(Bob Moulton of Moulton Custom Door of VT furnishes miscellaneous technical notes on the issues which determine the performance of custom garage doors.)

By Bob Moulton

So what does make a superior custom garage door so good? Quite a few things, it turns out. Trends in the industry determine that any mass produced product will only be as good as it needs to be for the salesman to sell so many units. Under these circumstances, there will be compromises. We limit those compromises as much as possible for our own custom door product. Here I furnish notes on issues that can determine performance:

"Base Section"

A base section is needed for the Doors that are made to took like what they are not, for example "Swingers" or "Sliders", need a base section to do so. So let's start with the base section of these doors that are actually sectional over the head type doors with operators.

What is the base section? It is more than a canvas for the front facade and an anchor for the hardware. It is the heart of the door as much as a wing and fuselage are to an airplane or as the hull is to a boat. The base section's size, construction and weight will ultimately determine the usefulness and life span of this type of door.

The base section acts as the "foundation" of the door. However, unlike the foundation a house is constructed on, the load must be able to shift 90 degrees during its normal operation.

A more correct term would be Base Frame or Chassis. It needs to be light weight, strong, capable of holding its shape and still support what ever kind of "body" or door we want to put on it and have its load shift from vertical (closed) to horizontal (open). For this to be possible a torsion box is necessary. A torsion box consists of two bearing surfaces that are separated and kept separated, under load, by a web with a high weight to strength ratio.

"The sections must not sag in the horizontals".

Two sections of an over the head type door could be compared, on a small scale, to a piano hinge. If that hinge is bent (sagging), it can't hinge or move properly. So the sectional garage door, in an open, sagging, position, can't easily transition through the track radius in order to close.

For several reasons door companies decided to discard the very product they already had. Namely, The Residential and Commercial versions of the Wooden, Masonite, insulated, double flush doors. Instead, they began to build a style and rail section not unlike the Masonite one but in the place of Masonite they are using plywood. In most cases this plywood can be heavier and it's broken up into pieces eight feet long calling for a joint every eight feet, severing the overall strength in the continuity of the bearing surface.

The section frames (style and rails) are built with butt joints in the place of pined mortis and tenons used in the Wood Masonite sections. We used the Masonite section as the base of the door we developed in Colorado. There are two more reasons we use these sections. They are less expensive than using plywood built sections and they have a front and a back. Some manufactures don't put a front skin or surface on their doors. They will fasten the wood design of the door directly to the framing of the section and leave out completely the front "Bearing" surface. There is no continuity in the bearing surfaces in the wood to the design, unless its plywood, and plywood can't provide the strength to be a true "Torsion-Box".

Why has the industry done this? I'm not 100 percent sure but I think it comes down to two things. First it kept the door manufactures dependent on Masonite it self. The costs of the sheets of Masonite in its semi tempered exterior grade and unbroken 32' long pieces probably demanded a great volume in order to keep costs down and as the newer Steel doors became more popular from the mid eighties on, the price must have gone up due to less demand.

The second reason is a bit of a stretch but I think they felt that maybe if they used wood, all though it's plywood, that more builders or the customer might actually paint the inside of the doors as long as they were taking care of the custom exteriors.

If you ask a dealer today why they don't use this product any more you're likely to get several answers:

"The double flush doors rot away."

They rot away because they never get painted. Most were "Wood Grained" models. Every manufacturer in the country was building and installing these doors. These doors would get installed in an unprimed condition and as it turned out the natural brown color of the unpainted Masonite looked pretty good on homes and condo's where the siding was left natural or stained with the new semi- transparent stains. At best they would only be painted on the out side and the backs were left to water stain and "dry rot" (a water rot condition brought about by condensation. This occurs mostly during the wide moisture and temperature changes in the spring and fall of the year)

Garage door companies want to move product, so unless it's a process that gets done at the factory they can't be bothered. The doors come with a sticker on the back, a disclaimer, stating that all guarantees are null and void if the doors weren't painted.

