Topic: Garage and Carriage House Doors
For purposes of these guidelines guidelines, garage doors are those doors securing the entrance for vehicles into garages and structures originally intended as carriage houses, or other ancillary uses, now used to house motor vehicles. Replacement doors and doors on new garage structures are both included.
The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings recommended against:
“Introducing any new building, streetscape or landscape feature that is out of scale or otherwise inappropriate to the setting’s historic character,”
“Removing an entire wood feature that is un-repairable and not replacing it; or replacing it with a new feature that does not convey the same visual appearance,” or
“Introducing new construction onto the building site which is visually incompatible in terms of size, scale, design, materials, color and texture or which destroys historic relationships on the site.”
The following guidelines concerning garage doors are provided to assist in interpreting and application of the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation and Guidelines for Rehabilitation Historic Buildings.
Garage doors should be appropriate to the architectural style of the garage/carriage house or of the main structure to which the garage is attached or adjacent. Repair and use of original garage doors, adapted to newer means of mechanical operation, is preferred when a change from the original means of operation of the garage doors is proposed. If existing original doors cannot be repaired or adapted for a new operation, replacement doors should duplicate the appearance and materials of the original doors. If documentation of the design of the original doors is not available, the replacement design must be compatible with the style of the garage.
Garage doors present a variety of problems due to period of construction, size of opening, method of operation, etc. The guidelines will be applied with flexibility to allow for these differences. At the same time, garages and carriage houses are important historic resources in conjunction with related main structures and in their own right. For that reason, every effort should be made to preserve or duplicate the unique features of the original garage or carriage house.
Where possible, repairing and re-hanging original doors is preferred. If automatic operation is desired, some garage designs will allow a sliding track with openers, or it may be possible to re-mount the existing door on overhead hardware.
When original garage doors cannot be repaired or re-used with newer means of operation, it may be possible to copy the essential design of the original doors as an overlay on a new overhead or sliding door.
Size, Shape and Proportion
In most cases, there should be at least one (1) prominent vertical division in the door design for each stall. Original doors usually were designed with two (2) doors per stall, either swung from either side, or sliding from one side to the other. In some cases, there would be four (4) panels, folded “accordion style” to open.
A door should be no larger than necessary to close a standard two-stall area. If there is a larger area to close, the garage wall should be divided and a separate door hung. Garage doors should be of standard height, seven (7) feet, except when replicating an original door higher than standard height.
Other design features of reflecting the style of the garage should be considered, such as typical windows, door and window molding and surface finish.
To be compatible with most historic doors, glass panels, constituting between one-quarter and one-third of the surface of the door, may be included in the upper portion of the door. Where security is a concern, there are several options:
- Glass can be backed by security grating:
- Glass can be given a dark coating on the back, retaining the reflective quality of glass while allowing solid panels to be placed behind them; or
- Decorative panels in keeping with the style of the main structure could be introduced to provide visual interest.
Appearance of the finished door is the paramount concern. Steel, vinyl or fiberglass doors seldom match the appearance of wood, and they do not lend themselves to the application of added detailing. Wood should be used unless the specific alternative product is approved by the Commission.
Detailing, such as the use of inset panels and wainscoting, should be considered if consistent with the style of the garage, carriage house or main structure.
These guidelines were approved by the Michigan Bureau of History as of May 24, 1995 pursuant to Section 5.(3) of Act 169 of 1970, as amended (Local Historic Districts Act).
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