Three Letters Re: Recommendations on Hardening a Garage Door?

Hello James,
In reading D.A.B.’s query about hardening a Fiber Board Overhead garage door, several thoughts come to mind. All have additional questions that need to be asked. It sounds like his main concern is for the attack of his door with power tools, namely… Chainsaw. I’ll get to that in a few minutes.
How many people don’t lock the [connecting] door between their home and their garage when at home or away? When you go to get your vehicle serviced, go to work, shopping, parked in your driveway,….where is your overhead door transmitter??? A quick break of the glass, grab the button off of your visor, and boom, right into the house the bad guy goes. (I bring this up as security does nothing if holes in the program like this are not changed!). I don’t know about you, but I don’t leave my house keys with the dealership when I get service work done.This is a topic with so many things that could be of merit. Let me start with some problems that I see as areas of concern with Overhead doors:
1. Large doors = Large void of structure
2. Moving heavy items can be dangerous, (i.e.- without power)
3. As a whole, Garage doors are not the least bit secure in design
4. Seals fail on an almost predictable basis, (like 4 days after the door is installed, they just sit there and look pretty for the next 12 months before they tear and fall apart.
5. Your only as secure as your operator, (mechanical opener)
6. Just because your springs lift the door, does not mean that the ceiling will support the additional weight.
7. In a detached building scenario, overhead door security should be more commonly thought about. If the door is compromised, by the would be “burglar”, “attacker”, “whatever”, can simply close the door behind him and be hidden.
8. Doors typically don’t survive a 60mph. wind, (dependent on style and size).
The items above are to promote thought as all circumstances are different. If you are using your “building” as your retreat, … you better figure out a way to seal that door from airborne particulates. I can’t think of a single surefire way to do so. I would recommend a second door on the interior that allows you to essentially cut the air pathway in half. Spend some time designing seals on the inner door; these won’t be subject to UV-A and UV-.B so these will last longer.
I would consider having an exterior vertical overhead door, and an interior sliding door, or possible a series of manageable weight panels that can be set in place. (Again, think through your situation, (time, $, and user friendliness are all considerations that will alter the outcome of your design).
Your electrical mechanical opener is subject to attack by anyone with the electrical knowledge and a code seeking transmitter. It is best to “disable” your electricity to your door when you are not needing it. There are various Overhead Door Brand products that patent a “code dodging” technology which is better than not having it at all.
If wanting to improve the “bullet resistance” to an overhead door, I can offer no solution that would attach to the door except something ultra expensive as Kevlar. In my opinion, most other viable options would add too much weight to the door to be practical. If seeking to fortify the door from a bullet attack, I would suggest building a series of walls on the inside of the building forming a mini-stall that you can pull your vehicle into and shut the door. Again, dependant on your needs, you could build a series of walls that form a maze which you can still pull your vehicle in and around, but a stray bullet would not find its way into your retreat if the door was open. A bullet resistant wall design option like one talked about some time ago on SurvivalBlog would be relatively easy: A wall sandwiched with plywood and filled with gravel. Think of it as an interior loading dock. This does however take up considerable space in your building, so plan accordingly. D.A.B. asked if weight would be a problem. I have constructed many custom overhead doors in where I applied additional layers to an already existing door. In these applications, I had the door weighed, and kept in contact with a professional installer whom gave his advice on how fasteners should be set, and what would provide a less maintenance prone install when complete.
After weighing the door, he ordered a Torsion Spring of adequate size to aid in the lift, (if a lift type door is what we are discussing here).
To prevent a chainsaw attack, mass is not always the answer. Kevlar Chaps for loggers operate on the principle that they “gum up the teeth so bad that it stalls the motor or blade”.
I can see a multi-layered door of this fashion-
Layer 1- (the door)
Layer 2- (overlay) a layer of metal lath. Keep it loose, set it in place, and cover with your desired exterior layer.
Layer 3- (overlay the metal lath) with your desired final material to be shown from the outside of your structure, (i.e.- Masonite/ cedar/ aluminum, etc…). I would personally give the metal lath a hidden 3?4” void to[allow it to] “flop around in”. Fasten a series of 1”x 6” boards at the edges of the doors, (this is a good reinforcement for the door as the hinges should now be fastened through these as well as your door for added strength. You can drop down to 1”x 2” strips on all other seam edges. Then apply your final layer.
The metal lath, (used by masons, tile setters, and plasterer’s), is very lightweight. If the product is allowed to be loose, it will even slow the attack of a SawZall as the material simply has no rigidity (this acts much like the “gum up” theory of the loggers chaps). I would think that some metal banding like what is used to strap bunks of lumber together would work equally as well. These are very tough and very light. Stapling horizontal and vertical grid work of metal strapping (wood bundle/crate banding) maybe even a choice bonus to add to the hidden layer of metal lath, (again, loose is good). Try chain-sawing or sawzalling a loose piece of lumber banding sometime. (That is sarcasm and not intended to be tried.)
Think outside the box, and capitalize on a professional’s experience. It is so nice to do a project once! – The Wanderer


Mr. Rawles:
All methods of hardening a fiberboard door are inferior to getting a steel door. One way to harden against a chainsaw while you are gone is to go to a local farm supply store and buy several cattle panels. These can be cut to a length wider than your door, allowing you to bolt / unbolt and remove them when you are there. Put them up on inside and secure when you leave, remove them when you come back, use them for their intended purpose when you get a better garage door. Fiber doors are not good security doors. A sledgehammer, saw, etc., will make quick work of them. Another way is to simply block the door. Best method I have found [for defeating burglars during extended absences] is to (assuming you have the capability to move the same) pull a shipping container across the doorway and leave it. – Straightblast


If D.A.B. really wants a secure door, I would suggest building double sliding doors. Each door would be one half the width of the opening, and mounted [on a top and bottom rail system] on the outside of the building. Each half would slide away from the centerline on tracks. They could be made of anything from concrete to steel. Assuming (as dangerous as that is) that D.A.B.’s steel building is the standard type, the problem is that if the door is stronger than the structure itself, the bad guys will just cut a whole in the wall of the building. I ran into this a couple of times back when I was doing security systems for a living. Your best bet is to just not let anyone know what’s in it, and make it look like there is nothing there worth stealing. ALL physical security can be defeated with a bit of work. The objective is to increase the amount of work it takes to beat the security to the point where it’s not worth the effort. There are very few of us that can afford physical security that would take more than a few tools, and a little sweat to defeat. Camouflage is much more effective than any lock. – Fanderal

JWR Replies: Given enough time, any physical security structure can be defeated. In essence, they serve only as delays rather than absolute safeguards. Serious burglars will have access to bolt cutters, abrasive cutoff wheels, chainsaws, SawzAlls, and probably oxyacetylene cutting torches. They might even have more exotic tools such as a Magmafusion cutting rod/torch or fire-rescue “Jaws of Life.” To have truly effective security, you need to have someone living at your retreat full time, or at least nearby neighbors that can watch your place.