Ohio Farmer

PowerLift Doors Great Lakes takes responsibility for measurements, design, fabrication, delivery and installation.

Jennifer Kiel, Editor, Michigan Farmer

April 6, 2023

4 Min Read
PhotPowerLift hydraulic doors are manufactured at Elgin Service Center in Elgin Village, Ohio
POWERLIFT: PowerLift hydraulic doors are manufactured at Elgin Service Center in Elgin Village, Ohio. They can accommodate up to a 130-foot-wide opening. Photos by Jennifer Kiel

Making better or more efficient use of old barns — and new ones, too — might lie in simple access by replacing and enlarging door openings.

For the past six years, PowerLift Doors Great Lakes, a division of Elgin Service Center, Ohio, has served as a regional distributor and manufacturer of the PowerLift hydraulic door. PowerLift is a nationwide company with 57 distributors.

What makes them unique in the industry is unlike doors that bifold, fold in half when raising or roll inside of a building, the hydraulic doors move outside of the building.

“It forms an awning and has very few moving parts,” explains Jim Tabler, regional representative for PowerLift Doors. “You've got two cylinders, a pump and your hinges, so it eliminates potential issues with parts breaking.”

Hydraulic doors are a great option for farm buildings — getting tractors and combines in and out — as well as the aviation industry, Tabler says.

“We can open up walls up to 130-foot wide and 30-foot tall,” he adds.

Modifying to accommodate

As equipment keeps getting larger, farmers often struggle to get equipment in and out of older barns. “We can take old barns, reinforce the openings, enlarge it for hydraulic doors, and now what was once underutilized as basic storage is now large enough for equipment to go in and out,” Tabler says.

Bifold doors operate much the same way, except they fold in half as they come up.

“That reduces the height by 1 to 2 feet because of the bifold, so some equipment still can’t get in and out of those doors,” Tabler says. “What has been PowerLift’s surge in the industry is we can open larger areas and keep them open. Our basic design reduces the opening 6 inches in width, 5 inches in height on an inside mount — inside the frame of the building.

“If a customer can't afford to lose those dimensions, we can also mount the door to the outside of the building — losing absolutely nothing in the opening. It just sticks out 10 inches off the front of the building, which a lot of guys will accept that to have the additional distance in the opening.”

The doors have a truss at the bottom of the door. “It kind of looks like a truss on a house, but it's mounted to the bottom of the door, which keeps that door rigid going up and going down,” Tabler says.

Most all doors are designed to swing outward, but at the Elgin Service Center, one hydraulic door swings inward. “There's no real advantage, except for here we've got a lot of semis coming in and out of the building, and we wanted it to open inward, so they didn’t hit the door,” Tabler explains. “Semi drivers are always looking out for other vehicles and people but are not always looking up.”

Being mindful of not parking vehicles or equipment in the door’s path, as well as removal of snow, also is important.

Pricewise, PowerLift doors 20- to 30-foot-wide and larger are most competitive with overhead doors. “Sometimes, actually even less money,” Tabler says.

Custom door sizing and design elements that include windows, walk doors or even full glass have ushered in new markets for hydraulic doors, including residential interest. “We opened a new division within PowerLift called Hideaway, which is a hidden cylinder system that allows even the back of your house to open up from the inside to the outside and incorporate the two together,” Tabler says.

PowerLift’s steel frame and mounting into the building are warranted as long as the building is standing, including its self-lubricating hinges. There is a three-year warranty on cylinders, motors and pumps.

PowerLift is responsible for all aspects of the purchase, including measurements, design, fabrication, delivery and installation.

“We send measurements to PowerLift for blueprinting, we build the door, install the door and if you have an issue down the road, we maintain the door — that's unique to the industry,” Tabler says.

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Farm Shop

About the Author(s)

Jennifer Kiel

Editor, Michigan Farmer

While Jennifer is not a farmer and did not grow up on a farm, "I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone with more appreciation for the people who grow our food and fiber, live the lifestyles and practice the morals that bind many farm families," she says.

Before taking over as editor of Michigan Farmer in 2003, she served three years as the manager of communications and development for the American Farmland Trust Central Great Lakes Regional Office in Michigan and as director of communications with Michigan Agri-Business Association. Previously, she was the communications manager at Michigan Farm Bureau's state headquarters. She also lists 10 years of experience at six different daily and weekly Michigan newspapers on her impressive resume.

Jennifer lives in St. Johns with her two daughters, Elizabeth, 19, and Emily 16.

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