When deciding on the kinds of large doors to use in your post-frame building, there are four main types to consider: sliding doors, overhead doors, hydraulic and bi-fold doors. Each have their own purpose, benefits, and drawbacks for a pole-barn.
Deciding which door you want will depend on what the building is for, the kinds of weather you deal with, and even whether the building is heated and cooled.
1. Sliding Doors
Often called “sliders,” these doors (pictured at top of post) are generally used on a cold storage building, like a machine shed. If you only want a place to store machinery to protect it from the elements, you don’t plan on moving the machinery in and out frequently, and aren’t going to heat or cool the building, you probably want a sliding door.
The doors themselves can be insulated, however it’s difficult to weather strip and seal the openings tightly, which makes it ideal for cold storage buildings. It’s important that you get as much width out of your door opening to get your machines in and out, and a sliding door slides right out of the way.
2. Overhead Doors
An overhead door for your post-frame building is similar to your regular garage door, but is often taller and/or wider, to allow for larger pieces of equipment. They can be used on cold storage buildings for ease of opening and closing, and you can buy them without insulation.
They can also be used on insulated buildings. Overhead doors have tighter building weather strips to control air infiltration, and the doors can also be insulated against heat loss/gain. They usually use rigid foam insulation, which usually provides R-5 insulating value per inch — two inch foam is R-10.
3. Bi-Fold Doors
These two-piece doors started in the airplane industry for very large hanger openings. Bi-fold doors are hinged at the top and in the middle, and fold up. They have been used for many years however their usage has declined with the increased use of one-piece hydraulic doors as the folding does take some of the height out of the opening.
4. Hydraulic Doors
Hydraulic doors also started in the airplane industry for hangers. They’ve begun to be used in a lot of post-frame buildings. They’re hinged at the top, and open through hydraulic arms, called rams, attached to each of the columns, which lift the door straight out and up.
This door often replaces an end wall in a building, which means there may be some additional wind load and snow load considerations. Since much of the strength of a building comes from the end wall columns and steel, this has to be compensated for if you’re going to use a hydraulic door.
Which Door Should I Get?
Each of these doors have their best application and use. If you have a cold storage building, you could be overpaying for a door that’s insulated. If you have a heated and air conditioned building, you’ll waste energy with a sliding door. Consider your insulation requirements, the overall size of door you need, and the equipment you want to move in and out of the building and the frequency that you will be using the door.
You’ll also be able to open the overhead, bi-fold and hydraulic doors with an opener. There are some opening systems being developed for sliders, but chances are you’ll open the slider by hand. If you don’t plan to have electricity in the building then your choice is easy – get a sliding door.
Don’t Forget the Walk Door
Generally speaking, there’s a walk door — a “regular size” door — on every building. Rather than heaving your giant, massive door open and shut every time you come or go without equipment moving in and out of your building, you can just pop through your walk door.
Not only does this save wear and tear on your big door, but if you’re heating and cooling your building, you want to keep the heat in or out as much as possible. Waiting for an overhead door to close can be painful in the winter, especially if you’re one of those people who tells the kids to “shut the door, you’re letting the cold in.”
Additionally, most sliding doors are locked from the inside, which means you need a walk door to walk inside and open it up. Overhead, hydraulic and bi-fold doors can operate with an automatic opener, which makes the walk door a little more optional, but you’ll wish you had one if the electricity is out from a storm and when the opener battery dies.
In nearly every pole barn, you’ll want a large door of some kind, even if you only use it a couple times a season. Consider the kinds of equipment you’ll be bringing in and out, how often and whether you’re going to heat and cool the building. Ultimately, your choice will come down to insulation requirements and the size of the opening.