Sure, that's just what every new home owner does right after they move in to their new home or even better, a condo is look to see what has been left undone by the builder so they can be sure to finish up the details. In most cases not even the contractor knew that the doors were supposed to be protected.

In the East at least, doors were being sold primed on both sides, at the factory. I guess the dealers wanted to do something to combat the inclement weather conditions in the east and add value to their product, however the disclaimer was still there because any primer needs a finish coat. With the advent of the newer steel and steel-insulated doors, dealers began to bad mouth the older wood products in order to sell the new doors.

"The hardware gets loose" and "The double wide doors sag in the horizontal track" when in the open position.

The main cause for both these problems is that the hardware and struts are lagged on instead of through-bolted. The reinforcement struts don't even get that. In most cases they are designed to be "Clipped" on. A one inch lag is used to hold a triangular "strut clip" that comes down onto the flange of the strut.

Here's what happens, these doors are assembled by the installer and usually right on the job site. Ninety five percent of the installers trained today are using a 1/2" electric impact that develops a hundred plus foot-lbs of torque to attach lags and screws. Great tool but it takes an experienced operator to know when to let off and not strip out a lag. Another thing that happens is when a tech comes to service-tune your door he is supposed to check all fasteners for security. In most cases this is accomplished by putting the impact to the lag and pulling the trigger, so if it didn't get stripped out at installation, now's as good a time as any. This results in loose hinges and slipping struts that don't reinforce the door the way they intended.

There can be problems associated with "through bolting" all the hardware as well. Nuts can strip out with an impact but it is easier to keep it from happening and the bolts are still there. In addition, a stripped nut can still be tight. It has been my experience that nuts and bolts are better then screws and lags.

The last two reasons we use these sections are that they are less expensive then using plywood built sections and they have a front and a back. Some manufactures don't put a front skin or surface on their doors. They will fasten the wood design of the door directly to the framing of the section and leave out completely the front "Bearing" surface. There is no continuity in the bearing surfaces in the wood to the design, unless its plywood, and can't provide what the sections need to be a true "Torsion-Box". We use this type of double flush section for all are doors in both wood and steel insulated doors.

So what about the Solid Wood Panel doors some manufacturers are selling again?

The Three section door.

There were a lot of three section doors produced during the late fifties and sixties. They've come back because in some of the popular custom "Carriage" or Victorian designs, the windows take up the top third of the door. The trouble is with the existing track radiuses, 15" inches or less, the sections are too wide. It puts the rollers too far into the vertical and horizontal straight track for smooth operation.

This can be compared to a one mile long railroad car turning to round a quarter mile 90 degree curve in the track.

Today most doors are eight feet tall. For a three section door this calls for thirty three inch sections. This results in a binding effect as the middle of the section goes through the track radius.

This will raise hell with your operator as well. What a lot of installers will do to smooth this out and prolong the life of the operator is to leave the door heavy. This means there is not as much tension on the springs necessary to properly balance the door. Therefore, the operator won't have to work so hard to push the door down. However, in a power out situation, a smaller person may not be able to lift the door and it won't stay open on its own.

Manufacturers of track have tried to rectify this problem by creating track with radiuses of 32 inches. That's great if there is room. I find I have enough trouble getting architects and builders to provide 16 to 18 inches now so low headroom track can be avoided. I can just imagine how hard it will be to get 24 inches of headroom for this kind of radius. Not to mention longer operator "Door Bars" or draw bars which in turn means longer travel operators to open the door clear of the header. This may require a ten foot opener for an eight foot high door, just to get the travel. As a matter of fact, operator manufactures are just now coming out with new "Carriage Door" or "Custom Door" models increasing the horse power to 3/4 HP.

The cure for this is a custom window section. In the 8' height we use a 33" tall glass section followed by three 2l" solid sections. This combination rolls a lot better. The adjustable "pitch" of the top fixtures or top roller brackets makes this possible. In addition, by doing some things with spring engineering and drum to cable length, the transition from vertical to horizontal position is made effortlessly.


