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Stewart Boat Garage

Architect, Homeowner Look To Schweiss Doors For Unique Hydraulic T-Top Boat Designer garage door

The town of James Island is a beautiful, unique island in South Carolina with a rich history. Nestled amongst the deep blue waters of the Charleston Harbor and the meandering Stono and Folly Rivers, James Island boasts scenic marsh views and a plethora of majestic trees. Once covered in farmland, James Island is now primarily a residential community that has somehow managed to protect that small-town feel its residents and visitors know and enjoy.

One of the residents, Jay Stewart, works an interesting job as a harbor pilot. He’s escorted in a 75-foot pilot boat to climb rope ladders to board larger ships offshore, which he then navigates in and out of Charleston Harbor.

During the construction of his new home, Stewart, with the help of Michael Spivey and his talented architectural team in Charleston, came up with an idea for a boat garage that came to fruition with the assistance of Fairfax, MN-based Schweiss Doors. The design included a hydraulic lifting garage door/windowed wall with a matching roofline that blends in to make the garage look like a small addition to the home.

Spivey Architects is known for producing unbelievable luxury home solutions for their clients. Such was the case with this “hidden” 14-foot-tall by 12-foot-wide custom cut T-Top boat garage designer door.

My neighbors are all very impressed,” says Stewart. “One of the workers put it on Facebook and it went viral. The last time I looked, it had about 15,000 views.” Spivey says Stewart tells people he’s going to charge them $10 to show the door.

Behind the door is a 40'-deep garage for Stewart's 23-foot Contender T-Top fishing boat. There's no indication of the garage by appearance. To any casual observer, it appears to be just another extension to his home.

A T-Top is a type of top for center console boats that is built with a T-shaped structure when viewed from the side. The top is tall enough to stand under and provides shade and rain protection for two or more passengers at the boat’s helm. T-Top boats see a lot of saltwater use.

“Jay told me he needed a garage door, 14 feet tall, and I told him I’m not putting a 14-foot-tall aluminum garage door on a fine, new 6,500 square foot house,” Spivey says. “Just not going to do it! He said, ‘What are we going to do?’ I told him we would have to do a little research. We both separately scouted the Schweiss website while searching ‘hidden’ garage doors on the Internet. So, we found out the same way to solve it.

“I saw a video on the website that showed a front porch and entire deck lifting up on a hangar home. We figured we could do that on a gabled end. I talked him into doing it this way where most of the side of the house opens up to what looks like normal window wall. It was a pretty intense process, going back over shop drawings, because our dimensions were so tight to make it work. We had to make sure that we had enough height for the hydraulic arms to clear the boat. There weren’t zoning restrictions, but the roofline was an issue. We couldn’t get the door tall enough in a rectilinear form to fit within the roofline. The roofline was required because there’s a second story on it and we have a maximum roof height in that neighborhood, so we couldn’t raise the roof any higher. We barely snuck it in there, but it works.”

They also had an overhanging rake soffit that could have conflicted with the door. To overcome that, they had to notch the top of the door on each side with custom cut corners at the roofline, to give the door opening an extra 1-1/2 feet of height. When the one-piece door is wide open, you can see the notched design at the top.

“We had to get with the folks at Schweiss Doors to structure the door steel in a way that would allow the hinge to be shorter than full length across the top,” Spivey says. “It was kind of a complex process but we got it done and it’s up and works.”

Stewart says, “The hydraulic lifting door looks and feels like it is built like a tank. I’m definitely not worried about it falling, I can tell you that.”

With the hydraulic door in the closed position showing off its attractive windows and slanted shingled roof design, you’d never guess it is actually a moving wall/door. You can barely tell where the outside edges meet with the garage itself, giving it the look of just another addition to the home.

Two powerful hydraulic cylinders and a hydraulic pump, placed on the floor about 40 feet from the door itself, quietly lift the door weighing in at 4,945 pounds.

“I like the part that the door is heavy-duty,” Spivey says. “The way it is put together steel-wise, it’s pretty easy to cover up. The inside is covered with plywood wall material, and we ordered the windows to fit between the steel struts. The tricky part for us was to figure out the waterproofing. There’s a rubber flap at the top that works over the hinge. We had to come up with a methodology to put siding up in the pivot of the door to slip underneath, so we had an overlap for waterflow. Then we copper-flashed the whole perimeter and we ran the plywood on the outside, past the opening about four inches and doubled it up with two layers for a substantial lip, if you will. Then we created a copper flashing on the jams and the head and inserted a couple of adhesive-backed gaskets that would compress against the copper when the door closes. So far, no water or rain.”

Installation of the unique door was completed by Stalvey Door Inc. of Florence, S.C. They first became familiar with the Schweiss bifold door line after doing a cable to liftstrap conversion on a large hangar door at Manning Airport. This was their first opportunity to install a hydraulic door.

“It’s a good-looking door,” says Gary Stalvey, owner of Stalvey Door. “I just like the ease of installation, it’s neat, the way the one-piece door works. It is built very well.”

Stewart is quite pleased with the finished door. “I’m very happy with it and I know I’m the first one in Charleston to have one,” he says. “I guarantee I won’t be the last. The builder has already been asked by at least three different people looking for something similar. I’m looking forward to many years of using it.”

About Schweiss Doors

Schweiss-logoSchweiss Doors is the premier manufacturer of hydraulic and bifold liftstrap doors. Doors are custom made to any size for any type of new or existing building for architects and builders determined to do amazing things with their buildings, including the doors. Schweiss also offers a cable to liftstrap conversion package. To learn more, visit or

And to learn about Schweiss' new Build Your Own Door Kit, which gives customers the plans and essential components to build their own Schweiss Doors, visit

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