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Garage Door with a Man Door: Do You Need It?

If you’re one of those people who are guilty of browsing home photos endlessly – whether to garner ideas for the future or simply to drool at cool home design – you’ve doubtlessly seen those cool little pedestrian doors built into garage doors. They’re cute, right? A little person-sized access in the garage door can be a wonderful addition to a garage entry system. It’s basically a doggy-door for your garage, but for people. 

But before jumping on board with a walk-thru garage door, there’s a lot for you to unpack. Is this feasible in your personal garage door? Could you do it yourself, or should you hire a professional to make the modification? How do different options compare in cost? These are all considerations to make before deciding this feature is for you, and we’ll delve into it all here.

What is a Pedestrian Garage Door?

You’ve undoubtedly noticed some garage doors are equipped with an additional person-door to the exterior on a garage wall. It’s designed to give ease of access to this space without having to use the garage door. Garage doors are often slow and noisy to open, and a pedestrian access can be valuable in avoiding that. 

Not all garages, however, are designed like this nor can they all support this feature. While oftentimes adding an exterior entry door in the garage is an option, structural limitations can exist. For example, if all the exterior walls of the garage are load-bearing in the wrong ways, alterations to the walls can’t be made. This is when a garage door with a door in it becomes handy. It’s, simply put, a person-sized access within the garage door itself that can swing open and shut like any other door.

Why Install a Walk-Through Garage Door?

While cute as a button, adding a little walk-thru in your existing garage door isn’t just an aesthetic choice. In fact, if looks are your motivation you might think again once you see the price-point on all the added features necessary in combination with the door itself. Adding a walk-through garage door is a feature of function, and there are many reasons you might need to consider one.

  • Safety egress: With limited doors to the exterior, homes can benefit from any added safety egress. While garage doors do move up and down so you can exit on foot, they’re slow during an emergency and loud enough to give you away to an intruder. Having a separate pedestrian egress from the garage is an important safety feature.
  • Convenience: Besides safety factors, it’s simply more convenient to have that added pedestrian door in the garage. Because the garage is often a hub for exterior decorative storage, sports equipment, and gardening tools, few people only exit through the garage in a vehicle. Having that easy swinging door just makes life easier.
  • Separate egress impossible: For any of a plethora of reasons, it might be impossible for you to install a separate egress for pedestrians in your garage. Whether there are structural or space constraints, not every home can accommodate. That’s when a garage door pedestrian access becomes entirely valuable.

What are the Options?

When installing a person door in the garage door, you have a few options.

  1. Go the DIY route: If the “look” isn’t your biggest concern (and if you’re EXTREMELY handy with power tools), but rather the function, you might consider doing it yourself. You’ll save a lot of money, you won’t be adding much weight to the garage door, and you’ll still accomplish your goal. You might sacrifice a bit on the aesthetic, but it can be done. Keep in mind that this method leaves about a 4-6 inch clearance between the bottom of the pedestrian door, meaning it cannot be considered an official egress under most building codes.
  2. Purchase a door and hang it yourself: While you could create a garage door with a door in it from your existing door, it might not look the best nor will it qualify as an official egress. However, if you’re at least moderately skilled at carpentry or mechanics, you could purchase a garage door with a pedestrian access that fits your space. Just be sure your garage door mechanics can handle the extra weight that a pedestrian egress could add to your door.
  3. Hire a pro: This is by far the safest option. Because of the added complications that come with a walk-through garage door, a professional garage door technician is going to expertly ensure the door you want is going to work like a charm. Many manufacturers offer their own technicians, or you can search locally for an independent tech who can hang the door of your choice from the manufacturer you choose.

How Does Installation Work: How? Where? How Much?

Once you’ve decided on an option, where do you go from there? Let’s look at the three routes you could take to achieve the garage door with a man door and some tips and tricks for each.

