The earliest garage doors, modeled after those on stables and carriage houses, slid along a track or swung outward to open. Doors featured panels or cross-bracing and rows of divided lights (glass panes).
Today’s garage-door makers reproduce the old look in roll-up doors that have almost invisible section breaks. (Sectional overhead doors themselves are old enough to be historic, appearing in the early 1920s; the electric garage-door opener debuted in 1926.)
Wood is still the gold standard for doors on a period house or a detached garage. Custom wood doors built with traditional tongue-and-groove joinery and inset raised panels are offered in a choice of swing-out, sliding, or bi-fold as well as roll-up models. Paneling, cross bars, and Z braces add architectural relief.
Unlike steel, wood is naturally insulating. Finished surfaces both inside and out can be specified in wood species including Western red cedar, vertical-grain Douglas fir, redwood, white oak, and mahogany; the finish may be paint, stain, or a varnish.
Some custom doors are solid wood, but most come with a core of insulating material (like polystyrene) clad with a hardwood veneer. The finished surface can take on a range of period details, from dentil molding to Arts & Crafts vertical panels. Even steel and weatherproof composite doors can be patterned to mimic a carriage-house look. A vintage look doesn’t sacrifice thermal efficiency —or the automatic door opener.
The key is to make the styling and detailing of the garage work with the rest of the house. Companies are making it easier to accomplish this by offering peripherals like appropriate hardware.
For sources, see the Products & Services Directory.Published in: Old-House Interiors May/June 2012