Dear PoP – DC Ban on Roll-Up Garage Doors?

Photo by PoPville flickr user ewilfong

“Dear PoP,

I am looking at having a new patio and a garage door installed at my townhouse in Shaw. I received the email below from the landscaper, notifying me that DC passed a law in August prohibiting the installation of roll-up garage doors. Given the hundreds / thousands of roll-up doors in DC, could that possibly be true? Are any of your other readers familiar with this law?

Unfortunately the salesman at [redacted] I spoke with informed me that as of August of last year, there is a law prohibiting the installation of automatic roll up gates on residential property where it is not protected by an overhead carport like structure. He told me that they if they have any mechanical failures that they (or any manufacturer) would not replace any of the automatic components on the existing gates. This was enacted for some sort of liability issue. I imagine that you would still be able to find someone to install one but it seems that any type of warranty would not be honored. This is of course the situation as of now. A future solution may be reached.

Whoa! Anyone else heard of this law? Does it make any sense?

38 Comment

  • “where it is not protected by an overhead carport like structure”

    OK, I really know nothing about this at all, but this sounds like it’s fine to install one as long as it’s being installed on a carport or garage.

    As opposed to a free-standing roll-up door, I guess? Not sure who would do that but I’m sure they are out there.

    • There are hundreds of free standing roll-up doors all over the city – at least 3 in my row.

      I recently called 5 vendors to get quotes and not one expressed an interest in working this project in DC.

      Wonder if they know/knew something in advance… ?

      • Ah okay, I got it now. I said free-standing roll-up door but I was thinking about those garage doors that just ride up on metals tracks.

      • i recently called a few – and the ones who were willing and able warned me in advance that we’d be talking at least 8K as a starting point. that was enough to end the conversation and realize it’s not that bad to just get out of the car and open the gate.

        i can get the name of the vendor if you’d like.

        • That sounds like a deal from the prices I’ve heard quoted. They’ve never been cheap and as mentioned before, steel is getting quite expensive.

        • Does that include structure to support the door? My quote was half that for a 14′ wide door.

      • me

        One was just installed behind my place (a neighbor’s house, not mine) not 2 months ago. It’s not connected to anything, except for the backyard fence.

  • I believe this is completely false. We just finished re-doing our back yard (1 month ago) with a free standing roll up garage door that is not covered by or connected to a car port. The work was fully permitted by DC.

    In fact, the only thing that we couldn’t get a permit for (without a public hearing) was to actually build a car port to connect to the roll up door b/c it would have covered more than a certain percentage of our backyard, which apparently IS against the law. The roll-up garage door wasn’t a problem for the permitting office.

    I would suggest looking for a different contractor.

    • Hey OatsDC,

      I would love to hear more about you experience since it seems like you are one of the only posts on here with first hand knowledge. Price? Neighborhood? Company Name?

  • I have heard rumors of a ban, but can’t seem to find if it was actually enacted.

    I am kind of torn on these doors. I like the security they provide, and they are fairly useful for keeping out an opportunistic thief.

    On the other hand, I think they look hideous with just a big framework and a door hanging out there in space. They also give me the same impression that a house with bars on all the windows gives. For some reason a proper garage doesn’t give me the same feeling.

    Taking that all into consideration, if I didn’t have a garage I would probably try to have one of these put in.

    • ++100
      These structures are hideous looking. There’s one in Mt Pleasant with this VERY tall fence and then the structure behind to support the door. Awful. Not sure why anyone would want to look at that in their backyard.

  • Hmm. we had planned to do this in the future too. Disappointing to here.

    FYI for other readers — people use free standing garage doors often due to zoning reasons. Due to lot occupancy requirements, you can’t build a garage, but can put up a garage door.

  • does it really offer that much security if the structure doesn’t even have a roof? there a few of these in my alley with some extremely expensive cars in them. Not sure why the owners don’t spend another thousand or so and actually build a roof (but that may be getting into a whole other level of permitting at DCRA).

    • It prevents easy access to/from your property, much like any other fence or gate. But it also gives you the convenience of an automatic remote-control door for getting your car in and out, I suppose.

    • the roof gets into lot coverage and minimum offset problems – zoning nightmare, if not impossibility. the freestanding door is just a fence in the eyes of the city.

      i don’t think the people you see using them are using it for the security…it’s more about the convenience of having an automatic door in an area where a swing gate can’t get wide enough, or a sliding gate isn’t practical due to lot size.

  • I’d call the guys at the company that begins with a “P” that have been mentioned on PoP before. Find out what they say. I was under the impression that they weren’t strictly legal for the most part anyway. This company’s structures are in a very strong steel housing, so I’m not sure what the concern is. The “Overhead door company” was never willing to install them on anything other than a commercial structure as far back as 3 years ago, so the law wouldn’t make a difference in this case.

    Steel is getting expensive so these roll up doors are too. I’d sell drugs to kinder-gardeners to get one installed.

  • bfinpetworth

    We have a regular garage door on tracks, not a roll up. It works fine and probably offers the same amount of security/privacy. I’m a big fan of the door – it provides at least a sense of security (important sometimes) and also succeeds in enclosing our back yard for our three dogs to do their business, while offering me the ease of remote control entry when returning in my car. It looks a little funny to newcomers but we are used to it and it works just fine for us.

