Building Huge Carriage Style Doors

On the rear of our barn, I left an 8×8 hole to provide rear access. At the time, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to put an overhead door there, or something else. Ironically, that access has been blocked by a false wall I put in that provided no access at all. Over the course of a year or so, I decided a set of carriage doors would be awesome. I did a ton of research around how they could be built while still fitting in my limited budget. I must have gone through a dozen different sets of plans; sketching, drafting in Illustrator, building them in Sketchup.

I though something insulated would be nice, with a wood frame that housed foam, then sheathed with 1/4 ply with details added on the outside. I was worried about the 1/4″ ply holding up to the weather and all the layers got to be too thick.

I ended up choosing to build solid doors using mortise and tenon joinery. I priced it out using several different materials. PVC would have been awesome – light and resistant to the elements. It was super expensive. I looked at several different wood species and would have loved to get doug fir, but coming across it on this side of the country turned out to be hard. In the end, I went with pine, as it’s relatively light and inexpensive, with the understanding it won’t last as long as hardwood.

Here is the plan. I used three layers of 4/4″ 1″ nominal, 3/4″ actual pine. This allows me to get a 2.25″ thickness before sanding and affords the ability to cut the mortises and tenons out of the middle layer before gluing up. This proved to be a good idea, as I didn’t have the tooling to cut mortises this large or deep. The center will be pine carsiding.

In the name of stability, I laminated 3 layers of 4/4 pine. Here is one of the stiles in clamps. Never enough clamps…


And here are the rails all done.


Here we’re mocking up one door before glue up. Some minor adjustments were needed to get everything to fit just right.


And here they are with all the kinks worked out.


Gluing up was a challenge due to the large size of each door. Two pipe clamps kept everything tight. I was sure to take diagonal measurements to ensure they dried as square as possible. I ended up with less than a 16th difference over ~105″.


After the glue dried, I trimmed the excess off the top and bottom of the stiles. Just for kicks, I put them on a scale. About 90 lbs each – without glass or hardware. This was a happy day! :rocker:


Next I used a router to route a recess for the window glass to sit in.


At this point, I ordered tempered glass to size from a local glass shop, as well as heavy duty 5×5 NRP stainless ball bearing hinges. Then I got to work on building the muntins using half lap joints.



Meanwhile, I couldn’t resist test fitting them in place. This gave me time to work on finishing the jams. I had roughed the side and head jambs in before taking measurements for the doors, but still needed to cut the stops. The gap between the doors is about 3/4″ at this point, which will house an astragal.


Now they were ready to be finished. I sanded everything with 60, then 100 grit on an orbital sander and blew it all off with the compressor.

I had romanticized about how great a dark stain would look. In reality though, being that the doors had no protection from the elements, the fact they were pine, and my inexperience with stain and varnish, I decided to paint them. Hopefully, that should extend the life of the doors. My wife and I spent two days priming, then painting the doors with multiple coats using exterior semi-gloss latex.


The glass came in, as did the hinges, later in the week, and I was on to routing the hinge mortises on the doors and jambs. A note on the hinges – I searched all over for hinges after deciding against standard barn/strap hinges. My reasoning behind deciding against strap hinges was that I felt they’d be more prone to sagging over time. The hinges I got were direct from Boston Architectural Hinge Company, who were very helpful in offering a reasonable price compared to other options online. I really can’t recommend them enough.

Anyhow, with some help, the doors were hung using 3″ stainless screws. Jamb stops and weatherstripping were installed. An astragal was built, the jambs were painted and hardware was installed – cane bolts on the bottom and chain bolts on the top.

Carriage Doors Weatherstrip Detail Carriage Doors Hinge Detail

(the floor fell about an inch from the right to left side of this photo, but the framing was perfectly square)


Overall, the budget looked something like this:
Wood and glue: ~$200
Glass: ~$100
Paint: ~$100
Hinges: ~$100
Weatherstripping and jamb wood: ~$25
Cain and chain bolts: ~$50

In the end, it did cost more than an overhead door, but I got to learn a lot in the process and got the look I desired.

Here are some of the great resources I found online when considering how to do this:

And of course, tons of inspiration can be found over at Real Carriage Doors.