Introduction: Homemade "Carriage House" Garage Doors

About: I do stuff. Sometimes. Except when I don't.

This is a step-by-step on how your average schmoe can build beautiful "Carriage House" style garage doors.

I'm a computer programmer and this is the first time I've done anything like this. I made it happen, so I think anybody armed with minimal carpentry skills and these simple instructions could get as good of results!

Finally, if you're looking for similar wood ideas, check out this site. I'm not affiliated with, nor have I even done business these guys (yet). I just find the projects are quite inspiring!

This can also be found on my projects blog, here. And on LumberJocks, here.

UPDATE: Looks like I didn't win anything. :_(
Oh well, many thanks to everyone who voted!

Also I should add that these doors have survived the winter well, including several heavy wind storms. It appears that the design is sound and should last for quite some time. (Unlike my shed roof which, well... lets just say there's never a dull moment around here.)

Step 1: The Boring Backstory

Okay, so I recently bought a house and noticed there were slight gaps between the garage doors and the wall.  "Slight", as in, so big you could shake hands with somebody outside -- with the door closed! 

Having heard the horror stories of the limb-rending power of garage door springs I opted to shelve my DIY nature and hire a guy to come out for this one.  The dude looks it over and says, "I could probably fix that if you really want me to, but these kind of doors are such junk that the manufacturer has gone out of business".  Spiffy. 

I had him rip them out, but that left me with gaping holes in my house in the middle of winter.  Uh oh.  Now what?

Step 2: The Solution

So, let's get problem solving.  Here are the engineering 'forces' at work:
* The doors should be inexpensive, therefore, most likely...
* They have to be something I can build my self.
* I'm a DIY guy, so no more of this "hiring people to come out" business.  Ergo, no deadly springs.
* Since I enjoy sleeping indoors they should look great for my wife.
* The garage ceiling is really short, so overhead doors were really not smart to begin with.
* Have to be well-insulated for the climate I live in.

After looking around, I discovered that many of the more expensive overhead garage doors are designed to look (rather unconvincingly, IMO) like old-fashioned, side-opening, "carriage house" doors.  Well, isn't that interesting?   Expensive-looking, side-opening doors... made of wood and traditional carpentry techniques...  I can handle that! :)

After scavenging online however, I found very little information on actually how to do this.  There were lots of questions in woodworking and farm diy forums on the subject, but very little in the way of answers. 

The best I found was This Tutorial but even that wasn't exactly what I wanted.  It uses more difficult "mortise-and-tenon joinery", is uninsulated, and kindof an art deco / cubist style.  (Still, a maybe good reference if you're wanting doors more along those lines.)

All that to say, hopefully THIS tutorial can be helpful to others wanting to build a similar design.

Step 3: The Plan

Admittedly when I first started out I didn't have much to go off.  I just went to the lumber store and wandered around aimlessly until something clicked. 

Naturally, they didn't have a "carriage house garage door building kit", but what if... what if I'm not trying to build a "garage door" at all?  No, listen.  What if what I'm really trying to build is just a simple wooden gate (that just happens to fit inside a hole)?   Off to the fence section...  let's see...  outdoor-grade cedar planks...  steel gate support brackets...  hinges...  decorative handles...  the mother lode, baby!

So what we're going to do is create a basic framework out of 2x4 lumber and steel brackets and fasten it to the door frame with black hinges.  Then we'll put in some nice windows (they had some on clearance) and some "board and batten" siding made from cedar fence pickets.  Finish it all off with some rigid foam insulation on the inside and maybe some gate handles for gravy.

All-in-all, they should look stellar for about, lets see... $200 per section... times two sections per opening... and two openings...

I'm getting both doors for about $800 in materials -- or probably about half the price of one "normal" garage door. 

If only I knew what I was doing this plan would be perfect! ;)

Step 4: Doorposts (intro)

My first problem was that I could probably build doors just fine, but there is brick on both sides of my garage door opening. 

If you have wood or metal-covered wood around your garage door opening, then you could optionally skip ahead to actually building the door.  Even so, the posts were only like five bucks apiece so you could use them to help plumb in a not-so-vertical opening, or for just plain looks.  Up to you.

For this tutorial-within-a-tutorial, what you need is some 4x4 cedar posts, some masonry anchors and to beg, borrow, or rent a hammer drill with masonry bit of appropriate size.

Step 5: Doorposts (anchoring to Masonry)

After doing some research online, there is great debate on how to do this properly.

The first debate is whether or not you need 1/2 inch expanding masonry anchors (full-length for brick, or shorter ones for concrete).  The alternative is to use a bunch of "Tapcon" masonry grabber screws.  Tapcons don't need as big of holes but they are generally intended more for things like attaching electrical boxes which is why I opted for the more heavy-duty solution.

