There is a vast array of timber garage doors on the market, from different timbers to different methods of operation; this guide is specifically for side-hinged garage doors, sliding garage doors and bi-folding garage doors.
We do not make up-and-over garage doors, these are manufactured differently, usually as lightweight as possible and based on a metal framework, so these doors are not covered in this guide.
I know this may sound stupid, but is it a gate or garage door that you are looking to buy? There is a difference!
If when your door or gate is in place, its external on both sides, then it’s a gate you want and not a garage door.
A gate, being external both sides, should be a minimum of 70mm thick with water run offs on all horizontal rails as it’s exposed to a lot more weather; garage doors, being internal on one side, are usually 45mm thick and sit within a rebated frame!
If it’s internal on one side, then it’s a garage door you want and not a gate!
Wood is wood, right?
Probably the first decision you’ll make is the type of timber to chose for your garage doors; it used to be a simple toss up between Softwood or Hardwood, but these days, you’ve also got the option of modified timbers like Accoya, which, although a Softwood, outlasts and out performs all other timber, including things like Greenheart and Purple Heart, which traditionally are used for things like piers etc.
The main Softwood used in joinery in the UK is Scandinavian Redwood; there are various gradings of this, but ‘paint grade’, ‘Group 1 European Timber’ and ‘professional grade’ (these grades of Softwood were taken from various ‘manufacturer’ websites!) are not any of them. I’d be wary of any ‘paint grade Softwood’ garage doors, at best the timber will be very knotty, and the more knots they contain, the weaker the timber is, as the presence of knots interrupts the grain of the timber; it is the long grain in timber which gives the wood its strength.
So, your garage doors that were a great price in the short term could well not give you best value in the long term!
- A pair of our Conway garage doors in Unsorted Softwood. Timber contains fewer and smaller knots
- Timber contains larger knots and more of them; this affects the strength of the doors.
Again, if described as ‘paint grade’ Softwood, then the doors could be made from laminated, finger jointed Softwood. This is ok for painting, however, if you try and stain it, the finger joints will stand out a mile and it does not a nice appearance make!
In our Softwood products, we use ‘Unsorted Scandinavian Redwood’, which is an older name for ‘Grade A’ Scandinavian Redwood; the timber is sorted for knot size and quantity, slope of grain (the straighter the grain within the timber the stronger the timber is!) and warp.
Not all Softwoods are suitable, for door construction.
Western Red Cedar – Many people think this is a Hardwood but it is in fact a Softwood. It does have great durability, meaning it can outlast many Hardwoods, but unfortunately it lacks strength; the Scandinavian Redwood we use is approximately twice as strong as Cedar (all the other timbers we use are all stronger again than our Softwood) and on doors that have mortice and tenon joints, you do risk the tenon snapping with Cedar, which is bad news for your wooden doors on your garage.
- ‘Paint grade Softwood’ could also be laminated Softwood that is finger jointed together
So although the timber will last a long time with regards to rot, the door may well have broken apart by then due to the lack of strength in Cedar. This is ideal in things like cladding, where a lightweight, durable timber is preferred and strength is not an issue; however, Cedar doors are best avoided.
You’ve got a choice of a fair few Hardwoods for garage doors; the most popular (and most expensive) being Oak. However, the Oak look needn’t cost as much as you think, as you can get your garage doors manufactured in Idigbo, which looks very similar.
Looking for a Mahogany look? Then Meranti could well be your answer.
If it must be Oak, then be aware what you are buying; there are many grades of Oak, Character Oak, Pippy Oak and Prime European Oak to name but a few.
The Oak we use is Prime European Oak, this being the best grade of those mentioned above, it’s sorted for knot size and quantity (the fewer the better).
- Pippy Oak is prized in furniture as contains many small knots, this gives a distinctive appearance.
- Character Oak contains large knots, some that have fallen out leaving holes within the timber – it gives the timber character hence the name, but could leave you with a draughty garage!
