Garage doors

High Lift vs. Regular Lift Garage Doors

High-lift doors are a great option for increasing the usable space in your garage. They are often misunderstood, so I decided to write this post to clarify what they’re about. I will tell what a high-lift door is, what are the advantages and how to convert your regular door to high-lift.

What is a High Lift garage door?

High-lift garage doors are doors with tracks well above the upper edge of the door opening. These doors rise vertical for some distance and turn horizontal close to the ceiling.

By contrast, regular lift garage doors turn horizontal right at upper edge of the door opening. If the opening is lower than the garage, the door in open position is much lower than the ceiling.

How do I tell if a door is High Lift?

The door layout and component details will tell you if the door is high-lift. High-lift doors have:

  • Tracks vertical or at a slight angle above the door opening
  • Partly conical drums (see image)
  • Lowest segment vertical when fully open

What advantages do High Lift doors have?

High-lift garage doors retain more garage room height free of obstruction in tall garages.

If you have a 7 ft. door height in a 11 ft. high garage, a regular-lift door will block you from using the upper 3 ft. Why? Because the door creates a “2nd ceiling” just above 7 ft.

A high-lift door rises vertical for some distance above the door opening and just then turns horizontal. This leaves you more headroom for working, climbing on top of vehicles, and so on.

A high-lift door is only useful if your garage ceiling is substantially higher than the door opening. If there is just one or two feet difference, there’s really not much to gain.

(Note that a high-lift door still blocks the ceiling. If you are operating an overhead crane or otherwise want to retain access to ceiling-mounted equipment, consider a folding or a rolling door.)

Can I convert a regular garage door to High Lift?

A regular-lift door can be converted to a high lift door with a hardware update if the garage has sufficient height.

As a rule of thumb, converting a regular garage door to a high-lift door is possible and useful if the garage has several feet of free height above the current tracks. The conversion is not complicated mechanically, but it does need the space.

Note: A high-lift conversion will not make the door opening taller! If you want to increase the opening height, you need a more substantial update to the door.

What do I need for conversion?

Some components need to be added and some replaced to convert a regular-lift door to a high-lift one. The components are:

  1. High-lift drums (larger diameter at one end)
  2. New springs
  3. Track anchors
  4. Track extension (possibly)
  5. New jackshaft-type opener (possibly)

Most of the items are available as high-lift conversion kits.

The jackshaft opener is needed if you want an opener and have several feet of high-lift. Some high-lift can be accommodated by a rail-type opener.

How much does a High Lift conversion cost?

Component kits for converting your garage door to high lift cost from $350 to $500. If you need a new jackshaft opener for the door, add $500 to the budget.

If you hire someone to do the conversion, expect to pay for a day’s work and travel – and additional $700 total for labor is realistic.

Can you DIY a High Lift conversion?

If you’re willing buy a high-lift conversion kit, it is possible to perform the conversion yourself. This does require basic technical skills and reading instructions – and patience to follow safe protocol when working on or close the springs.

A full DIY high-lift conversion where you modify the existing parts is much more challenging. The tracks and their supports will be relatively easy to modify and move, but modifying the springs and drums is not really feasible (must add material).