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Here's How: Build a Garage Door for Odd-Sized Garage

James Dulley on

Dear James: I had a detached garage built with a somewhat rustic exterior decor and blew past my budget. I plan to make a sandwich-design garage myself. Is this a good DIY choice? -- Michael T.

Dear Michael: You can save a lot of money building the garage door yourself, and this also allows you to create a unique design to complement your new garage decor. Your door may not be as energy-efficient as an expensive, insulated steel door, but this is not particularly important with a garage detached from your house.

For most do-it-yourselfers, building a sandwich-design swinging wood garage door is the easiest type to make from scratch. It does not require complicated joinery, and the fasteners can be hidden inside the sandwiched surfaces. The only drawback is that a sandwich door is thick and fairly heavy, which is not a significant problem for a hinged garage door.

The basic framing for the door is assembled with pocket screws. This allows simple butt joints to be used. Holes are drilled on an angle through both pieces to be joined. The heads of the screws end up being recessed in the deep pockets from the angle drilling.

The keys to making this joint properly are to make sure the two pieces of framing stay in alignment and to use the proper type of screw. Once you have the two pieces aligned for the butt joint, clamp them securely with locking clamps. With the drill going in at an angle, it tends to push the two pieces apart. Use galvanized or stainless steel screws with a square drive head.

The strength comes from the three layers of framing. The middle frame, which is sandwiched between the outer two layers, is made with slightly narrower stiles (vertical members). This creates a recess to trap and hold decorative trim in place without having to carefully create rabbets.

An attractive, easy-to-make sandwich door design uses tongue-and-groove beadboard paneling on the bottom section. This section should be about two-thirds the height of the door. The upper third should be windows if privacy and security are not issues.


Divided lites are most attractive for the windows. A simple rectangular grille can be made from 1-by-2-inch lumber. True divided lites require a small piece of glass to be installed in each of the openings. This is not difficult to do, but it does require extra work to install and trim each opening.

A simpler way to do this is to put one large pane (simulated divided lites) on the indoor surface behind the grille. This can save hours of work, but if a pane ever breaks, the entire window glass must be replaced. Using a sheet of clear acrylic plastic is another option. Compared with glass, it is easier to cut, more durable and weighs less. Apply the finish topcoat of paint or clear sealer before installing the glass or acrylic pane.

Install large decorative cast-metal handles to open the doors. With the thickness of these sandwich doors, there is plenty room for a recessed lockset in the middle layer. Once the two doors are assembled and finished, hang each one on the garage door with four strong hinges. You will need a helper for this because the doors will be heavy.


Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244, or visit www.dulley.com. To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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