Garage Door Decorative Hardware Guidelines

Date: August 16, 2017

Adding decorative hardware to your garage door is an easy way to dress it up and improve your curb appeal. Garage door style and color are key features of any garage door and should be considered when deciding how to accessorize your door with hardware.

Each door style contains design and construction elements, such as arch tops, cross rails, diagonal boards, multiple panels, and more, that can be accented or minimized. Your garage door’s color can make a statement and stand out or it can minimize the door’s presence and perceived size. Maybe it’s even a two-color door. How you want to accessorize your door is all up to you.

Why Add Decorative Garage Door Hardware?

Curb appeal is often a hot topic when selling a house, and decorative garage door hardware can be an easy way to spruce up an existing door to make it feel more special. It is all about how your house looks from the street. Decorative garage door hardware comes in a wide variety of styles, sizes, materials, colors, and components. However, your garage door shouldn’t compete or detract from your front door, it should complement it.

It’s easy to add hardware to dress up a door but it is also easy to overdo it in ways that don’t add visual value. When choosing how to accessorize your garage door always consider your motivation. Curb appeal presents a neat, clean and well-maintained facade to the street while drawing attention to your front door’s approach. Decide your primary purpose in adding decorative door hardware.

  • Do you live in a “snout” house – where the garage faces the street and is more prominent than your front door?
  • Is your garage tucked around a corner or the back of your house, where you are decorating it mainly for your own pleasure?
  • Does your garage door compete for attention with your front door?
  • Do you want to draw attention to your garage doors or just freshen them up a little?

How To Add Decorative Hardware

Most decorative hardware mimics the look of working door hardware from old style carriage doors. There are many styles and types to choose from and we’ve found that a few guidelines have served us well over time.

Keep It Simple

To quote architect Mies van der Rohe, “Less is more.” Less decoration used appropriately often looks better and more elegant than an abundance. Consider how many design elements the door has – cross rails, cross bucks, the number of panels, how much hardware you are adding, and the overall amount of eye-catching features on your door. Keep it simple.

Decorative hardware adds character to otherwise simple doors

The addition of pulls on the double door on the left emphasizes the look of the two arch-top doors without detracting from the double arch feature. On the right, strap hinges provide just the right accent on the cross rails of this custom barn door.

Make It Believable

Remember that today’s decorative garage door hardware looks like the strap hinges, latches, and pulls that at one time were used to actually open the older doors. Position and size are key to making your investment look like it belongs on the door. Consider where hinges would be located if the doors really were to actually swing open. Most every door has design elements that make sense for the hardware you add.

Rules of Thumb

  • Assess your door’s “style” and plan hardware accordingly:
    • Is it swing style or barn style garage? What design elements do you want to emphasize?
    • Is it a traditional stile & rail door? These doors generally do not benefit from strap hinges and pulls. Two-tone paint does wonders on these types of doors.
    • Is a door leaf (1/2 the door width for a swing door) a reasonable size for one person to pretend to swing?
  • Size your strap hinges to be at least 1/4 to 1/3 the width of the door opening. This means treating double wide doors as two doors or using strap hinges that are 1/4 to 1/3 the width of the double wide opening.
  • Place pull handles, ring pulls, and latches on the door at a minimum of 34” and go no higher than the shoulder height of the driveway. Not too high, not too low.
  • Typically strap hinges are positioned on top and bottom rails, plus an intermediate location, usually under the window area, if the design allows. Note our barn door above where there are only two locations for strap hinges – but they look logical if the door were to actually swing.
  • The strap hinges perceived to swing the bulk of the door (typically the top and bottom strap hinges) should be the same length but intermediate hinge(s) can be shorter.

A single door with correct decorative hardware placements.

The door above looks like it could swing open and the hinges have been placed where you expect to see them– at the top and bottom, plus an intermediate rail. Look closely and you can see the strap hinges fit in the space above the overhead door section break. The extra step to get an arched strap hinge for the top really accents the arched window section. The pull handles complete the swing door look. Neat, clean, and logical.

A double door can be made more believable with correct hardware.

The double door on the left looks okay but doesn’t follow our guidelines. The hardware on this door provides only two pull handles, which would make you believe that this door as a very wide single door.  Also, the strap hinges are not long enough to be believable if the doors truly swung open. It is not unreasonable to expect this door to slide away in halves but it is very hard to imagine this door actually swinging open in only two parts.

On the right is the same door with a different hardware configuration. If you follow our rules of thumb, the updated hardware looks realistic as two swing doors and the strap hinges fit the 1/4 -1/3 guideline. If you ignore the single arched top, it is much more believable as two side-by-side swing style doors. Note: there are no top strap hinges because they don’t fit logically on the single arch top.

Typical garage hardware mistakes include:

  • Adding strap hinges to a door that doesn’t look like a swing door, but looks more like a traditional stile & rail overhead door.
  • Strap hinges that are too short, too long, or too wimpy (thin) for the door size
  • Strap hinges that are in locations that don’t make sense – not at the top or the bottom
  • Single handles installed instead of a pair
  • Too little hardware on double doors
  • Not removing old handles or locks

It’s Not All About Strap Hinges

Sometimes just a pair of pulls or a latch adds that little extra something you were missing. Check out these before and after photos that don’t use a strap hinge anywhere!

Clavos add style without straps.

As nice as these doors on the left are, they are a little plain. The doors do look like they could swing open but due to the section breaks, there is not really enough room for appropriate sized strap hinges. The addition of clavos (decorative nails) and ring pulls on the right dresses them up in an elegant, yet simple, way! If these doors were seen next to your front door, the hardware would add interest while not detracting from your main entrance door.

Decorative hardware is a very personal decision and is an easy upgrade for your door. Check out our garage door decorative hardware to see what we offer and our Door Design Gallery to see even more examples of installed doors with decorative hardware.

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