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Adding Carriage-Style Garage Doors

See what's involved when installation pros upgrade generic overhead garage doors to old-world carriage-house openers

True carriage doors, the kind that actually swing open on hinges, are expensive, custom-made items that few people consider practical these days. But you can still get that old-world look with the convenience of a modern overhead door by upgrading to a carriage-look door, like the one by Clopay that we installed here. Each door has four foam-filled steel sections that slide up and down on tracks. The applied rails, stiles, and braces are made of a rot-resistant composite. To complete the look, we added black steel handles and faux strap hinges.

Installing these doors should be done by professionals. Each panel weighs over 100 pounds, and the springs can pop loose unexpectedly with dangerous results. In one day, for between $600 and $800, a pro can make sure the new springs and tracks are mounted correctly so that the door will operate smoothly and keep its warranty. Here is an overview of the basic steps my crew and I took on installation day.

This pair of overhead garage doors, from Clopay's Coachman Collection, Series Two, look like old-fashioned carriage doors.

Step 1

Remove Old Door

Photo by Kolin Smith

The new door arrives in four or five boxes about a week after we measure the opening and place the order. (For this job, the owner had the sections painted with an acrylic latex from C2 Paint.) The first thing we do is take off the old springs, then one by one all the old door sections and old tracks are unbolted and carried away.

Step 2

Align the Vertical Tracks

Photo by Kolin Smith

First, we mount hinges and rollers on the top corners of all the door sections, then we center the bottom section in the opening, brace it upright, and shim it level. The vertical tracks slip over the rollers and their brackets are loosely attached to the door's jamb. Once each track is made plumb, the brackets are screwed tight to the jamb.

Step 3

Stack the Door Sections

Photo by Kolin Smith

We guide the rollers of the next section into the vertical tracks, rest it on top of the first section, and screw on the hinge leaves that connect the sections. The same process is repeated with the third section. The top door section is left off for the moment.

Step 4

Attach the Upper Tracks

Photo by Kolin Smith

The curved ends of the upper tracks are loosely bolted to the tops of the vertical tracks. Ladders or ropes hold up the upper tracks' other ends, roughly level, as we lag-screw the brackets on the curved ends to the door jambs. The supported ends are then loosely bolted to metal hangers lag-screwed to the garage ceiling. Diagonal measurements between the two upper tracks tell us if the tracks are parallel. We make any adjustments needed, then tighten all the fasteners.

Step 5

Add Last Door Section

Photo by Kolin Smith

Now we lift the top door section into place, insert its rollers into the tracks, and screw on the last set of hinge leaves. The assembled door should now slide up and down freely.

tments needed, then tighten all the fasteners.

Step 6

Add the Extension Springs

Photo by Kolin Smith

Two springs counteract the weight of the door and make it easier to lift. Before we can attach the spring, we lift the door open and tighten C-clamps to the tracks to prevent the door from closing. One end of each spring hooks on to an open eyebolt threaded to the metal hanger; the other end connects to a sheave or pulley wheel. To keep the springs from sagging below the track when the door is opened, we stretch a steel cable horizontally through the center of each spring.

Step 7

Thread the Cable

Photo by Kolin Smith

Two steel cables transfer the springs' tension to the door. We hook one end of each cable to a bracket at the bottom corner of the door and pull it up to a sheave attached to the upper track. The cable then loops around the sheave on the spring and hooks to the brackets anchoring the curved track sections. We remove the C-clamps. When balanced, a door will need the same force to slide it up and down.

Step 8

Add the Hardware

Photo by Kolin Smith

We adjust spring tension evenly on both sides of the door, either by relocating the hooks on the brackets or by raising the springs' eyebolt connections on the hangers. To finish this installation, we mount the lock to the inside of the door and the decorative handles and hinge-strap hardware on the outside.