Our Hardwood garage doors are available in Prime European Oak, Idigbo and Meranti.
New-fangled modified timbers – Accoya
No, not a tree with three heads or one that glows in the dark.
Very clever people have looked for a way of making a fast growing timber (typically fast growing timbers tend not to be so durable) outlast tropical Hardwoods, as a way of making timber more sustainable, as trees like Oak, for example, can take decades if not longer to reach a suitable size for use in woodwork. The result of their cleverness is Accoya, this not only outlasts Oak, Teak etc but grows a lot faster, so it’s super sustainable and totally carbon neutral!
The choice of timber will also depend on whether you intend to paint or stain the doors; Oak and Idigbo don’t take a paint very well but do take a stained finish nicely.
With the Softwood (Scandinavian Redwood), Meranti and Accoya, you can paint or stain them as they take both finishes well. With Accoya, you’ve got the added benefit that with any paints or stains that you apply to your Accoya garage doors that the maintenance time between re-coating increases, giving you more time to
clean up your garage enjoy yourself!
Letting your timber garage doors weather naturally
We get a lot of requests to make garage doors for people who want to let the garage doors weather down naturally – Oak, for example, goes a
nice horrible silvery-grey colour as it weathers, but this is actually the timber starting to degrade.
If you do choose to do this with your garage doors, then please do be warned that in a prolonged period of wet weather, the doors will swell up, so much so that you’ll end up getting a joiner in to ease them.
If you do let your garage doors weather naturally, the timber will ultimately split. The doors will also bind, as the timber absorbs moisture and expands
The next prolonged period of warm weather will then see the timber shrink, so you’ll end up with massive gaps between the doors and frame and between the two doors where they meet, leaving you with a very draughty garage.
Letting your garage doors weather down leaves the timber unprotected; the timber will have a vastly reduced lifespan as it takes a constant beating from the weather.
Even with Accoya, which is the most durable timber around, you still need to give it some sort of protection from our unpredictable UK weather (without this protection, it will affect the guarantee that Accsys Technologies provide for the timber).
But I have Oak/Cedar/Larch cladding that is weathering nicely…
Cladding is cladding; there are no joints as such and it is just fixed to timber battens on the side of your building, but it is free to move; shrinkage and expansion (natural movement of timber) caused by being soaked in the rain then drying out in the sun repeatedly, causes no detriment to the product, unlike it would with the doors for your garage, or any other external door come to that.
What kind of doors are you looking for, ledged & braced, framed ledged & braced doors? A door is a door is a door – or is it?
Ledged & braced doors for your garage
We don’t make ledged and braced doors as these have no outer framework, so no woodworking joints are involved. In essence, the doors are formed by nailing (in some cases screwing) and gluing the cladding to three horizontal ledges on the rear of the doors.
These can be great if you’re just looking for a cheap door to stick on your garage door and you’re looking to move home soon, for example.
Shown right is an example of a ledged and braced door, whilst below are two examples of framed, ledged and braced doors, one being a better, stronger door than the other.
- Example of a ledged & braced door.
Framed, ledged & braced doors for your garage
For strength, you should opt for a door that is framed, ledged and braced rather than just ledged and braced.
A framed ledged and braced garage door will, when you look at the door from both the front and back of the doors, have a head/top rail, bottom rail and stiles (vertical uprights on the sides of the doors) visible.
If it’s a true framed, ledged and braced garage door, then you will see the bottom horizontal rail from both the front and back of the doors
Our Clwyd garage door, although based on a mortice and tenon jointed frame, is not a true FLB (framed, ledged and braced) door, as the bottom rail can only be seen from the rear of the doors
The fact that the door is based on a jointed-up framework makes the doors a lot stronger, less likely to twist and warp.