    Regarding security, I assume if I’m looking to break in and I have a choice between having to climb a six foot fence or just walking up to a rear window, I’d choose the no-fense option. So its a deterrent.

  • I had a freestanding garage door installed 4+ years ago and replaced recently when the neighbor kid tried to take his mom’s car out for a ride and drove through it. The roll-up industrial type gates are very expensive and have limitations. Liability torts require that automatic doors have a reverse mechanism in case a child would get trapped under a closing door, I don’t think the roll-up gates can provide that. Plus a regular garage door on tracks is about 1/8th the price of a roll up door. The trick is that you have to have a framework to support the door, tracks and motor. We first had to hire a carpenter to build the framework which ended up costing more that the door w/opener. Since all the components are exposed to the elements the warranty is automatically voided. There are minor precautions that we take to extend the life of the door and mechanisms that you might not if it was installed in a full garage but the privacy, security and convenience are worth it. The reinstall in January for a 16ft wide door was around $1500 with Overhead Door Company.

    • Agree on pricing. These roll-up garage doors are expensive. I would argue that you’re wrong on the automatic reverse (mine has one activated by that little light beam at the bottom). Also, the components should never be exposed to the elements which is why you should buy the weather covers (metal) that protect the motor as well as the rolled up door when it’s rolled up. A couple thousand extra but well worth it.

    • My rollup has a a reverse mechanism installed.

  • bfinpetworth

    I just did a search of DC Code and regulations and found nothing on this.

  • Your contractor is just scared to work in your neighborhood and gave you a plausible cover story rather than the truth. Whatever the real reason, it’s easy to scapegoat the anonymous government rather than admit their own deficiency.

    DCRA approves roll-up gates all the time. Even the historic society approves them most of the time; sometimes they don’t. Not sure why. Zoning’s rule for lot coverage is why people don’t build a garage. You can only cover a certain percentage of your lot with structures (including decks). The percentage is different depending on your zone. You might be able to build over lot coverage, but you have to go to the zoning board and that could take 4-6 months.

  • I am having one of these roll-up doors installed as I write on my Columbia Heights townhouse; got the permit with no trouble. Did it in conjunction with removing my old, broken up driveway and walk and replacing it with new concrete, so it isn’t cheap, but I can now get both my cars off the street.

    • DBV: Who are you using? If you prefer sending me the person’s name offline, please send me an email at: dkroth2(at) Thanks much.

  • My reasoning in getting one would be to prevent people from parking in my parking spaces. I live in Columbia Heights and we have parking spaces that were built with the houses. I work nights and when I come home (especially in the winter) I frequently find someone’s car in my space. Having two “Do Not Park” signs makes no difference. If it’s dark and cold people will park there. The fights and arguments I had with car owners would be worth the price. I thought about putting a chain across the spaces but then that means getting out, unlocking the lock, etc. So if I could afford it, I would put up a door just so that when I come home I wouldn’t have to get into an argument or tow someone’s car.

  • We used Pooner and sons a couple of years ago. The whole thing cost around 8-10,000. Not worth it for resale, but it was great for security and convenience.

  • I am the contractor who sent this email. I would like to make clear what the gentleman at the roll up door distributor told me. It is not a DC or jurisdictional law that prohibits these doors from being installed. It is apparently the industry itself proclaiming them to be a liability and as of last August they can not legally sell these doors knowing that they will be installed in a DC Rowhouse alley situation with no overhead structure. This does not necessarily mean that a contractor out there will not install them obviously. I think it all seems silly myself and $8-10k for a double roll up gate also seems outrageous given the fact that a manual gate installed is around half of that. Running electrical wire and an automated unit shouldn’t cost 5k.

    • Given what I’ve seen around DC, Pooner and Son’s set the standard for quality roll up door installation. I haven’t seen another installation that matches their work. The roll up door itself is only part of the equation as they also have a substantial steel structure to support it. Anyone can put up a double header on 6×6’s and then put in a lousy standard garage door. In my opinion, it looks like cheap contractor crap.

      The pooner door is expensive, but it’s not going to rot in 10 years (as PT wood will) and then create a hazard. This is probably the origin of the lack of insurance support for freestanding door installation – wood frames would create a long term hazard due to the weight of the door and the tendency for exposed wood to deteriorate.

      As I mentioned earlier, as long as 3 years ago the “overhead Door company” was not allowing it’s installations on a freestanding structure. However, they continue to be installed about town at a fairly reasonable pace. This isn’t news.

    • thanks for the info. I currently have a swing out gate that such a pain to open and close. I thought about the pooner and sons option, but was blown away by the $8,000 quote. I would love to get a manual roll up gate, but I have no idea how to get one/who will install one. Any suggetsions?

  • I had my contractor install one just a few months ago and it was $500 for the door through and $700 for my carpenter.

    I love my door but who would spend $8-10K for this ?

    • Id’ be extremely concerned for safety if someone installed a roll up door on wood posts in DC’s climate. It will be safe for 5-10 years, but then it will be a distinct hazard.

  • damn, i got a quote a few years ago for 4,000 total. maybe i should have done it.

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