A New (Old) Garage Door

Small Home Gazette, Winter 2016

A New (Old) Garage Door

Like my chimney (see article in this issue), my garage’s side door had been in need of repair far longer than I care to admit. I think it was original to my garage, which was built along with my bungalow in 1926. If so, it was now 90, and like anything standing that long, it was sagging. The joints where the stiles met the rails had worked apart and the inset panels were loose in their frames. The surface-mount lock mechanism appeared about to disintegrate. A moderate kick would have shattered the whole unit. And in the winter, water from melting snow flowed under the door and refroze in a treacherous puddle on the floor just inside.

I’d thought about replacing the door with a new steel or fiberglass version, but I don’t like using new materials on an old house. So, last fall when Metropolis Construction was adding ventilation and insulation to my attic, I asked about the garage door.

Owner Krishna Dorney suggested replacing it with a salvaged door. I’d certainly thought about that option, too, and from time to time had even rifled through racks of old doors when visiting architectural salvage businesses. But the sheer number of doors was overwhelming, and any of them would need altering, repairing, painting and mounting. So I put up with the door as it was. I even stopped scraping and touching up the peeling paint.

Old and new doors.

The original garage door, left, and the new (old) door, right.

Krishna took measurements and a few weeks later he’d found a viable option—a solid wood specimen in excellent condition that had been removed from a 1922 house. Its window even had three divided lights that match the style of my bungalow’s windows. It was a bit too wide, but Krishna said it would be an easy matter to slice an inch or so off the hinge rail. As the picture will attest, the difference in width between the hinge and lock rails is barely noticeable.

I asked for a doorknob and deadbolt lock in an oil-rubbed bronze finish, so they’d appear similar to the hardware on my bungalow’s original front door. I also asked that the knob and deadbolt locks be keyed to my house’s key, making my key ring a little lighter.

One cold November day, workers removed the old door, the jamb, and the casing. They inserted a “knockdown jamb”—essentially an entire doorjamb kit, including hardware, which is inserted into a framed opening. The door is then hung and trued up with relative ease. Workers also applied new exterior trim. The next day it was all primed and caulked, and a week or so later, on November 24, I came home to find it painted dark brown. Though exterior painting can be problematic as temperatures drop, workers used special “low temperature” paint, which includes additives to ensure it bonds and dries properly.

The new (yet old) door looks great and functions beautifully. The whole unit is quite stable, and the door closes and locks tightly. There have been no problems with water leaking under the new threshold this winter. And I like having just one key for both house and garage.

Total cost: $634.


Siwek Lumber & Millwork Inc.
2536 Marshall St. N.E., Minneapolis
The knockdown jamb and oil-rubbed bronze hardware came from Siwek. They also carry trim and hardware that is appropriate for older homes and have a wide selection of salvaged and new doors.

Other sources for salvaged doors:

Furniture and wood refinishing:
Old Science Renovation
1317 Marshall St. N.E., Minneapolis