The majority of garage doors referred to as framed, ledged and braced (FLB) do not have a full-thickness bottom rail, i.e. you don’t see the bottom rail from both sides of the door (see above right). So although it is based on a morticed and tenoned jointed frame, it is not a true FLB garage door and will lack a bit of strength.
On another note, you can quite easily tell if a true FLB door is made by a joiner, someone who knows timber, how I hear you ask…? The proportion of the bottom rail of the to the top rail/head of the door is the answer…
The bottom rail is always wider! Go and look at any wooden door and you’ll see the bottom rail is wider than the top rail and there are very good reasons for this.
Usually, a bottom rail finishes at around 145mm / 5 3/4″ wide; if you had a top rail of the same dimensions, then as you open the door, it gives the appearance that the top of the door is falling onto you.
- Bottom rails should always be larger than the top rail or head of a door.
Top rails are usually around 95mm / 3 3/4″ wide, and the reason the bottom rail is larger than this is the bottom of the door takes a lot more wear and tear – from feet kicking the door to more weathering.
These proportions are all traditional and one of the things you are taught at college on your way to becoming a timber ninja!
As I say, a framed, ledged and braced garage door, if made properly, is based on a through-wedged morticed and tenon jointed frame, but there are many ways to make a mortice and tenon jointed garage door ,and not all of them are all that…
It’s equally important to have a garage door made using the right construction methods if you want your doors to last that is; this is probably more important even than the wood you will choose for your doors, as it’s no use opting for a super durable timber only to find the joints have failed fairly quickly.
I’ve touched on this in a previous blog post (our wooden gate buying guide), look for through wedged morticed and tenon jointed frames as if you want the doors to last, the joints should be secured with wedges and glue!
Being a Joiner, I would avoid any doors that describe the jointing methods vaguely as being mortice and tenon joints; there is too vast an array of mortice and tenon joints around for this description to be of any value; you wouldn’t, for example, use a Tease Tenon to join the horizontal rails to the vertical stiles of the doors, as it is completely the wrong joint!
Nine times out of ten, if a joint is simply described as being a mortice and tenon joint, it is a stub tenon more than likely secured with a
dowel pin and, therefore, not suitable for an external garage door and the rigors that the British weather will throw at it.
I’d also personally avoid *dowelled mortice and tenon joints (sometimes these are also wedged and dowelled, but the dowel or pin as it should be known, adds nothing to the joint); the reason I say this is because with a dowelled joint, you are exposing the endgrain onto the face of the doors; endgrain is notorious for absorbing water and in some cases, you’ll find the endgrain of the dowel has sucked water in to…you’ve guessed it, the joint of the doors, which in turn can lead them to be rotting from the inside out.
The pinned mortice and tenon joint will ultimately fail
Your first sign of trouble with doors jointed using this method will be the pin which, when you received your doors, was hardly noticeable as it sat nice and flush with the timber; it will start to shrink or expand, depending on weather conditions at the time.
So this nice flush pin, if it shrinks, will start showing a gap around it and will also sink below the surface of the timber; if it expands, then the pin will start to protrude from the timber.
Ultimately, the pin will fall out and the joint will become loose, that is if it doesn’t rot from the inside out first.
Hmmmm now where did I put that dowel?
At the end of the day, using a dowelled (I refuse to acknowledge the term dowelled, as you can probably guess it’s a pin, but I will stop crossing the term out as I’ve made my point 🙂 See below for more info) draw pinned mortice and tenon joint, then it is only one step from firing a screw or nail through the joint to hold it, not very effective is it?
*Dowelled morticed and tenon joints are in fact not dowelled mortice and tenon joints. They are draw pinned mortice and tenon joints and are usually only used in joinery if you want to either put the frame of the doors together and it is awkward to cramp (the pin draws the joint closed, hence the name)
if you will have the need to, at some point in the future, need to take the doors apart again, in this case the dowel pin is drilled out and the joint, which in this instance wouldn’t be glued, simply comes apart, it would be a painted joint and not a glued joint.
