Turning a garage’s service door into an automatic self-closing one can protect belongings and people in the event of a fire. This short guide covers how to make your service door self-closing while bringing your house up to code:

  1. Replace two of the hinges with self-closing ones.
  2. If replacing the hinges doesn’t work, use a door closer for that extra oomph of power and control.

Most safety codes require that the door to an attached garage be “fire-rated”. A self-closing mechanism keeps a garage fire from spreading over to the rest of the house. But luckily, making a self-closing door is as easy as replacing the hinges or adding a door closer. Either option will pass code and costs about the same.

To install self-closing hinges, take your current middle hinge to a home improvement center or lumberyard to find self-closing hinges that have plates the same size as the ones on your current door. You may have to chisel out the edge of the door to get a new hinge with square corners to fit into a mortise’s round-cornered hinges.

The difference with self-closing hinges is that they have a bigger barrel to protect the internal spring, the mechanism that makes the door self-closing. Switch out the hinges one at a time so you won’t have to constantly remove the door. Then wind and fine-tune the garage door springs according to what is in the hardware kit.

Door closers are a good option for doors that have unusual-sized hinges or if the door’s existing frame doesn’t allow for the thickness that a self-closing hinge barrel has. Door closers can be mounted on either side of the door and an instruction manual for installation usually comes with the closer.

Whether going with a door closer or self-closing hinges, fine-tune the mechanism and test it to make sure that the door closes and opens by itself from a wide-open position.