Black metal garage door

The History of the Modern Garage Door


The garage door has evolved through decades of technological advances, and it has changed the way people build homes, create neighborhoods, and organize their daily lives. Read on to learn about the history of the modern garage door from its simple beginnings to the way it will continue to influence home design in the future.

The First Garage Door

While many modern historians believe that garage doors were invented by ancient Greeks or Romans, there’s actually evidence to suggest that garages may have been used as far back as 3500BC. Early man created simple wooden structures in order to store their belongings; primitive versions of what would become garage doors.

It’s no surprise that these were a much bigger hit with occupants than people who had to move all their possessions in and out every time they needed access to them. Instead, they left them there safely tucked away while they went off on hunting trips or other endeavors.

Carriage House Doors

By the time the automobile became widely available in 1908 (before people had their own garages) cars were stored in carriage houses with horses and carriages. Many people didn’t have cars at the time and cars didn’t have roofs so everyone in town that had a car stored them all in one place.

Carriage doors were often hinged at two points: near ground level and approximately two feet above it. It was a heavy wooden door that swung open similar to a house door and took multiple people to open it.


A few years after cars started becoming mass-produced, many people started owning cars, and the carriage houses were getting too full. Outbuildings were created to make a specific place for cars.

They were constructed almost identical to carriage houses, and people would rent spaces in the outbuilding to keep their cars safe while they were not driving it. It had separate entrances and exits so that they could access their respective stables independently.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that scenario – it worked just fine – but it does open up some limitations for modern homeowners and builders today.

Private Garages

Eventually, people didn’t want to walk all the way to the outbuildings to get their cars anymore. They wanted to have their own garages where they can keep their car and not have to pay someone to park their car.

They also didn’t want to deal with risking their car getting stolen overnight and shady parking attendants that would try to overcharge them or tamper with their vehicle. People started building their own garages, which is French for “shelter or protection”.

These garages were built similar to outbuildings with 2 large heavy doors and it sometimes made it more of a hassle to have a garage at your home than to just walk to the outbuilding. In the snow, these were virtually impossible to open with just one person.

Sliding Door Garages

Around 1920, people found that the carriage house doors were too much of a hassle so they started using sliding doors which were just as heavy, but much easier to open. In the snow, these doors could be much more easily opened as well.

These doors weighed up to 400 pounds, but since they were on a sliding track, they could just be pushed to one side and opened.

These garages were much larger and more expensive than regular garages because of the technology used for the sliding door track and also because there had to be room for the the doors to slide out.

Overhead Doors

In 1921, a man named C.G. Johnson had a better idea. By inventing an overhead garage door with a trolley system and safety cables, he made it possible for homeowners to protect their cars without having to spend money on a large heavy door. The invention was so innovative that people took notice and Johnson was soon in high demand as a consultant for other designers.

This garage door could be made with much lighter and cheap materials, and it “folded” into the ceiling which saved a ton of space. Garages became more affordable due to the smaller garage size and the cheaper and more ergonomic door design.

Electric Garage Doors

In 1926, Johnson also invented the electric garage door which used the same trolley and cable system, except instead of pulling the garage door all the way up, the garage door would automatically open or close by pulling on the handle after it was unlocked.

These types of garages were very expensive and bulky and didn’t come into widespread use around 1970 when the electronic components were cheaper and took up less place in the garage. Homeowners could simply push a button on a remote in the car when they were close enough to their garage and it would open.

Garage Doors Today

While you can still buy a door that is literally made out of wood, most modern garage doors are constructed with more durable materials, such as steel and aluminum. This is because a garage door is quite simply one of your home’s biggest moving parts.

It will be exposed to some pretty tough conditions over its lifetime, from rain and snow to wind and extreme temperatures. That’s why you’ll want to look for products labeled with an ANSI seal. ANSI stands for American National Standards Institute and ensures that products are safe for use in American households-and their coatings and construction meet government standards.

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