“Garage Door Selection” or “Portal Renovation”

Like so many older dwellings in outports like those in Newfoundland and Labrador, very little that was built “back in the day” was ever built to any sort of code, came in a box or was built by a specialist. My ancestors had the dubious reputation of being able to put their hands to anything and being able to pull it a workable job. Wasn’t always pretty, but kept food on the table and filled a need in an environment of tight resources and limited growing seasons. We are an inventive lot, and since necessity is the mother of invention, sometimes a needy bunch, too.

What worked for my predecessor, that 9′ by 9′ (~3m x 3m) door, with two inward swinging sections and an upward swinging section, worked. But it leaks air out and snow in, it’s difficult to open and honestly isn’t the prettiest first-impression of the work I am capable of doing (eventually). I am fully confident that I could build my own garage door (with limited choices in style) or I could break down and buy a new one (with limited income to do so). Quite a conundrum. The first step, though, is to figure out what options exist in this marvelous universe for me to try, and then sort out how badly I want to buy, build or deal with what I’ve got. Yes?IMG_1427cropped-img_1397.jpgHere you see Bertha, in all her glory. The two vertical white lines delineate an in-swing door approximately 6′ high by 2′ wide (~2m by 600mm). It is attached to the door on the left (as seen from the outside), and then both lower doors are hinged to the forward exterior walls. The white panel, as seen in the next photo (right), swings up using a pair of block and tackles and a rope that frequently jams. You can imagine the fun of getting on an 8′ aluminum latter to mend a pulley that’s 12′ from the floor, while dangling from the trusses like a bobono. (Speaking of which, my article on shop safety can be found here)

There are inch-wide (~25mm) gaps between the top and bottom doors, with carpet underlay wedged in between. There are gaps between the floor and the door, but thankfully a snow drift forms on the inside of the door and the ice dam forms a rather convenient airlock. -sigh-. It only opens from the inside using a crude form of deadbolt sliding lock, and a 8″ nail is used to pin the bottom of the door into a hole in the floor. Not exactly my ideal use of 81 square feet (~7.5 sq.m) that may as well be open to the winter blizzards. There must be another way, nay, there IS.

I’ve managed to deduce that there are 4 distinct categories of door that I can make use of, given my working area. I know that the portcullis-type is out, because I would need as much height above the door as the door is tall; though it would keep bandits away.

I could go with an in-swing door like we have here, by cutting it in half and hinging it accordingly, though that would put a great deal of stress on the walls when I build a 9′ tall by 4.5′ (~3m by 1.5m) insulated lumber door on each of the walls, the moment of inertia would be intense. I could install casters, but that also makes it more difficult to move. Think of a typical barn door.

I could go with a side-sliding door, one with a rail on the top and a track on the bottom, casters and a broom sweeper on the bottom of the door to help avoid air loss. I could even USE the door space for storage, since the weight is all vertical now. I’ve been strongly considering that one. I’m envisioning a door that slides sort of like those old elevators or doors to studio apartments. This could be solid, sectional or even accordion-style.

I could go with a up-swing door, like the top (white) portion of the existing door… but then having to haul a 9′ by 9′ door, insulated, made of lumber and paneling up to 90d or 100d and securing it tightly lest it swing down and utterly crush someone (Speaking of which, my article on shop safety can be found here), I may end up avoiding that option for fear of lawsuits and generally being too much effort to open or close by hand.

My final option, as I reason it, is buying/building a overhead-opening door on tracks. A typical garage door as you would see with horizontal sections, rails and often an automatic garage door opener. These come in kits, are sometimes reasonably priced and have the added advantage of being less involved, so there’s less chance for me to make a mistake or injure myself.

