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30th January 2017
Roller Garage Doors Explained

Explanation of the differences between steel single skin and aluminium double skinned roller garage doors.

Roller garage doors are one of the most popular types of garage doors being sold in the U.K. right now, and it’s easy to see why:

- Vertical opening and closing saving space on your driveway
- Very little intrusion into your garage internally
- All doors made to order maximising width and height
- Quiet during operation
- Large choice of finished colours and woodgrain finishes
- Can be fitted inside, inbetween or outside the garage opening
- Very secure (with the right specification)
- Universally appealing with clean, unfussy design
- Wide choice of access control methods for electric operated models

What are the Main Differences Between Steel and Aluminium Roller Shutters?

If you carry out some basic research, you will soon discover that roller garage doors are only available in steel and aluminium (referred to as double skinned or insulated roller shutters by most manufacturers), but what are the main differences between the two?

Steel Roller Garage Doors

Steel roller shutter garage doorAt present it is quite easy to identify the steel roller garage doors in the UK as there are only 2 main manufacturers – Gliderol and Garage Door Systems (Ireland). The steel roller garage doors are constructed from large sections of single skin sheet steel which are jointed together about every 750mm to form one complete continuous curtain which is then attached to and rolled around a skeleton drum to produce a roller garage door.

Inside the skeleton drum is a steel tube section which has a spring attached around it and they are all connected together in order that tension may be applied to the spring to act as a balance for the door adjustable depending on the size and weight of the door curtain. The steel tube extends out each end of the roll and is used to secure the entire roller door onto steel brackets that are fixed to the inside face of the garage structure (see diagram).

The whole roller door is simple in design and fairly light weight to operate and when the door is required to be electrically operated a simple motor system is easily bolted onto one end of the roller door and controlled by a control box and remote control handsets as required. There are a few variations in electric motors used but they all fit externally at one end of the roll are always 24V and use the same kind of sensing used in normal garage door operators where the motor unit will sense a voltage surge if the door is obstructed and stop immediately and reverse.

A wall mounted control panel with built in light, pushbutton control and a receiver for the radio control signal from the transmitters is all fairly standard specification

Aluminium Roller Doors

Nearly all aluminium roller garage doors in the UK are constructed from individual double skinned slats usually with a foam filled core and are about 19mm thick as an average. Each aluminium slat is usually about 75mm deep and they all vary slightly in the front face design, some have totally smooth surface, some have a thin line or two as a feature in the design. The slat always has a curved shape and this enables the curtain to roll efficiently.

The differences between this door and the steel roller garage door are quite apparent but there are so many manufacturers now in the UK it is difficult to generalise. One of the biggest differences is that aluminium roller doors always use a tube motor system for electric operation and nearly all doors are electric as it is quite difficult to produce a satisfactory manual version. With a barrel type motor system on any roller door there is a minimum level of safety required as the motors simply drive up or down under power and need other external devices to control the movement.

The full details on safety requirements on insulated aluminium roller doors using tube motor can be found in our ‘Are you prepared to gamble’ article and we suggest you do read it as unfortunately there are so many roller door manufacturers completely ignoring the current legal requirements on safety and also claiming the doors to be CE compliant. A remote control electric roller door is in the eyes of the law a ‘machine’ and comes under regulations relating to this simple fact.

Aluminium roller shutter garage doorAluminium roller garage doors offer a much higher level of insulation, security, practicality and style than the more basic steel doors and have far greater variations in application as there are so many different sized slats to choose from with almost any colour ultimately available in paint finishes as well as a huge choice of woodgrain finished laminate coatings.

The guides for the door curtain are usually between 60 to 100mm wide and offer greater resistance to forced entry attempts and high winds.

The curtain roll size is smaller than a steel roller door as the individual slats roll up tighter – an important factor for maximising drive through height when open if internal headroom is restricted.

The curtain is stronger as the slats are double skinned and foam filled.

The operation is quieter as the motor is inside the roll and DC operated as well as the tolerances between the curtain and the guides being smaller reducing the chance of rattling in windy conditions.

The electric motor is controlled as standard using a wall mounted control box with built in lighting, pushbutton controls and a receiver for the radio hand transmitters supplied with rolling code technology used on higher specification models.
With superior aluminium roller garage doors the sealing is far superior as the curtain is rolled off the barrel completely when closed and then pushes against the inside of the lintel. Basic roller doors have a large gap appear at the top when closed as the curtain roll shrinks in size when closed exposing a gap between the back of the lintel and the front of the door curtain.

The sealing at the bottom is always better as aluminium roller doors have a greater degree of flexibility in closing up gaps on out of level floor surfaces as the slats have a small movement between each one and on an average height door of 21 slats this gives a lot of available movement.

Generally the strength, stability and security of aluminium double skinned roller doors is higher than any single skin constructed door offering extra benefits all round.

Which Roller Doors Should I look to buy?

This is simple; make sure you only consider roller garage doors manufactured by reputable, established manufacturers complying with all the relevant CE requirements for the UK market.
Most prices are very similar at the front-end and, discounts you can obtain will vary enormously but the one thing you must make sure is that the sizing, specification and installation is correct. Roller doors may seem simple but installed incorrectly they will fail quickly as there are many stresses and moving parts and some doors can be over 5 metres wide, a large moving object by any standard!

Also make sure you have the eventuality of a power supply failure covered – the minimum cover is a manual override system enabling a winding system to be used internally to open and close the door without power. This can be extended to operate from outside the garage if you do not have a side door. Improvements in technology and pricing enables the use of a battery back up system to ensure several operations after the mains power has failed and this is a good system to consider.

Manufacturers to Consider:

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