Low Headroom Garage Door? (Important Stuff You Need To Know!)

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Are you building a New Garage? Or maybe you want to buy a new Garage Door to replace the old manual one. Great! I hope you have given some thought to the height of your garage ceiling. In case the garage ceiling is not high enough, you will have to consider installing a Low Headroom Garage Door.

So, what is the minimum headroom for a garage door? The height of a standard garage door is 7’. However, you need an additional 12” to 18” clearance above the garage door top to accommodate the horizontal tracks and the torsion or extension springs.

Of course the above applies for a standard overhead sectional garage door.

In this post I will explain why headroom is required for an overhead sectional garage door. What if your garage does not have the minimum headroom required? Not to worry! I will let you know the various solutions that you can consider.

Why is Headroom Required for a Garage Door?

The overhead sectional garage door is by far the most popular garage door type used. It consists of four sections which are attached to each other by hinges. Each section is 21” so that 4 sections add up to the standard garage door height of 7’, that is 84”.

Horizontal Tracks

The Garage Door changes its position from vertical (closed) position to horizontal (open) position. It does so using garage door rollers, which are basically small wheels that run in the groove in Vertical & Horizontal Tracks

The joint between the two tracks have to be curved to allow for rollers to move smoothly.

The standard radius of the curve is typically 15”. This radius ensures that the garage door rollers can move smoothly from the vertical track to the horizontal track. 

Further each 21” panel can change from being vertical to being horizontal and the load on the Garage Door Opener Motor is kept low. The radius of this curve influences the headroom requirement. 

Garage Door Springs

Garage doors are pretty heavy. A 16’X7’ garage door can weigh anywhere between 150 pounds to 250 pounds, depending on the material, thickness etc. This load is counterbalanced by using garage door springs. 

As a result the net weight the garage door opener has to lift is reduced to just 10-15  pounds.

There are two types of garage door springs and are installed in pairs, just above the garage door

Torsion Springs :

They are mounted horizontally along the garage door, just above and between the two horizontal tracks. They store energy by twisting, as the door closes and release energy by untwisting, as the door opens.

Torsion springs are more popular as they can lift heavier doors but require more headroom.

Extension Springs :

They are mounted along and above the horizontal tracks of the garage door. They store energy by stretching, as the door closes and release energy by contracting, as the door opens.

Extension Springs work using a system of wires & pulleys and need less headroom.

Garage Door Opener

All garage door openers (GDO) use an electric motor to open and close the garage door. Overhead GDO which uses chain, belt or screw drive. The drive runs on a central rail. 

The central GDO rail needs to be mounted between the two horizontal tracks. It runs along the length of the horizontal track but must be slightly above their level. You need almost 3″ clearance for the central GDO rail.

So the headroom is required to accommodate the horizontal tracks, the spring assembly and the GDO drive.

Low Headroom Garage Door

What is a Low Headroom Track Garage Door?

In a Low Headroom Garage Door, modifications are made to the horizontal track or the door springs or both such that even the standard overhead sectional garage door can operate with a lower garage ceiling.

Horizontal Track Modification

Switch from 15″ to 12″ Curve

The horizontal track is modified such that the radius of the curve can be reduced from the standard 15” to 12”. This change does not require any other modification to the horizontal track but will allow you to reduce the headroom requirement by 3”.

Use a Conversion Kit

This change requires the addition of another horizontal track on top of the existing one. This system is referred to as the dual track system. The top section of the garage door follows the upper track. The following three sections follow the original lower track.

Using the conversion kit will allow you to reduce the headroom requirement by 3”.

Clopay Garage Door Low Headroom Conversion Kit is available at Amazon and can be ordered by clicking on this link.

  • Designed to modify the standard track
  • Reduces headroom requirement
  • Reduces headroom for standard and ez set extension spring systems to 4 1/2 in
  • Works on 12 in. And 15 in, radius track

Garage Door Spring Placement

Another way to reduce the minimum headroom requirement is to place the Torsion Springs at the rear end of the garage rather than the front end. You can save almost 5” of headroom in this way as a torsion spring system takes up almost 4 3/4”.