  • DIY: Turning your garage door into a garage door with a man door requires a high level of carpentry or mechanical skill, so don’t approach this method lightly. While it may save you a lot of money (if you already have the required tools, installation will only cost you a couple hundred dollars), if you don’t know what you’re doing you could wreck your current garage door and need a new one altogether. But if you’re set on doing it, here is a basic idea of what the process looks like: 
    • Once the door is off the garage door track, cut a person-sized door hole (make sure it’s generous) in the panels of the door.
    • Attach hinges horizontally to each panel of the door, consistently with the rest of the garage door. This is essential so that the door within the door will fold when using the garage door.
    • Install door casing around the inside of the hole in the garage door.
    • Install hinges vertically all the way down the garage pedestrian door into the door casing. Ensure the spacing of the hinges allows the door to fold when retracted on the garage door track.
  • Purchase and hang a walk-thru garage door yourself: While it may not require the carpentry skill the DIY method does, purchasing and installing the walk-thru garage door still requires you possess at least rudimentary mechanical skills. You’ll save money (perhaps a few hundred dollars) on the installation, but mistakes can cost more than hiring a garage door technician. You’ll be spending anywhere between one thousand to twelve thousand dollars on the door alone, and messing it up will be expensive. Here are some tips for following this through, if you’ve decided it’s something you’re equipped to do:
    • Know your dimensions. It’s absolutely essential you understand what size door to order. Getting this wrong will be costly as you’ll likely have to pay return shipping and a restocking fee for your garage door, since many walk-through garage doors are a specialty product.
    • Understand the specs. Garage door technicians are skilled in garage door mechanics, and being your own tech will require research. How heavy is the door, and will your hardware support the weight? Are the other components of your garage system the right size? 
    • Research the manufacturer. Several garage door manufacturers have created some beautiful walk-through garage doors, and you want to be sure to choose a manufacturer who specializes in the product you want.
  • Hire a pro: This option isn’t cheap, but hiring a professional is the direction to go if you’d like to take a hands-off approach. Most manufacturers will either evaluate your home plan or even come out and measure themselves, ensuring the proper product is sold to you. They’ll help you choose something within your budget, and install it turn-key for your peace of mind. You’re looking at spending up to one thousand dollars more for the added customer service and technical help, but you’re guaranteed not to pay for a costly mistake. Here are some options when hiring a professional:
    • Purchase your garage door from a manufacturer and hire a local garage door tech to install it for you. We recommend asking around in case you know any satisfied past customers of a garage door technician. You can also read reviews from past customers so you know the quality of work the tech performs.
    • Purchase the garage door from a manufacturer and ask their technician to install it for you. Some manufacturers partner with regional technicians who are specially trained to install their particular doors. The manufacturer can point you toward those technicians.

Prefabricated Man Door Garage Door Options

If you decide to purchase a prefabricated pedestrian garage door, there are several fabricators to choose from, all of which are pretty custom. And because most standard garage door manufacturers don’t offer this feature, finding a custom garage door manufacturer is going to be your best bet. Here are some manufacturers to consider during your search:

  • Walk-Thru Garage Doors: This manufacturer specializes in handicap-accessible walk-through garage doors, but they have pass-through garage doors available in every style-way. Every door is fully custom and built to your personal specifications, and they’ll work with you to maintain your budget if possible. Because Walk-Thru Garage Doors only make pedestrian garage doors, they’ve niched themselves to accommodate the most special requests.

  • Door Doctor: Door Doctor makes all styles of custom walk-through garage doors, but other types of garage doors are available as well. So if your garage has two garage doors and you’d like for only one of them to allow for pedestrian access, Door Doctor can manufacture coordinating doors for you.

  • Domadeco: Domadeco isn’t as customized as the other two options listed here, but they are a bit more affordable, and their pedestrian access garage door accommodates an industrial setting. You can still choose your door size, colorway, which side of the door has a walk-through door, and whether you’d like them to install the door for you.

Garage Pedestrian Door Pros and Cons

If you’ve read through this information and think a pedestrian garage door could be for you, all that’s left to do is break down the idea into a list of pro’s and con’s. It’s not a cheap addition to your home, but for many homeowners it’s a worthy investment, so let’s break it down to help you decide.

Pros: 

  • Safety egress in case of emergency. This “pro” is invaluable.
  • Ease of access to the garage and all the storage it holds.
  • Greater versatility when entering and exiting the space.
  • A great solution if your structure doesn’t allow for a separate pedestrian door. 

Cons:

  • Expensive: both in purchasing the door and in installation.
  • Creating a pedestrian access from an existing garage door is only for skilled craftsmen.
  • Not all pedestrian garage doors can be considered an official safety egress: consult your local building code.

If you’ve investigated pedestrian garage doors and have decided the option is right for you, simply do your research, proceed with caution, and make sure the one you choose is just right for you. You won’t regret it, and you’ll have a whole new access to your garage.

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