The reason dodgy door (shakes fist!) manufacturers use this joint for door construction is they don’t know what they are doing and it’s a quicker joint to make, as you don’t need to clean up the edge of the joint; where if the doors were correctly made, they would have wedges protruding that need tidying up.
Nope! No mention of dowels there, only pins, and they SHOULD be square! (From a 1905 joinery book, traditional… I think so!)
This practice must save the said manufacturers…ohhhh minutes of valuable time, but results in a shorter lifespan for the doors. If they don’t even know the correct name for the joint and they cut corners by using an inferior crappy joint, do you really want to be buying garage doors from them?
If you really want to go down the route of a pinned mortice and tenon joint, then the pin should be square and not round like a dowel is, this makes the pin less (only less!) likely to fall out at a latter date due to shrinkage etc.
Wedges or dowels pins to secure the mortice and tenon joint?
So, if you really want your doors to last, go for a through wedged mortice and tenon joint.
Still based on a mortice and tenon joint, only this time, the joint is secured by wedges (not forgetting the glue!) that are inserted from the outside edge of the door, these are driven tightly in.
Once the glue has dried, the edge of the door is cleaned up, wedges cut off and then finished sanded.
This makes for a better joint fora number of reasons:
- The wedges being square stay secure unlike round pins that shrink, come lose and fall out.
- The grain of the timber within the tenon is not interrupted with a hole for a pin.
- You are not introducing endgrain to the front face of the doors (the end of the pins are endgrain).
Tenon goes right the way through the timber is is joining to. This gives a maximum surface area for glue.
Wedges are then glued and driven in to secure the joint. When dry, the joint is then cleaned up, wedges removed and finished sanded
Adding the cladding to the framework of the doors
If it’s a mass produced door, then the T&G boarding or cladding is sitting within a open rebate in the doors; this is bad, bad, bad! However much you treat the timber, you do not stop it from moving 100%, one way or another the boarding will move (shrink) a bit; the key to making anything in timber is to work with the timber rather than against it.
This is a poor way of adding the cladding to the doors, the boards will shrink and this will then allow water to gain access to the endgrain of the cladding
T&G Cladding sits within a groove; this protects the endgrain of the cladding from moisture attack and makes for a longer life for your garage doors
If the boards sit within an open rebated and the boards shrink, you will allow water into the joint between framework of door and cladding T&G/cladding (the top and bottom edge of the boards is endgrain and loves, I mean LOVES, soaking up water!).
The boards should be sitting within a groove, so if things start to move a little, then water still cannot gain access and everything is tickety boo!
Panelled garage doors
Want something a bit different from Tongue and Groove boarded garage doors?
You’ve two options really: you can opt for doors with flat panels or choose garage doors with raised panels, the raised panels being the more expensive option of the two.
For raised panels, then it has to be solid timber, the problem with any raised panel on an external door is splitting.
Panels should be made and fitted within the garage doors in such a way so they are free to move as the timber desires; fix them tightly in place with glue and they will ultimately split. Also, best practice says you keep these panels as narrow as possible, so stay within a maximum width of say 250mm, as the wider you go, the more prone they will be to the natural movement of timber (splitting, twisting etc).
Having said that, a good option for the raised panels is Accoya as this moves the least of all timbers; there is nothing stopping you, if painting the doors, from having the framework of the doors in Meranti and then using Accoya for the panels; this is of no use if you are staining the garage doors, as you will show a difference between materials.
Panel is raised in the centre, hence the name ‘raised panel’. Lower section to the edges is the ‘fielded section’. Correct term for these is ‘Raised and fielded panel’!
One point to mention with regard to raised panels is avoid them in Softwood, as they will move a fair bit and won’t age very well at all (we won’t manufacture anything external with raised panels in Softwood as it is false economy!).