The other big debate is whether to drill into the bricks themselves, or into the horizontal mortar joints (the vertical mortar joints will assuredly pull out) between them.  If you anchor into the brick you get less likelihood of crumbling and more holding power.  On the other hand, anchoring to mortar joints is still quite strong and gives you the ability to easily remove the anchors and patch the holes in the future.

I went with bricks, cuz I'm just a bold fellow like that. ;)

Line up, plumb, and mark where the posts will go.

Drill the holes in the posts FIRST, then use that as a guide for drilling the brick.  If you are an ijit and do it the other way around (like me) then the anchors tend to be all over the place and not very perpendicular to the wall.  This makes drilling and fitting the posts a very tricky job.

Step 6: Figuring Out the Door Frames

What you want to do is measure the total opening, top, bottom, left, right, and (vertical) center.

While you're standing there with a measuring tape, divide the top and bottom measurements in half and mark the floor and ceiling centers for reference.

For your frame, the horizontal (halved top and bottom) measurements should be subtracted by 1/2 inch:
That is, 1/4 inch for the hinge side and another 1/4 for the center. (Yes, that's 1/2 inch total in the center when you consider the 1/4 inch off from each door's center side.)

The vertical (left, right, and two centers) measurements should be subtracted by 8 inches:
That is, two 3 1/2 inch (top and bottom) studs plus two 1/8 inch brackets between, plus 1/4 inch on the top and 1/2 inch on the bottom.
If your outdoor concrete is very un-level then you may want a bigger bottom gap.  (I probably should have.)

Step 7: Building the Door Frames

I bought a gate kit instead of individual support brackets for the door frames.  It's about the same price either way, but I just liked that the support brackets were welded to the hinges.   No big deal, I'm sure. 

NOTE:If you buy the gate kit pictured earlier, do not, I repeat DO NOT use the screws that comes with it!  Seriously, they are nasty and cost me several hours time!  Just put away the Scrooge MacDuck and get yourself a bucket of decent grabber screws.  You'll be glad you did.

Cut vertical and horizontal studs to the lengths calculated in the last step.  Don't forget to mark which piece is which as you cut since they're not necessarily interchangeable. 

Screw the support brackets onto the horizontals first, starting 3 1/2 inches in from the edge to leave room for the verticals.  Next, attach the verticals and only the top and bottom hinge.  (The middle hinge comes later.)

Step 8: Hey! That Looks Almost Like a Door!

If all goes well, your door should fit perfectly into the opening!  If, on the other hand, you're a real human being and not a robot, then decide what's the wrong length, take it out, and fix it.  Repeat as necessary.

Okay, now your door should fit perfectly into the opening!

Find a 1/2 inch (or whatever you decided for the bottom gap) piece of scrap and place it under the door near the post.  With the door in the 90 degrees open position, start sliding scrap under the outside bottom of the door until your hinges are aligned.

HINT:You can either line up your hinges from the front, or, I found it easier to measure about 2 inches from the back of the post and line up to that.

Once you're happy that everything is square and nicey-nice, screw the hinges in.  If you have an A/B personality thing going on, you could trace around the hinges and chisel out a recess for them.  I didn't bother.  Maybe someday.

This should leave you with two stud door frames that open and close smoothly.  Again, don't be too surprised if they're not perfect on the first try.  Also, irregularities in the floor and ceiling will likely require a little planing and / or re-doing.  Just be patient and stick with it.

Step 9: Window Sill and Third Hinge

From here, things get a little more personal.  You could take this basic frame any number of creative directions. 

I chose to do 24 inch high windows starting beneath the top support brackets.  Using that as a hint I installed a 2x4 for a window sill using cheap, galvanized steel, 'L' brackets (you know, from that section of the hardware store where they have all those metal post setting / hurricane straps / deck building brackets and things).

Working under the assumption that that height was where I wanted more support, I opened the door, pressed my third hinge tightly into the gap (yet flat on both the door and the post), and attached it.

Step 10: Board and Batten Fun

After a full day of battling bad screws, math mistakes, and doors that just wouldn't fit right, I needed a bit of relief.  The siding sure provided it!

First off, what to put under the siding?  I had bought some 1/4 inch MDF for this, but reconsidered because I didn't like how it would add lot of weight.  For a good barrier with less weight, a person could do some Tyvek or other brand of "house wrap".   Eventually I decided that since I'm already planning on rigid foam insulation inside the door, and since that stuff is used on the outside of foundations and things, I figure I could just caulk around it and it should be as good a seal against moisture / pests as anything.  We'll see.

HINT:A power miter box saw and a 16 (or maybe 18) gauge nail gun really make this job go fast.

