Sliding Hangar Doors

I grew up having to slide open hangar doors to get my Dad’s 182 Cessna in and out. I didn’t like sliding hangar doors as a design solution then, and I like them even less as an adult.

Let’s start the discussion with simple….just “plain old” sliding hangar doors, mounted on the outside of the hangar.

For starters – wood framed sliding doors are automatically excluded. The vertical members do not have the strength to carry wind loads, and (unless the doors are very, very small) wood horizontals cannot carry the loads either. This means aluminum or steel framed doors are the only viable solutions.

Hanger Sliding DoorLeast prone to maintenance issues, as well as most secure, will be doors mounted on a single track. As a minimum width door opening is probably 36, if not 40 feet in width, this rules out the practicality of a one piece door. Although still fairly large in width, split (also known as bi-parting) sliding doors might be a consideration.

Bi-parting sliding hangar doors are actually two independent doors, with an astragal to connect the two together when closed. Properly designed, they should include a method of positive anchorage at the center, to the ground. An interior latch system should firmly lock the two sections in place at the middle, when closed.

Most, if not all of us have seen older hangars with sliding doors which slide past the corners of the pole buildings and are mounted to headers supported by wood columns placed at a distance away from the building corners. I would strongly discourage anyone from going this route. Besides the remote columns becoming magnets for planes and vehicles, they take up valuable space which might not be available to begin with. And, what happens when a door or doors are left open, and the wind picks up? Not only is the wind speed picking up a concern, but there is a good chance the doors are going to be picked up, and deposited somewhere potentially uncomfortable. Flying sliding doors present an extreme hazard to living creatures!

In an ideal world the sliding hangar doors would fit across the building face, with no door projecting past a corner. This poses some challenges, as a 36 foot width door, would require a 72 foot wall.

Taking things up a notch would be the use of double sliding door tracks. For a 36’ width opening, imagine four door panels, each nine feet wide. The center two panels mount in the outer track, with one panel to each side of these, on the inner track. On the plus side, the doors can be opened onto only nine feet of building wall on each side of the opening (so for a 36 foot wide door, 54 feet of building wall would be required). The down sides are – lots of moving pieces and the doors have to slide past each other (so do not seal well).

I’ve only done triple tracks one time, and hope to never do them again. Imagine, if you will, the complexities of double tracks….triple is going to pose an immeasurable increase in challenges, and decrease in user satisfaction. Somehow the challenge level of sliding doors appears to equal the square of the number of doors. A split sliding door (2 pieces) would be rated at 4. Six doors on triple tracks would be 36!

A big design consideration, with sliding doors, is the weight they impose upon the roof system. In most cases, sliding doors will be hung from a track supported by the end truss, rather than having weight transferred to the ground. The roof truss manufacturer can redesign the end truss to adequately support the extra moving weight from the doors. Often this results in a two member end truss. What is often neglected is to adequately transfer the lateral loads imparted by wind against the door sections and transferred to the end truss bottom chord. Registered Design Professionals will typically provide extra T or X braces to transfer these loads from the truss, to the roof diaphragm.

In a future article, I will discuss what most would look upon as being better solutions.

7 thoughts on “Sliding Hangar Doors

  1. Dear Mike

    When it comes to the design of a hangar building, the integration of the hangar door is an important element. A low price building and a low price door are often incompatible which could lead to poor performance and even catastrophic failure. To be more specific in your nomenclature, the sliding hangar doors you are referring to are top hung sliding doors. Bottom rolling sliding doors also exist and are used on most large FBO centres. Bottom rolling doors have a bottom rail to carry the weight of the door as well as a portion of the wind load. As far as other door solutions go, folding, bi-folding, canopy or sectional overhead, the important thing to know is the weight of the door supported by the building. If the building is not designed to take this load then problem will arise.

    Reply
    1. Alexander ~ Thank you very much for following my blog. Indeed, the sliding doors I am writing about are ones which have their weight support only by tracks and trolleys at the top of the door. I’ve read over the product information provided on your website and it appears your product becomes competitively price viable in sizes far larger than most post frame buildings will ever see (I believe I read 80 feet wide by 19 feet in height). Whilst I imagine some companies do not adequately design to support hangar doors which are supported by the building – this is not the case for us.

      Reply
  2. Kenneth Gladman

    I like your advice on using either steel or aluminum for your hangar doors. These materials will hold up to the elements and last. You want to get something that is reliable.

    Reply
  3. I am doing research for a hangar door replacement. The building is 40′ wide. The opening for the door is approximately 10′ high by 36′-37′ wide. This hangar is steel beams and steel siding with wood frame. It’s at Sand Ridge Airpark in Collinsville , OK.
    From reading your info it looks like bottom rail, rolling doors may be a good choice for this hangar. I do need a split configuration for ease of manual operation..
    Is it possible to give me an estimate for manufacturing, delivery, and installation, with this information.?
    Thank you
    Merredith.Hoosier@gmail.com

    Reply
  4. I was told by the building inspector, not to hang anything of the front truss… I have a 48×48 hanger I just built, 40′ opening, by 10′ high. Wanted to build 4, sliding doors, about 125 pounds each of pine, 2 slide left, 2 slide right. Thought about plywood, 2×12’s to glue and screw to back of bottom truss… but, some pilots here, think, glue and screw my lp smart 111 to entire front truss, and glue and screw 1/2 inch to entire back, making a sandwich of the truss, then I can screw my rail to bottom truss…. retired firefighter, pilot, tim andrew, ossipee, nh windsock airport.

    Reply
    1. Unless your end trusses have been engineered to support the weight of the doors you should not attach to them. A 10′ x 10′ sliding door is going to weigh far more than 125#.

      Reply

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