If it’s flat panels you want, then all of the above with regards to raised panels is still applicable; however, if you are painting the doors, then a vastly more economical alternative to using Accoya for the panels would be to use Marine Grade plywood that contains two good faces. This is really only an option if you intend to paint the doors, as depending on the timber that the main framework of the doors is manufactured from, then you won’t get a decent match timber wise between plywood panel and timber, if, for example, you stain the doors.
Both the raised panel and flat panel options for garage doors are very much a bespoke item and made to your designs with our input.
An example of a pair of panelled garage doors, framework is Hardwood, panels being Marine Grade Plywood
Rebated meeting stiles – the doors overlap
Make sure the doors for your garage have rebated meeting stiles, so that when closed, the doors overlap each other. It makes for a more weatherproof fit and keeps the doors held shut together properly, which in turn keeps the doors the way they were made, which is free from twist and warp (if somebody decent has made them!).
Hinges, locks, ironmongery
Firstly, avoid butt hinges on the garage doors, these are in no way strong enough, only fitting with a couple of screws to the edge of the doors and these are not fit for the purpose of large outward opening doors; if the wind catches an outward opening door and pulls it from your despairing grasp, then it can be ripped clean from the frame. If you are intent on this despite our recommendations, then your best bet is to add a pair of garage door holders; these hold the doors open as they hit 90 degrees so can, to an extent, help stop the wind ripping the doors from the frame.
Garage door hinges should be a at least a third of the width of each door leaf and for doors under 7ft/2130mm tall two hinges will be fine. For doors taller than this, a third hinge per door should be added.
Hinge wise, band and gudgeons are the best. These fit to the front face of the doors, come in various lengths and screw and bolt to the doors.
Butt hinges lack the strength of Band and Gudgeon hinges, so avoid butt hinges!
Locking wise, go for a 5 lever insurance mortice lock if you want security. Look for the BS Standard mark and ‘Police Preferred’ logo; this means that the lock has been tested, it is good value and is, more importantly, secure.
One lock we are always asked for is a Yale cylinder type lock; if the doors are rebated (overlap when closed) and are outward opening, then this type of lock will not work. Even if it did, or you manage to bodge one to work, we would still recommend a 5 lever insurance mortice lock for security.
Other ironmongery required is bolts, top and bottom for the in-active (first door to close) door, this gives the active door (the main door of the two) to securely close and lock to. Use a dropbolt for the bottom of the door and a bow handle, or monkeytail bolt, for the top of the door, and please, avoid those silly little sliding bolts that you find on toilet doors, these are simply not up to the job!
Garage doors with windows
Garage doors with windows are increasingly popular as people change the use of their garages to store rooms or workshops.
So what should you look for in doors for your garage if you want some glazing present.
For starters are the doors pre-glazed or not; if they are, then the question you really need to ask is the timber where the glass sits already treated or not; if the answer is no, then it could well cause you problems at a later date as water can gain access to this untreated timber.
If the glazing is not present (we don’t supply the glazing with our doors) then find out whether glazing beads are included or not; these are the small timbers that once the glazing has been positioned inside the doors and hold the glass in place. If the doors do not come pre-beaded (beaded already cut and tacked in place) then you’re going to have to either source some glazing beads or worse still, use putty (putty can react with some timber paints and stains, so please do check prior to use).
If opting for garage doors with windows, then it’s an absolute must that the glazing is fitted from the internal side of the doors.
What thickness of glass can you fit into the doors? Some of the larger stockists of mass produced doors only let you fit up to 6mm thick glass; in this day and age, you should be looking for doors that can take double glazing as it all helps to keep your garage or workshop that bit warmer. In this day and age, double glazing should be a given.
Finally, it is important to find out whether the glass is inserted from the external side of the garage doors or the internal side; if the glass goes into place from the internal side of the doors, not only does it improve the security aspect of the doors, but the doors will last that bit longer as water is a lot less likely to gain access to the doors between the glazing and the glazing beads!
