Residential Aircraft Hangar Door and Ceiling Heights – Here are a few points to consider.

by Engineer Designer on July 5, 2016

When deciding upon the specifications of a residential hangar home one of the decisions we face is how high to make the ceilings and main doors of the hangar. Besides factors of cost, there are a few specific issues that should be addressed as one endeavors to make that decision. These factors have to do with the Building Codes themselves as well as the size of the equipment that we intend to park within the confines of the hangar..

As most of us have discovered in our lives, we tend to fill every available nook and cranny of our existence with our “stuff”. George Carlin had a great bit regarding the subject which is hilarious to hear as it hits very close to the truth  in most of our lives.

A hangar is no exception. Of course we keep our airplane(s) in the hangar but usually that space becomes home to much, much more. One key possession that more and more folks are storing in their hangers is their motor home RV’s .

So a common question, when designing a hangar home, whether or not the owner owns a motor home or not (because he should consider future owners), is how large and how high  do we  build the hangar to accommodate not only our airplane(s) also our RV’s.

Here are some factors to consider:

THE RULES (ie, the Codes)

When I speak of the rules I am talking about the Building Code. Speaking specifically of “residential aircraft hangars” there are height limitations which are voiced in the code which  can become factors when determining the ceiling height of the structure. The building code does not address, directly, the height of the ceiling but it does address the overall building height as measured by the average height of its highest roof plane.  This can certainly relate to ceiling heights. This factor becomes more complicated if one is looking to build a residential home above the hangar and this factor, occasionally, can affect the entire project..  As a side, future articles will address this interesting conundrum in the industry with specific recommendations as to how to handle. But for our purposes here, generally, ceiling height and the code limitations, as currently written, are such that most reasonable heights, within a one story structure, will comply with the Code.

AIRCRAFT TAIL HEIGHTS

Let’s face it, the main reason for a hangar home is to store our precious airplanes. Most general aviation aircraft have tail heights significantly less than 14 feet. Unless one is parking his or her Airbus or some type of airliner or large twin in the hangar, he or she can be quite certain that most airplanes will fit into hangers with clearances as low as 12 feet. Most Beechcraft airplanes will fit through a door opening with a 14 foot high clearance with the exceptions of all the King Air’s  and Queen Air’s. Even the Beechcraft Baren and the twin Bonanzas will fit through a 12 foot high opening.. Most of the Cessna’s will fit with the exceptions of the Caravans and the Citations. Bottom line, if you are flying a jet or large twin of most any manufacturer then you will likely be wanting a hangar much larger than the 2000 ft.² limitation for residential hangar and you will want a door and ceiling height of appropriate heights. If you are operating in that range of aircraft you undoubtedly know the height of your aircraft and will give your designer appropriate instructions to accommodate the sizes.

However, for most GA aircrafts, the 12 to 13 foot height is quite appropriate and will fit  most anything  that we see in the typical aviation communities..

MOTORHOME HEIGHTS

Motor homes  come in a wide range of heights. When I designed and built my own hangar home, I placed an actual motor home door in the front of the hangar. It is 12 feet high..  At that time I considered that it was sufficiently appropriate for any motor home that I would realistically obtain. I still do. However, that was 10 years ago and since then I have learned that many motor homes are being built  with heights that exceed 12 feet. However even the large ones do not necessarily exceed 12’. I have a son with a 36 foot motor home and we measured it the other day and found it would easily fit, even with the AC, through the door. His has a “basement” (storage under the floor) and other luxury factors yet fits with no issues. However, the length is tight. A typical 2000 sqft hangar (50’x40’ is a typical footprint) leaves only about 38’8” inside dimension to fit the unit. Workable…..but tight, by many standards. When one thinks of it, if a Residential Aircraft Hangar is being comtemplate (2000 sqft limit) then any motor home that will reasonably fit will be unlikely to exceed 12 feet in height.  Frankly I believe that my 12 foot height is quite appropriate.

However, the limitations on motor homes heights, by law at of the time of this writing, is 13 feet and 6 inches. Realistically, as in airplanes as noted above, extremely large motor homes such as the Provost style coaches (sizes 40’ or longer) can exceed 13’. However even the largest of these, at the time of this writing, rarely reach 13’. And the same argument would apply, if one is looking at a Residential Aircraft Hangar limited to 2000 ft.² then likely 40 feet will be too bit and a unit much larger than 32 to 34 feet in length will be impractical.

So a good rule of thumb, in my opinion,, is that for residential hangers a 13 foot height  is more than sufficient  for anything that one might reasonably be storing. As with airplanes, the larger hangers may require beg for greater heights of ceiling and doors however I think that 14 feet  would be a comfortable height for hangers all the way up to 4000 ft.². Above that, owners may be considering much larger airplanes and the airplane, note the motor home, will become the basis for the design of all height clearances.

HEADERS ABOVE HANGAR DOORS

Obviously ceiling height and hangar door opening heights might be different. If the structural span over the hangar door is designed correctly, one can eliminate the need for a header extending down below the ceiling and can actually make the door height and ceiling heights very close together indeed. This, however, is dependent upon the type of hangar door chosen and these factors must be considered during design.

SUMMARY

So in my opinion, if one is looking to build in Residential Aircraft Hangar of typical size of 50 feet wide by 40 feet deep, and excellent target for height is for the ceilings to be placed at 13’4”  above the hangar floor (this is a perfect height for masonry walls and can be easily achieved regardless of material used) and to make the door 13 feet high.  This will accommodate most any aircraft that can reasonably be fit within the space and same for the motor homes.

There are, of course, always exceptions but this should serve as a good rule of thumb.

As always, you can contact me any time with questions.