The Hottest New Product at Expo 2008: New Coating for Steel Doors Grabs the Spotlight

© 2008 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Summer 2008
Author: Tom Wadsworth
Pages 44-48

The Hottest New Product at Expo 2008
New Coating for Steel Doors Grabs the Spotlight

By Tom Wadsworth

“Woodgrain prints” are here. And dealers are taking notice.

At Expo 2008 in Las Vegas, at least 13 different residential steel garage doors offered this remarkable woodgrain-like appearance. Last year, only one manufacturer (Safe-Way) offered this finish.

The 2008 models of this door came in different versions. Some manufacturers are offering a woodgrain paint finish, some use a woodgrain laminate film, and others offer a hand-stained steel door. However the look is created, the appearance is indisputably stunning.

Stealing the Show

Dealers who completed our annual “Hottest New Products at Expo” survey agreed. In all, 51 respondents offered 63 opinions of new products, and 11 (22%) of the 51 respondents identified the new woodgrain-finish steel doors as the hottest new product.

This statistic is even more significant because the survey did not provide a check-box list of specific products. Rather, respondents had to draft their own responses from their memory of all the products at the show’s 183 exhibits.

What Do You Call It?

In our survey, dealers used different terminology to describe this finish, such as “woodgrain stain finish,” “wood painted steel,” “wood looking paint/finish,” “stained wood look,” and “woodgrain colored steel.” But it’s clear that everyone is talking about the same thing.

Garage door manufacturers, coating manufacturers, and coil coating companies tend to name this finish by describing the process used to apply it. They use terms like “prepainted print application,” “printing and laminating technologies,” “woodgrain prints and laminates,” and “paint/print systems.”

In this story, we’re calling it a “woodgrain print.” This distinguishes it from the common woodgrain embossing and identifies it as a “print” on the door surface.

As the manufacturers’ terms imply, there are two basic types of this woodgrain finish: prints and laminates. And several coil coating companies offer one or both of these systems.

“Besides laminates, other methods of applying woodgrains to metal doors are hand staining or sublimation coatings. But both are complicated and costly,” says Paul Feldkamp, vice president of sales and marketing at Metal Koting in Toronto, Canada.

Prints: How Do They Do That?

To understand the new coating, a few words about “coil coaters” may be required. A coil coater applies different coatings to sheets of steel that are rolled up in a giant coil. The finished coil is sold to garage door manufacturers, who then create garage door sections with various stampings or overlays as needed.

Print technology on coil-coated steel has been available for more than 30 years, according to Gary Gray, the resident expert on these coatings at Akzo Nobel Coatings, a major coatings supplier for the garage door market.

Where the Real Magic Happens

For the woodgrain print system, “A coil coatings facility is where the real magic happens,” says Gray.

Precoat Metals is a coil coater in St. Louis, Mo. Vic Locastro, general sales manager, says Precoat offers both print and laminate film technologies. “What is referred to as ‘paint coating’ is primarily print technology,” he explains.

“Precoat applies a base color to the metal and then using a print roll, applies the woodgrain design using inks.” Different colors and designs can be applied in a single pass.

Continuous coil coating lines provide a quick, effective, and controlled process of applying quality coatings to metals. In one non-stop operation, large coils of steel or aluminum can be cleaned, painted, printed, and receive a protective clear coat.

Laminates: How Do They Do That?

Locastro says laminating is similar to printing, but it’s a different technique. Instead of printing directly on the metal, a film manufacturer prints the multicolor woodgrain pattern on a plastic film. Using an adhesive, the coil coater then applies that film to the metal.

“Some laminate suppliers can also emboss the films to provide a textured feel,” he says. This textured surface was also featured at Expo 2008.

OK, But How Does It Perform?

In the early 1990s, a couple of manufacturers offered a steel door with a special coating that accepted stain. The final look was dazzling, but the staining process was time consuming, and durability was questionable. This new printed surface appears to avoid those problems.

“The woodgrain product on display at the IDA show definitely has equal film integrity to the regular door finish with a solid color,” affirms Gary Gray of Akzo Nobel. “No special maintenance is required over and above the standard door applications.”

“You really do not have to do much to the door other than an occasional wash and rinse,” he adds. The print coatings, he says, are generally subjected to the same exposure testing and requirements as standard steel garage doors and exterior products.

If the product has a disadvantage, it’s the touch-up required if the door surface is damaged. Any painted steel door offers similar issues with touch-up, but recreating a woodgrain look on a damaged section is a greater challenge.

Cost and Lead Times

Gray, Locastro, and Feldkamp all say the woodgrain coating costs more than a typical finish. “Typically, there is a premium for this type of application,” says Gray.

However, noting the cost efficiencies of the coil coating process, he adds, “You will be pleasantly surprised to see how competitive this print application can be.”

Feldkamp agrees and says the cost of the printed systems is “marginally higher than solid color painting.” Locastro explains, “The cost differentials are highly dependent on design and performance requirements of the customer.”

The customer’s design and performance requirements can also affect lead times, says Locastro.

But once the coil coating process is set up and rolling, “There is no reason to expect additional lead time over standard applications,” says Gray.

The Finishing Touch

In the final analysis, this new finish offers a stunning appearance that seems to put the finishing touch on the industry’s ongoing efforts to offer the wood look in a steel door.

When the industry first launched the residential steel door around 1980, the raised-panel style was based on similar-looking wood doors. Within a few years, these steel doors commonly offered woodgrain embossing for a rough-sawn texture.

And today, many carriage house doors offer crossbucks, rails, stiles, and other features common on wood garage doors. The vast majority of today’s residential garage doors contain some design element that mimics the look of wood.

The industry’s transformation to the look of real wood now appears to be complete. The oft-repeated sales pitch is now truer than ever: “Now, you can enjoy the beautiful look of real wood with the low maintenance, low cost, and durability of steel.”


The Hottest Products at Expo 2008

Here are the products and manufacturers that received the most mentions in our survey. This list notes the total mentions received by each product and the percentage of respondents who named that product.


#1 Woodgrain Finish Steel Doors (11 mentions/22 percent).
#2 Carriage House Doors (9 mentions/18 percent).
#3 Martin Aluminum Carriage House Doors (4 mentions/8 percent).
LiftMaster 3800 Residential Jackshaft Opener (4 mentions/8 percent).
#5 Janus Rolling Doors (3 mentions/6 percent).


#1 Clopay (6 mentions/12 percent)
LiftMaster/Chamberlain (6 mentions/12 percent)
#3 Martin (5 mentions/10 percent)
#4 Amarr (4 mentions/8 percent)
#5 Hörmann Flexon (3 mentions/6 percent)
Janus (3 mentions/6 percent)

Survey Method: Invitations to this online survey, conducted immediately after Expo 2008, were sent to 739 dealers throughout the United States and Canada. The survey asked dealers to name “the hottest new products displayed at Expo 2008,” held April 23-26.

To avoid leading the respondents to select any product, respondents drafted their own responses from their memory of all the products at the show’s 183 exhibits. In all, 51 dealers responded to offer 63 opinions of new products. Some mentioned more than one product.