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I have a patio that is raised on meter off the ground. On a side of it there are stairs that lead to a storage room. I would like to build a door for this opening from two parts

  • a 1-meter high horizontal door that swings to the left (as you look
    down the stairs)
  • a vertical door that is level with the existing tiles made
    (out of metal probably)

The horizontal door will have a locking mechanism and it will have a lip that holds the vertical door closed: if you close the vertical one first and then close and lock the horizontal one, it will hold them both securely closed. Until you open the horizontal door the vertical one cannot be raised.


  • Having a metal surface, can i put tiles on the vertical door so it will look like the rest of the patio door ? If yes, can you point me in the right direction with a product type or name?

  • Is there a kind of hinge i can put on the bottom of the vertical door so it is not visible from above?

  • are there any good reasons I should not do this?

Having tiles on the metal doors would increase it's weight a lot, but I can build a counter-weight inside the stairs area that would be almost the same weight as the door, requiring very little effort to raise it.

I thought about building the vertical door with a few U-shaped arms on the side it will connect with the floor. A leg of the U will be welded to the metal door and the other one to a hinge connected to the ceiling of the stairs. When swinging the door up the U will be on a side, allowing the door to move while hiding the patio floor (less things to trip is always a good thing, right? and it would look a lot better)

(Please forgive my english, I probably used a few wrong names for things, it is not my first language and I used google translate to find a few words related to constructions)

Thank you kindly for your time and any advice

top part of door stairs under door top overview door opening

Edit 1: I found this image while searching for U-shaped hinges to add as an example. Another option would be to have the two pieces welded together and make the door swing up like this suitcase (the left part of the image: the part that swings up would be the door) but I'm even more worried about the total weight of the door.

enter image description here

Edit2: Added sketch for the ideal door, seen from the side, in the closed an opened state. The blue arm would be inside the stairwell

  • black - door with arm
  • red - hinge
  • blue - counter-weight arm
  • yellow - counter-weight

enter image description here

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How were you intending to rig a counter-weight in the stair well if the door opens upward? Keep in mind that the tile alone is going to be around 50 pounds - that looks like roughly 15 square feet. – Comintern Apr 8 '14 at 23:15
I was thinking of building an arm inside the stairwell that swings down when the door goes up. Imagine a (let's say) 4 meter long metal bar with a pivoting point in the middle. On one side it's the door, on the other side it will have some weights at the end. – vlad b. Apr 9 '14 at 6:14
I thought about adding springs or a gate arm with a motor, but i think a low-tech solution will be longer-lasting. – vlad b. Apr 9 '14 at 6:15
You might want to look at hydraulic gate openers - I've seen some rated for 4-500 pounds. I'd probably approach this like a car hatchback and keep it simple. With that much weight moving around the fewer joints/hinges/etc you have the safer it's going be. – Comintern Apr 9 '14 at 12:50
Most of the time for a situation like this you would build out a small nook and have one normal door. – DMoore Apr 9 '14 at 16:08

2 Answers 2

Your idea is possible. It will take as you may know already, a custom metal fabricator who is certified, to build to insure all welds will hold up under the weight of the assembly, since it will weigh hundreds of pounds. Using aluminum to make the base, sealed bearings in proper housings for the pivots. Counterbalance filled with lead to ease its operation, and solution to help lower the door in place to keep it from slamming down, like a gas filled piston and rod, like a shock absorber. an aluminum mesh, spot welded in many places to give a way for the tile to bond to the plate that makes the face of the door, with a perimeter angle to dress up the edge so you do not see all the layers at the edge of the door. With all this done, it will need to be powder coated to keep the contact with cement based products separated, so it will not corrode. Your biggest problem will be with your counter balance. When the door raises, it will drop in front of the door. It may be better to use springs or electric lift mechanism, or hydraulics. I made a small sketch to see how it acts together with a counterbalance. enter image description here

This is by no means a complete sketch, it is missing reinforcements, the hinge pivot is off,etc. Just a picture study on feasibility.

In my opinion a lift system like that is on the rear gates of SUV's is a good way to go, although, should one of them fail....

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Judging from the OP's photo of the stairwell, the maximum distance that the counterweight can be set behind the pivot looks like about 3 feet. The load side extends out about 5 feet, so the mechanical "advantage" of the counterweight is limited to around .6 - so... the counterweight would need to be around 66% heavier than the weight of the door. – Comintern Apr 10 '14 at 0:41

I would have to agree with @Jack that this is likely possible (and also that you've want a qualified fabricator). However, I wouldn't risk doing this without consulting an engineer and this is why:

Counter-weight system:

Counter-weight diagram

Lets assume that just for the sake of argument that the door itself (the side labeled "B") weighs 300 pounds (metal, tile, thinset, grout, etc.). Judging by the pictures in your post, the distance from the fulcrum to the end of the door is 5 feet and the distance from the fulcrum to the wall is 3 feet. Some back of the napkin calculations gives a mechanical advantage of .6 to the counter-weight. This means that the side labeled A needs to weigh 500 pounds. Now your total system weight is 800 pounds, and this is being spread to 2 point loads on either side of the fulcrum. Each pivot point needs to safely support 400 pounds while you are walking underneath this behemoth and smoothly pivot without binding.

Hydraulic system:

enter image description here

With this system there is no counterweight, so the total system weight is back to 300 pounds. Now we have 4 point loads instead of 2, because some of the weight of the door is being loaded onto the bottom mounts of the hydraulics and the rest is being distributed to the pivots. In addition, you can transmit this load to the floor instead of having it loaded against a point in the wall.

Why you need an engineer:

How much of the load get transmitted to each attachment point? What types of fasteners are going to be able to support that much load? What sort of safety margin do you need on any of these? What type of materials do you need to use to support the 6 people who could comfortably stand on top of this at any given time? And most importantly, who is going to sign off on all of these things if the building inspector won't (and trust me, in my area none of them would even if they were trained engineers).

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Your bottom drawing is what I was referring to by the SUV rear gate/hatch lift. Short of something more elaborate like electric assist with worm gear or something like that, a piston would be the simplest, so I would figure. The hardest is to size it properly. Then there is hydraulics with pump... – Jack Apr 10 '14 at 2:13
@Jack - Yeah, I was thinking of a piston myself. The thought of 500 pounds of lead swinging around even in a controlled arc makes me shudder. Either of these makes me think potential injury liability though. – Comintern Apr 10 '14 at 2:31
The biggest problem I seen with the counterweight was it will be in the way when the hatch was raised. That itself makes it impractical. The pistons, whether a pair can found big enough that is gas filled like the SUV pistons are, or actuated by hydraulic pump, which is a little over the top would work – Jack Apr 10 '14 at 3:13
The counter weight can be along one wall, so while the door is up, the counterweight rests on the floor, near the left wall (as you go down). So i would loose at most 10 cm of space wich is not an issue – vlad b. Apr 10 '14 at 6:27
I found a swiveling mount point that is rated for 1200 kg. – vlad b. Apr 10 '14 at 6:36

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