Now that we know the basic mechanical options (in-swing, up-swing, side-slide and sectional up-and-over rails), and the two design options (buy a kit or make an effort build it myself), we need to sort out what my exact conditions are. I’ve only got about 12″ (~300mm) of space on my north-facing (left as seen from the outside-front) wall, and I’ve got about 4.5′ (~1.5m) of space between my garage door and my main door, though I’ve got closer to 8′ (~2.5m) between my garage door and the edge of the building. So a side-slider would only be able to travel 8′ of the 9′ total length, leaving only an 8′ opening through which to travel, and would completely block off my person-door. Then again, I’ve got an 8′ opening. If the garage door were open, why would I need the person door? Besides nothing wider than 8′ is road-legal anyway, so I’m probably pretty safe. I WOULD have the space on either side of my door for the vertical rails that a sectional up-and-over door would need, and I even have the extra 1′ (~300mm) of height to allow the door to smoothely transition from a down position to a position of rest above. The rails would remove some roof-height for the first 10′ (~3m) of the 32′ garage length, but I don’t see that being a horrific issue. If I went with the upward swinging solid door, I would lose that ENTIRE space necessary for the swing (The swept area/volume), which would severely limit my ability to pack the garage full, if I needed the storage space. The in-ward swinging 2-part doors would do that, too, but only 4.5′ (~1.5m) of area, which isn’t as much of a problem.


garage door 1So, at this moment, as I talk myself through this hurdle with you, my beloved audience, I’m leaning towards the conventional up-and-over sectional door, and the side-sliding door. I could easily install a track on the floor for the slider, and make it sectional with a curve on one end to give me my full width. A sectional door, however, wouldn’t be as versatile for hanging-space. I garage door 2could even install a wall a few inches from the door’s lower track, and make it a pocket door. That would allow me to run benches along this false wall, and not have to worry about the door ever jamming on anything; still allowing me to have an 8′ (~2.5m) opening. A rigid door would be, logically, easier to seal againsgarage door 3 t air leakage, and the door could have a sort of weather stripping rubber seal that it could press into on the end when the door is closed, a sweep and rubber seal on the bottom to limit air flow, and similar on the top. Because the door wouldn’t slide all the way over to the wall, leaving a slight overlap as seen from the outside, I could easily install a similar garage door 4stop there, so when the door brings up against the end-wall, it would seal snugly at the middle section.

I could easily install a pass-through door on the sliding garage door/wall area, using a conventional steel door box and just have it a few inches above the floor. It’s a garage, anyway, and the fewer seams, the better. A piece of flat-bar aluminum track not an L cross-section or a U, since I need to be able to travel over this base with a car or other wheeled object, would be a great way to reduce friction, and some nice new casters would go a long way. Stanley offers some really comprehensive products to suit my needs, and maybe yours as well. I could quite easily reinforce that space above the door pretty heavily, and build a secondary floor-to-ceiling wall to pocket that door safely away to avoid crud on the track or dust collecting where it shouldn’t be. Some brushes on the door edges would keep a great deal of dust from collecting inside the area. Though, I figure one of my modular 8′ x 8′ cabinetry units, seen in the image, may prove to be enough of a wall for my needs.

Building the door wouldn’t be much of a challenge, either. I could fill-in 1′ (300mm) of my existing 9′ door width, since I can’t use it anyway, and build an 8′ (~2.5m) door using two sheets of ply and 2×4 lumber. Rigid insulation between the 12″ centers would keep the door stiff and avoid heat transfer. I’d build the 8′ tall door with a gap in the bottom to carry the casters for rolling the door along the plate, and run a skirt (apron?) along the outer edge to keep the dust, snow and debris out. Some broom sweeps could keep the space more air-tight, and since the whole thing swings fully anyway, it’ll be easy to clean under.

Ten 2″x4″x8′ boards, 4 sheets of 1/2″ plywood and 8 panels of 4′ x 8′ x 2″ rigid foam insulation, the tracks and wheels, brushes and rubber seals would cost me under $500.00 at my estimate, and suit my needs precisely. As opposed to a conventional insulated sectional door on overhead rails that could cost me between $4,000.00 and $6,000.00… then it has to be installed, and the torsion springs maintained, what a headache. If I build it myself, I know how to fix it. It wouldn’t even be much of a problem to set up a garage door opener to haul the door back and forth, though a circular chain and a set of block-and-tackle would probably be cheaper, easier and less to fuss with.


So, at this moment, I have an idea of what I want. Every time I do a re-assessment, I come back to the sliding door. It’s cleaner, simpler, I can build it myself and will cost me as little as 10% the cost of a packaged system. Besides, it’ll set my garage apart from the others, as if the ownership wouldn’t be enough of an eccentric feature.

Thanks for listening to yet another rant, but talking things out to a keyboard (and a captive audience) often helps sort out problems. I’m sure many others do it, feel free to comment below with your own experiences of ranting to those who half-listen, just to figure it out yourself half-way though… not that it ever happens to me. -cough-



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