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Looking for most energy efficient garage/workshop door option

tomfrazier | Posted in General Questions on

I want to build a very energy efficient 24’x30′ detached workshop. The workshop will have a single 10’wx10’h garage/shop door as well as a standard 3’w entry door and a couple windows.  I will be spending a lot of time in the shop year round but the garage/workshop door will only be opened once a week at most.

I know there are manufacturers that sell insulated garage doors but I still feel like there is too much thermal bridging and air infiltration around the frame and between the panels.

Is there a more energy efficient alternative than a insulated garage door? Maybe a sliding or hinged barn door?

What are you guys in the great white north using for a energy efficient workshop you spend 6 to 8 hours a day in.


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  1. maine_tyler | | #1


    Not sure of the work you are planning on doing, but my question would be: how much door width & height do you really need?

    Some work, of course, necessitates very large doors, but in some cases I think it may be a default 'feeling' that we need garage doors when in reality a larger walk-in style door can work fine, if located in the room well.

    I was planning on putting in carriage style doors (double doors) for my shop. I do smaller finish/furniture type stuff so I talked myself down to a 42 inch door for air sealing simplicity. A lot of people do carriage style double doors though.
    I suppose you could also try to build an even larger single door (easier to air seal) if you used beefy hinges, rigid construction, and good locking points.
    Sliding doors seem harder to air-seal, but I'm sure there are ways.

  2. Expert Member
    Akos | | #3

    I've built budget bi-folds out of insulated exterior door slabs. A set of beefy commercial hingest and re-inforced door framing is all that is really needed. Uses mostly standard door gasketing, much better than garage doors. Hardest part to seal well is the astregal which needs special gaskets.

    Depending on the layout and which way it folds, you can even use one of the panels as a man door. Not the easiest for car access but works great for a workshop.

  3. tomfrazier | | #4

    Thanks for the quick replies so far. I’m pretty set on the 10'x10' door size to allow for a 9’ high cargo trailer to be parked inside. I build and fly large scale radio controlled airplanes. The trailer will store some of my planes. I also intend on eventually build a full scale homebuilt aircraft in my shop and although the wings will come off I need to be able to roll out the fuselage.

  4. burninate | | #5

    If you are only opening it once a year, you may decide that a fully operable door is just not worthwhile for you. A frame made of wood and foam with rubber gasket edges that friction-fits into a gap and gets tied down inside with ropes or something shouldn't be super-difficult to build, if you don't need it to stand up to high winds.

    If it ends up being too heavy, get some of those tilt-up castor wheels to help move it around, maybe make a frame underneath. Or get a panel dolly like

    A sliding interface is not an easy interface to airseal. Your ideal single-panel operable door is something hinged, with the hinge a little bit outboard from the opening, like a ship's hatch - and a significant step-up at the door so that there's a vertical section of slab for the door to seal against. This way you can make a continuous gasket all the way around the door, and even have a few millimeters of space for differential thermal/moisture expansion. At issue is that the torque strain on conventional doorhinges and the forces trying to distort the door start to get pretty crazy when you're holding up a 10ft square. You could try putting the hinges at the top on the header where they would only be stressed in tension; You would need to find an alternate route for balancing and lifting, with would take time, but maybe that's alright if it only needs to open once a year..

  5. maine_tyler | | #6

    "I also intend on eventually build a full scale homebuilt aircraft in my shop"

    Ok yeah that's one of those scenarios where you need a big door :P
    Very cool.

    One of the reason things like sliders and garage doors are hard to seal is that its hard to create consistent pressure against a gasket if its already in plane with it (slides into places, rather than pressed into place). Another issue is the rigidity issue that comes with the shear size.

    Not sure of many ready-made solutions, but another home-brew thought: It may be possible to set up a sliding type barn door so that the bulk of the weight is taken by a rail system, then for the final closing, it converts to a press seal. Sort of a tilt and turn type theory, but more a 'slide press.' The difficulty is allowing the door to 'press' in (movement perpendicular to the rail sliding direction)

  6. burninate | | #7

    Here's my depiction of a simple hatch-style door, hinged from above with hinge axis offset about 4 inches, raised and lowered with ropes supported by a small structural awning.

    Probably the ropes need a few more pulleys to make them more convenient to use by 1 person, but this conveys the idea.

    I'm making the gable end-wall a sturdy 1ft thick, making the door 6" thick, making the inside half of the door opening 0.75" narrower on each side than the outside 120"x120" half of the door opening, so you get that much tolerance for a horizontal sealing gasket (this is room for +-0.65% expansion). There's an external PT ledger board for the wall, external hinges, and then another PT ledger board for the door.

    I'm assuming 16ft sidewalls are more appropriate for this application than 8-10. Most model airplane enthusiasts hang things from the ceiling for extra space. Spec deep floor trusses for the ceiling for ease of hanging things, then a layer of taped plywood, then traditional triangular trusses with insulation for a vented attic.

  7. tomfrazier | | #8

    I'm getting a lot of good ideas and suggestions. Thanks guys...

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