The boards:
Lay out your boards and space them so you can see how much gap in in between.  It should be about 1/2 inch -ish.  On this set of doors it worked out to about 3/8 inch gaps so I didn't even have to rip any planks!

Saw the boards to length.

Starting with the top of each board, use some scrap as a spacer to get your gap consistent and pop in one nail on the outboard side of the plank.  Then move to the bottom with your spacer and drive in two more.  One more in the top completes that board.

Alternate sides between boards so any inconsistencies get pushed towards the center.  The last two or three boards should be spaced by measurement (or by keener eye than mine) to evenly absorb the accumulated differences.

When you're done your door looks like picket fence.

The battens:
You can buy 1 inch wide cedar for this, but wood that small from the store tend to be warped.  I chose some consistent-looking planks and ripped them myself.   This stuff awesome and cuts like butter.

Believe it or not these are even faster easier to install than the boards.  Center the batten over the top gap and pop in a nail right through the middle.  Ditto on the bottom.  Done!

This "board and batten" siding looks spectacular and was so quick and fun that now I'm looking for other random things to do it to!
At this point I also decided to quickly screw on the handles for coolness' sake.  I may be jumping to conclusions here, but I begin to have the nagging feeling that this idea might actually work! :)

Step 11: Window Mods

As I mentioned, I found some windows on the cheap. (There's a turbulent tale behind that adventure that I dare not get into here.)  You don't have to wait  for the box store to have a sale, either.  Check craigslist and your local classifieds.  People are always trying to get rid of brand new windows that just wouldn't fit their project.

The problem was is that what I'd found were two sliding glass windows.  What I needed was four fixed glass windows.   The first door was obvious.  Just remove the sliding halves and use them.  For the second door, I had to ("had to", mind you) bust out the gratuitous violence.

First thing, chop the unneeded half off.  This is important to do first as it gives you a peek inside the end to see how the window was made.

Second, you need to cut off the window track.  Things to beware of are:
1) Don't cut through the piece that  holds the weatherstripping.
2) Look metal things inside the frame like screws and steel stiffening bars.
3) If your saw blade brushes the glass you'll suddenly have about 10,000 razor sharp shards in your arms.

I'd show you the jig I rigged up to do this, but suffice it to say I care for neither the accompanying fame nor liability for showing it to people. ;)

Step 12: Installing Windows

Installing windows... lets see... open the software box, read the contract that it's too late to not agree to, insert disc 1...
Oh wait.  Wrong windows.  (Wakka, wakka.)

What we really need to do is to install a top window sill and then some brackets to hold the window in.

The top sill is attached with more "L" brackets just like the bottom.  Unlike the bottom, however, I had to notch the end of the board to fit around the top fence brackets.  I came up with a jig to do this on a bandsaw, and unlike the last step, I am willing to share details on that upon request.

Once the top sill was installed I wanted to secure the window in such a way that it wouldn't fall out, but it would also essentially "float" in the opening and any deformation of the door (when opening and closing) wouldn't torque the glass.  I decided on a 3-point system where the bottom two are "U" brackets and the top consists of a plate on each side to get the glass in and out.  (See: the last two pics, below.)

Step 13: Final Siding And... DONE!

You could probably come up another design that hides the nails better, but here's what I did:
1) Cut and fit uprights from the top of the existing boards to the top of the window opening.
2) Install boards across the top.
3) Add 1" strips inside the window opening, top and bottom.
4) Add top battens and also 1" strips across the full length for window sills.

Step 14: Appendix: Finishing Touches

Finishing the Outside:
I bought a gallon clear finish for the wood.  Any fence / deck stain / sealer could work though.  I personally wouldn't use anything opaque on real cedar.  They make fake board and batten siding sheets that are cheaper if you're just going to paint.

I've also got a jug of tar driveway repair stuff  that I'll probably use on the bottom of the posts.

Finishing the Inside:
This is even more a matter of personal taste than the outside look.   I'd stay away from sheetrock due to cracking, but you could paint some hardboard ("masonite") to match your walls, do some tongue and groove paneling, cut a sheet of bead board, or even cover the whole thing with pink shag if that's what goes with your room.

For the top and sides I plan to  run a strip of cedar along the inside.  Naturally there would be a rubber strip between this and the door.  For the inside and bottom I'll use normal garage door rubber.

Opening and Closing:
Right now I'm not actually planning on using the doors for anything, so I'm just screwing them shut.  If you want yours to open, decide how often they'll be used and if you want to get in from the outside.  Some options are:
* Simply "pin" the doors shut from the inside with top and bottom gate pins. (most secure)
* Somehow modify a gate latch to work.
* Rig a standard garage door opener to open them for you.  There are actually several plans on line for doing this.  In fact, that other tutorial I mentioned in the beginning even has a section on doing just that.

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