Building a garage door from scratch – Part 1

Garage door frame finished

Welcome the first real post from The Garage section. Here we will build a garage door from scratch on the old barn. The project turned out to be quite ambitious in both scale and time constraints, but was tons of fun! Many of us dream of the perfect garage space, but they are elusive and usually they need to be built. In this journey we try to at least improve the garage.

I appreciate the idea of having a door instead of a large gaping hole on the side of the barn. Just because it’s nice to be able to close the workshop during night and to shield against all the large beasts and animals, odd crooks or simply blowing leaves and other annoying natural phenomenon. It also provides an extra layer of “security”. However it is not intended to be a bank vault by any means!

Since it’s an old barn and not a standard garage with any standard measurements, a standard garage door kit will need tons of fitting and fiddling and will end up more expensive. Over here we like to keep to the DIY spirit and save some hard earned money meanwhile. The bonus is that we can keep the old barn look and get style points where a modern garage door would look completely out of place.

Initial opening in barn
The original look and no door whatsoever. The new board over the opening was put in place to make a reference line.

Preparation

A custom made solution will need some planning in order to succeed. In terms of making a building from scratch it usually means land surveying and a lot of leveling. However since the building is already here, it makes things a bit easier for us and we only need to measure on the building itself. Lets not mention the crookedness of this building! The dimensions of the door had to be decided. The plan ended up to make it as make it as big as possible! What about 5 meters wide and 2,7 meters tall? Even bigger than the existing opening, which means making a bigger hole. That way it will be possible to drive in two cars straight without issues. It can also fit quite tall cars, like a G-Wagon…

The most complicated function of the garage is some kind of opening mechanism. Due to the scale of the doors a swinging mechanism should be avoided to preserve space and sagging. The barn is around 12 meters wide and there is enough room for a sliding rail system, where the whole door can be pushed along the entire length of the barn. After some looking around for solutions , there was an offer for a set of rails and rollers for this purpose in a nearby warehouse. Perfect timing!

Blueprint of Garage door
Blueprint of Garage door and slide rail system.

The assembly was then drafted out on a blueprint so it’s easier to do the construction later on. This also gives an overview on the amount of material needed. From the blueprint we can see that 10 meters of rails and at least two rollers are needed. Roughly 110 meter of frame timber for the door as well as 40 meters of wide boards for supporting the rail system. The facing panels was not bought though, since we had some panels lying around the storage already. Unfortunately this turned out to not be enough and the reason why the job could not be completely finished this side of winter. Part 2 coming in the spring!

Cutting to make a bigger hole for the door
Cutting the edge to make the opening for the garage door bigger.
Materials ready for fabrication
Lots of material needed to be fabricated. The long beams are quite unwieldy at their full length!

Fabrication and construction

Fabrication here is preparing all the pieces so they can be fit together. Since we are using wood as primary building material, it usually consists of careful measurements and cutting boards with a saw. Often 45° cuts are needed, but since this is a square construction mostly 90° cuts were made which are faster to do. We used both a supported circular saw and a hand saw for smaller cuts. The fabrication is all about preparing the pieces for the skeleton frame of the door and preparing the rail system.

To start the outer frame was cut and put together, then the long horizontal beams. We used nails to secure the beams, but they drift out quite fast unless the frame is very rigid. So it needs to lie still on the ground until it’s more rigid. Some hammering on the sides was done at the end to drive in those moving nails.

Fabricating the garage door frame
Fabricating the garage door frame

Making a square frame without diagonal support will make the whole construction quite wiggly and flexible, so some diagonal support is needed. Normally they could go on the inside, but here there is very little room between the door and the wall with the sliding mechanism,. They are close to make snug fit. Then the diagonal beams have to be recessed into the the frame. This added at least another hour of work, but in the end it was totally worth it. It made the construction not able to flex and gave a flush finish needed for the wall clearance.

Then the horizontal beams had to be mounted. This required careful measurement between the horizontal beams and some tricky nailing. The nails can go straight in except the third beam, which needs nails driven in diagonally. Making the frame took around a full day including getting the timber early in the day.

Garage door frame finished
Garage door frame finished

With the frame finished, the sliding rail mechanism had to be built. The 10 meter sliding rail needed to be secured with angled brackets fastened with large bolts. The bolts are long and needed to go through 3 layers of wooden boards. So the full 10 meter length of the rail needed reinforcement boards, as well as making enough space for the garage door out from the wall itself.

Mounting and aligning the sliding rail mechanism was a long process which involved climbing up and down ladders while doing careful measurements to get the whole thing level. Rechecking and using the measuring tape often. It is very important to mark the center of a drilling hole clearly since few millimeter difference will not make the brackets aligned. It is important that the rail ends up exactly level so it won’s start sliding by itself or will be harder to push in one direction than the other.

The whole day consisted of making reinforcement boards in the front as well as on the backside. And everything had to be done from up on ladders, sometimes quite high. The sliding rail which is of galvanized steel, needed drilled holes for the mounting brackets. It was very laborious and you could not see as clearly a result as the previous frame fabrication, since the sliding mechanism consists of just some boards and bolts. The most funny thing was the amount of leg pain the day after from all the ladder climbing!

With the the sliding rail secured and the rollers mounted on the garage door frame, the frame could be now hanged up on the wall. The sliding rollers have a neat adjustment feature so the door can be either lowered or raised for fine tuning. It was very easy to get the door on the wall, but it’s definitely a two person job.

Door mounted on wall
Door hanged on the sliding rail finally

Panels and Painting

Well unfortunately we didn’t have enough panels for covering all the area of the door. So had to wrap up the job for this season. Winter was right around the corner when this was made. A temporary tarp was put over instead of panels just to keep out the weather. It’s already 100 times better than the large hole. In Part 2 we will wrap up with the finishing touches like the covering panels and painting. Maybe putting some hinges on and other small details.

Garage door frame and sliding mechanism finished
Garage door frame and sliding mechanism finished. Needs some facing of the door. As you might have noticed the door goes a bit too close to the ground. This is an issue in winter since ice will completely seal the door making it impossible to open. So the door needs to be raised a few centimeters off the ground.

All these building activities was done together with my Dad, so a proper applause should go to him for his expertise on building craftsmanship! A proper father and son activity for sure. The whole thing took around 3 days to complete.

Cheers, Robs out!

Author: Robs

Passionate about vintage Mercedes Benz where driving, maintaining and learning new things and teaching others on the black arts of car maintenance.

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