Self-Closing Door: Making an Existing Garage Service Door Automatic

Bring a fire-rated door up to code with this simple retrofit

The service door between an attached garage and a house must be self-closing as a protection against fire. Here's a simple way to add a closer to the door and bring your house up to code.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Two options for door closers

It's code in most areas that the entry door to an attached garage be “fire-rated” and have a self-closing device. The purpose is to keep a garage fire from spreading to the house. But don't worry—making this door self-closing is as simple as changing two or three of the door's hinges or installing a door closer at the top of the door. It'll cost about the same to go either route, and either is acceptable.

If you plan to use self-closing hinges, take the original middle hinge to your home center or lumberyard, and find self-closing hinges with plates the same size as the ones already on the door. You may have to chisel the edge of the door to get a new square-cornered hinge to fit in mortises machined for round-cornered hinges. Self-closing hinges look much like ordinary hinges except they have a bigger barrel to house the internal spring that makes them self-closing. Switch hinges one at a time so you won't have to remove the door, then wind and adjust the springs with the tools and instructions provided.

Door closers work well for odd or old doors that have hard-to-match hinges. They're also a good choice if existing trim won't allow for the extra thickness of the barrel found on self-closing hinges. You can mount them on either side of the door. Drilling templates and installation instructions come with the closer.

Whether you use a closer or self-closing hinges, adjust the mechanism so the door closes and latches on its own from a wide-open position.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Cordless drill
  • Drill bit set

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

  • Self-closing hinge or door closer