In almost all cases, you will hang the doors within a wooden frame; exceptions are if the doors are hung from sliding gear.
The garage door frame would usually comprise of three pieces, the head which is the top piece and the two stiles which are the vertical uprights which sit against your brickwork etc.
Cill, Sill or not on my garage door frame?
This can indeed be done, however, when the Cill is in place, the underside should be at least a coarse of bricks from the external floor level, otherwise the Cill will be sitting in water, which in turn will eventually lead to rot.
A Cill (or Sill!) on a wooden door frame; these should only be used if the Cill is at least one course of brick up from the external floor level
If you want some kind of threshold/Cill under the garage doors and it will not be a course of brickwork above the external floor level, OR you still garage your car, then the answer maybe a threshold strip/seal. These are thermoplastic construction, so there is no danger of rot. You can usually get these garage threshold seals in lengths up to 2500mm.
Rebated frame, or flat frame with no stops
With the frames for your garage doors, make sure they have some kind of rebate for the doors to close into, not only does it make the garage more weatherproof but the fact that the doors sit within a frame with a definitive stop affixed keep the doors the way they were made, free from twist and warping.
On another point with regards to making the garage more weatherproof, if this is important to you, then ask if you can have draught excluder on both the door frame and rebated meeting stiles of the doors; this will cost you a bit more but makes for a garage with a lot less draught.
The door frame should have some kind of door stop; ideally, the frame is rebated.
Garage doors for oak framed garages (and buildings!)
If you’ve got an Oak framed garage and are thinking of new doors for it, then you can probably get away without a door frame. The Oak posts become the frame for you. As these are not rebated, it is best to attach some door stops to the frame, giving the doors something to close to. These stops (lose stops) are simply fixed to the frame after the doors have been hung.
The other thing to bear in mind, is that the corner brackets (shown right) are far enough back from the face of the opening to allow a door sit within the opening.
In most cases with an Oak framed garage, you will not need a door frame
Again, you more than likely won’t get the Oak garage doors to match the Oak framing of your garage; the timber in the framing will be Sawn Green Oak, whereas, the doors will be Kiln Dried Oak; the Kiln Dried Oak will need protecting with stains, whilst the Green Oak is fine to let weather. See ‘Letting my garage doors weather’!
Garage doors for carports
As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, is it a door or gate that you want?
If you’ve a car port that you want to secure with doors, then this can be done; however, for best results using garage doors on your car port, then it should (with the exception of where the doors will be installed) be totally enclosed on all three sides, otherwise, you are really better off opting for gates to cope with the wind hitting the rear of the doors as well as the front.
A classic example of where gates would be used rather than garage doors on a carport is in a situation where you’ve a simple ‘lean to’ carport in place across your driveway and, when the doors are in place, one end or/and one side of the car port is open sided. If, however, like many you’ve spent time converting the carport so that it is now enclosed, with the exception of the doorway, then garage doors would make a great addition!
So to sum up
The timber you chose for your garage doors is important; however, the method of construction is equally, if not more, important; as I have said above, it’s no good opting for Accoya or Oak garage doors that you want to last if the doors themselves are based on a
doweled draw pinned mortice and tenon joint as the timber will last but the joints will fail a long time before the timber reaches the end of its life.
At the end of the day, if you truly want great value garage doors (and who doesn’t!) and you want them to last, a lot of the above is very much all the small things, that when combined, will give you the best construction methods, which in turn, will give you the best value garage doors in the long run.
Timber can get a bad press at times, such as timber rots, it falls apart etc, it warps. If you have your doors made by somebody who follows best timber practices, then you will get the longest lifespan possible for your doors. You still have to do your part, be it painting or staining as and when required, as we want your garage doors to last!
Looking for a guide to whats, what regarding garage door locks? Well we have one here Wooden garage door locks for security
Looking or somebody that follows best timber practices…We’re BWF Code of Conduct Assured