At Moulton Custom Door we are dedicated to the evolution of the Garage door. We want to supply this "Niche" market with custom doors that integrate good old fashioned "Yankee Ingenuity" with modern technology. To us, this means using new methods together with the proven products of our industry to efficiently create each door. To simply recreate doesn't cut it. Each door has to incorporate both the old and the new in order to fulfill our customer's needs. Let us put this concept to work for you.


"If you can draw it, we can make it go up and down". Our mission is to provide to you the customer, simply the best door available. When other companies say it can't be done we are eager to make it happen. Each door is hand crafted with uncompromising attention to detail. We strive for good communications in all aspects of each project. We improve our methods of construction all the time by incorporating mechanical as well as craftsmanship techniques. Our doors will run, seal and secure on a higher level than any garage door you've ever seen. We have spent years addressing the problems that exist with the operation of garage doors as well as the door industry. We will continue to try new innovations and systems in order to further our quest to produce the perfect door for each situation.

Benefits of Custom Doors

We have brought the sectional over the head type door to a higher level of performance than anything you have seen before. It's not just a custom door but rather a complete door system that combines Looks and Function with a quiet dependability that seals tight and more secure than any other product available in the residential market today. Some of the benefits of installing custom doors include:

The Custom Look

A Custom look is the first reason our customers seek us out. If you can draw it, we will turn it into the overhead door you want. Every job is custom and built one door at a time. Due to this philosophy we are able to allow more variables in the project. This is why we have maintained the highest degree of Customer Satisfaction possible.

Thermal Efficiency

We offer our products in three grades of insulation; R-6 & R-8 in wood insulated base sections and R- 1 8 in our "State of the Art" steel insulated base section. As fields are placed on top these R-values may be increased providing a "movable Wall" that seals as tight as any other door in the house and creates a usable area for any season.

Custom Weather Seal

To further enhance the Thermal Performance of our products, we have developed our own perimeter seal package called Custom Weather Seal (CWS). Standard with all our doors, we hand craft the weather seal from the same stock as the door in order to provide a seal that not only compliments the door but provides a firmer contact surface not found in "off the shelf" doors. This CWS Package has satisfied even the most discerning customer both in looks and weather protection.

Good Looks, Inside

For years the inside finish, has been left up to the homeowner or overlooked by the builder. The Bright White Washable Reflective Finish on the inside of our doors provides protection against condensation and adds life to what is normally a dull and somewhat dark room.

Throughbolted Hardware

By using a minimum of 14 Gauge and up to the maximum available, 11 Gauge Hinges, we comply with the industry standard in Heavy Duty hardware for use in even the most intense Commercial applications. We don't stop there. All our hardware is through bolted when attached to a wooden base door, not lagged. This provides a much higher form of security. Unlike lags which can loosen over time, through bolts contact more material, remain tighter and can be retightened over and over indefinitely. In addition, each section is reinforced with a through bolted Strut. This insures the door will not sag in the up or open position and give dependable service for many years to come.

Torsion Spring and Three-Inch Track System

As a standard feature we use a commercially mounted Three Inch (3") track. Only under the most extreme Low Headroom situations will we use a conventional Two- inch (2") track system. This means the extra load of the Custom Built door is carried by a Roller having half again as much rolling surface and diameter. This feature combined with a Torsion Spring System calibrated to the exact weight and height of your door, makes it as easy to operate manually as a door one quarter its size and weight. This allows us to use a modern 1/2 horsepower Lift Master residential operator and stay safely with in its design parameters.

Start to Finish

Finally, "If you want something done right, do it yourself". We install everything we sell. One Half of the door's life expectancy depends on a quality installation. Our doors are installed by the same people that build them. This insures proper installation providing your family with the most dependable, beautifully hand crafted addition to your home. All our work is guaranteed and we specialize in large doors and difficult installations.

As seen in the photo above, Bob Moulton of Moulton Custom Door of VT furnishes miscellaneous technical notes on the issues which govern the performance of custom garage doors.