How Garage Doors Have Evolved Over Time

Sepia photograph of two-car garage with white paneled doors and windows

Updated on July 24th 2023

The garage door is an integral part of any modern home, providing a simple and safe way for the homeowner to exit and enter their home while shielding them from the worst of Mother Nature. The garage door has now been with us for as long as most people can remember. But it wasn't always that way. 100 years ago, houses did not come with integrated garages, and when the first built-in garages were introduced there were no garage door openers or other things we now take for granted. Below we’re going to look at how the humble garage door has evolved since it was first introduced.

The Ever-Evolving Garage Door

These days it’s expected that any stand-alone house is going to have a garage built into it. But it wasn’t that long ago that such an idea was considered absurd. A quick Google search for “Victorian-era homes in Colorado” will confirm that. Those beautiful, stately homes in Denver, Parker, and elsewhere are eye candy of the highest order, but there’s not an integrated garage on any of them.

Older homes of the well-to-do did have stand-alone structures where they stored both horses and the carriages the horses pulled. Though very few of them remain, these "carriage houses" were the precursors of the modern garage, but they didn't have overhead doors on them. Instead, they had heavy barn-style doors that swung open on hinges.

As automobiles replaced horse-drawn carriages most carriage houses were repurposed to accommodate cars although they retained their clumsy and heavy barn doors, simply because there was no practical option. That would soon change.

The Doors They Are A-Changin’

In 1921 the overhead door was invented by one C.G. Johnson of Indiana. Johnson believed in his invention so much that he drove around the country with a scaled-down version of his door attached to the back of his Model T truck to promote it. Everyone who saw it was impressed and within a few years, the overhead door was finding converts from coast to coast.

100 years ago, however, people were still invested in the whole “home as castle” notion and extended that design ethos to their new overhead doors. The result was often ornate and quite beautiful but also incredibly heavy, and some homeowners had a hard time opening them.

That led to the idea of the sliding garage door. Sliding garage doors were easy to open and aesthetically pleasing but they required space on each side of the door opening. A lot of carriage houses didn’t have that kind of space, nor did the new, smaller automobile garages that were beginning to replace the carriage house. Enter the bi-fold garage door.

Bi-fold doors were also easy to open and had the advantage of not requiring space to the left and right of the door opening. However, they did bring back an old problem; that being that they opened outward which could be inconvenient if space was limited in front of the garage.

We Have a Winner!

As cars became more and more popular with Americans it became obvious that the potential garage door market would be huge. Yet for a decade or so it was unclear which design was going to win the garage door sweepstakes. The unofficial contest came to an end in 1926 when C.G. Johnson (the man who invented the overhead door) introduced the mechanical garage door opener.

As Broomfield’s premier garage door installation company, A Better Garage Door owes a debt of gratitude to Mr. Johnson both for his ingenuity and his foresight. He recognized a problem and offered practical, affordable solutions. By the 1960s garages were being integrated into home designs and virtually everyone had an overhead door. And by the 1980s, most overhead doors had electric openers that featured remote control access.

Today, garage door openers are a part of our everyday life, but the door each opener lifts and closes continues to evolve. Here are some of the ways garage door evolution continues unabated.

  • Energy efficiency: Every year brings advances in energy efficiency and today’s openers reflect this progress. The average garage door today is many times more energy efficient than its mid-20th century ancestor.
  • Materials: In 1970, nearly all overhead doors featured wood panels. While wood doors are still available they have given way to other materials including lightweight aluminum and fiberglass, and more secure steel panels. Tinted glass is also a popular choice these days.
  • Technology: It’s a pretty sure bet that ol’ C.G. Johnson could not have envisioned the technological advances that would impact his invention. Today, for instance, you can open your garage door from halfway around the world using a smartphone app.
  • Size: Originally overhead garage doors were smaller than old-fashioned carriage house doors. But sizes are beginning to creep back up again. That's because most households today have multiple vehicles at their disposal and they need a place to keep them safe. So, two, three even four-car garages are becoming commonplace.

Expert Garage Door Repair in Parker

No matter the size, style, or age of your garage door you’re going to need someone who can provide expert installation, maintenance, and repair services. A Better Garage Door is that company. We have been helping people in this part of Colorado keep their doors operating like clockwork for more than 23 years and we can help you with any garage door issue you might have. Call (303) 920-2267 today and put your garage door problems behind you.

Next Post Previous Post