This method can also be used for Extension Springs.

Use of Quick Turn Brackets

It is possible to reduce the minimum headroom requirement by replacing the standard brackets with Quick Turn Brackets. You can save around 2 ½”  of headroom by the use of these brackets. 

Basically the quick turn brackets are designed to allow the top panel of the sectional garage door to turn around the track radius quicker.

These are sold in pairs and you can order One Pair of Low Head Room(Quick Turn) Garage Door Brackets by National from Amazon.

Which Type of Garage Doors Need Very Low Headroom?

What if the available headroom in your garage is really small. Maybe just a few inches. Well, it will be almost impossible to fit in an overhead sectional garage door, especially if you want an electric garage door opener.

Now if you accept to open the door manually all the time it will save you the 3” required for the GDO central rail. But I don’t think you would want a manual garage door with all the technical advancement.

You could use a Wall Mount Garage Door Opener (aka Jackshaft Opener). It does not require a chain or belt drive and as a result a central rail is not required.

The other option is to use a garage door type that is not an overhead sectional garage door. The other 5 types of garage doors (out of which 3 could be considered) are:

  1. Roll-up Garage Doors – not common in residential settings. In any case they need headroom too
  2. Slide to Side Garage Doors – see section below
  3. Swing Out Garage Doors – see section below
  4. Sliding Barn Style Garage Doors – see section below
  5. Tilt Up Canopy Garage Doors – though still popular in Europe, they are a dying breed in the US

Slide to Side Garage Doors

If you were to take an overhead sectional garage door and tip it on its side then you would end up with a “slide to side” garage door. The sections, instead of being horizontal, are vertical.

When the “slide to side” garage door is closed the panels are aligned to one of the walls instead of the roof. As a result no headroom is required.

SOLIDO DESIGNS offers a range of “slide to side” garage doors under their Horizontal Garage Doors range. For example

DISCLAIMER: I am not an affiliate for SOLIDO DESIGNS and do not have any benefit, financial or otherwise, by promoting the company & its products. I do it simply because I believe they have a good product to offer and may benefit the readers of this post.

For example the incredibly elegant Vertico garage door provides numerous benefits. The system requires only 2 inches of headroom internally and five inches of radius at the corner.. The 75° and 105° versions offer additional flexibility.

Swing Out Garage Doors

The garages of today are not much different from the carriage houses of yesteryears. In those days the carriage house doors were mostly “swing out” type. You can still buy and install a swing out type garage door if you are faced with the problem of very low headroom.

Of course you have to ensure that the driveway in front of the garage does not incline up or obstruct the swinging out action of the door in any way. The swing out motion can be automated as well. RealCraft has a model called FRANKLIN AUTOSWING OPENER.

DISCLAIMER: I am not an affiliate for REALCRAFT and do not have any benefit, financial or otherwise, by promoting the company & its products. I do it simply because I believe they have a good product to offer and may benefit the readers of this post.

FRANKLIN AUTOSWING OPENER has a quiet operation and great torque. The Franklin system is placed right above the doors, leaving the ceiling clear of any track. Once installed, the Franklin is ready to operate with little programming.

The highlight of this type of autoswing opener is that it leaves the ceiling space of the garage, for you to use as you please. You may choose to cover your garage ceiling with plywood or drywall.

Sliding Barn Style Garage Door

If your garage front has sufficient width but lacks headroom then a Sliding Barn Style Garage Door may be just the door for you. In my opinion they are best suited to the warmer parts of the country.

A company that stands out, in this niche, is RealCraft Carriage Doors (formerly called Real Carriage Doors). They know their wood. They know heritage doors. And above all they love craftsmanship.

Low Headroom Garage Door

Thank you very much for reading the post. I do hope you found it informative and useful.

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