With many major household investments (fitted kitchens for example) the difference between a happy outcome and an unmitigated disaster rests not so much on the product itself as on the quality of the installation. Installing garage doors is no exception.

In theory, to install new garage doors you face a choice between going down the DIY route and paying a professional installer. In practice, what you really need to do is locate a reputable installer and forget all notions of fitting your own garage doors. The mechanisms that ensure smooth and reliable operation of the doors a) need to be very precisely fitted and b) can be extremely hazardous.

It should be possible for just about anyone to easily lift a heavy garage door above their head using one hand (or for a small motor to do the same). This is achieved by carefully balancing and distributing the weight using immensely powerful springs. The potential kinetic energy from these springs is quite capable of causing serious injury or death to anyone attempting to install or adjust them without the appropriate training or tools.

So how do you find a reputable installer? Word of mouth is often the best guide, so if you spot some newly installed doors or happen to know someone who has recently done this then go ask them about their experience. Another good approach is to simply ask a prospective installation company to supply you with copies of their insurance policies and certifications for any engineers they may send to your property. Any reputable trader will a) have these in place and b) happily show you without a second thought.

If you encounter hesitation or avoidance in response to perfectly reasonable requests then simply move on and find someone else. It's perfectly normal to ask to see evidence of previous installations, follow up testimonials and references, check insurance documentation (it's likely to be your neck on the block if their staff turn out to be improperly insured and something goes wrong) or ask for a written specification of cycle ratings (a measure of quality) for the various parts that will form the finished opening mechanism.

One final observation... sometimes the best place to start is at the end. Any professional garage door installation company with an established reputation should be able to guide you through the maze of things you need to consider and even supply (or at the least advise on) a garage door that satisfies your requirements.

You're going to have to engage professional services anyway, so once you're happy that you've found someone you can trust and work with, then why not leverage their expertise from the outset to resolve issues such as whether to opt for wood garage doors or whether you will need insulated garage doors which invariably means having to use a steel panel instead.