said. Today’s doors can connect to smart devices.

“Everybody’s used to doing everything at the push of a button,” he said.

But a customer doesn’t have to buy a new garage door to open it from their cellphone. Any door made in 1994 or later can be hooked up to a smart device, Finnegan said.

“Some people have to have it. Some people want to stay away from it,” he said. “We try to please both. We just want to make our customers happy.”

In the office, a “courtyard” door has the looks of an old carriage house door.

“We try to make the doors match the architecture,” Finnegan said.

Despite the door’s decorative hinges and handles, the doors still roll up.

Outside of the office and connected shop, you can find Overhead Door’s employees going on-call for repairs at all hours of the day, though you may pay more after hours.

On a recent day when the temperatures plunged more than 10 degrees F below zero, technicians were on the road to Two Harbors to repair a part.

“Cold weather drives our business,” Finnegan said, adding that spring steel breaks when temperatures drop below zero.

“If we can fix it, we fix it.”Tammy Bain

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