When was the last time you checked your garage door?
Did you know 60% of garage doors were found to be in disrepair or working improperly when tested by the Consumer Product Safety Commission?
The garage door is the most used entrance to the home, yet it is often overlooked and neglected. As something you likely use on a daily basis, it’s worth your time and money to make sure your garage door is in good working order. Learn how investing a little extra time and attention every few months can give you a safer, longer-lasting garage door.
Garage Door History 101
The word garage is derived from the French word garer, meaning to shelter or protect, and that is precisely what they were designed to do. As cars became more and more popular, the need arose for a place to store them, and that is how the garage was born.
Similar to the carriage houses that preceded them, garages were simple structures that served as a way for people to keep their cars safely tucked away when not in use. However, problems with opening and closing the door and, due to the design of the door, the amount of space necessary for the garage were issues that arose with many of the first designs.
The large double doors used at first were heavy and hard to move when it snowed, and the hinges and screws holding them in place wore out quickly due to frequent use. The sliding garage door was another, more versatile style developed, but it called for a larger space, at least double the length of the door, to accommodate for its movement.
To address the various problems of space and movement found in earlier doors, C.G. Johnson invented the first overhead door in 1921. Because this door folded parallel to the ceiling and lifted upward instead of opening outward, it allowed for a smaller garage that was not inhibited by inclement weather. Johnson also went on to invent the first automatic opener just five years later in 1926, though the technology would take more than 40 years to become widespread.
The use of overhead doors caught on quickly and has remained the standard for garage doors to this day, though other aspects of garages and garage doors have continued to shift. For example, most garage doors were initially made from wood but shifted to more durable materials starting in the 70s. Galvanized steel was popular at first, but as technology continued to advance, aluminum finally emerged as the most common, inexpensive, and practical material and is still in use today.
One of the most notable changes in garage design was the transition from the garage being a building separate from the rest of the house to the incorporation of the garage as a part of the home. And an even newer trend has emerged in which the garage door has become a main focal point in the overall design of the house.
The door or doors now make up as much as 30% of the front view of most homes and are incorporated into the architecture to compliment the look of the rest of the house. The overall size of the garage has also increased to accommodate larger vehicles and households with a greater number of vehicles, as well as its use as a storage space for more than just cars.
Garage doors have come a long way since they first emerged on the scene in the early 20th century, and most people never stop to think about just how integral their garage doors are to their lives. The garage door has now replaced the front door as the entrance most commonly used by people to go in and out of their houses, so its maintenance is vital as an essential feature of the home.
Why Is Routine Maintenance Important?
As an essential appliance used regularly in the home, your garage door requires a certain level of maintenance and upkeep. Just as you take your car in for a yearly inspection and an oil change every 3,000 miles or so, your garage door needs to be monitored to make sure it is operating efficiently and any regular wear and tear is being tended to. Some people don’t want to bother with their garage doors until they give out, but here are 5 reasons why investing minimal time and money now can save you more time and money long-term.
First and foremost, you need to consider the safety of you and your family when considering garage door maintenance. A garage door is the largest and heaviest moving part in your home and can exert deadly force when opening and closing, so any kind of malfunction in its operation can be harmful or even deadly. Garage doors today are outfitted with several useful safety features, but they serve no purpose if they are not adequately monitored for functionality. Don’t let negligence or ignorance endanger you or your family.
Busyness is one of the key reasons most people do not regularly maintain their garage door. So take the extra ten to fifteen minutes once a month in your busy schedule to inspect your garage door, so you won’t have to deal with the major inconvenience of a broken garage door or opener. By devoting a small amount of time once a month, which you can schedule at your convenience, you can save yourself the headache of dealing with a garage door emergency, which you won’t have the luxury of planning for, and waiting around to have it repaired or replaced.
If your garage door is not being serviced regularly, chances are it’s not operating at its optimum level of efficiency. Loose bolts, dirty tracks, and faulty safety sensors can all prevent a door from opening and closing normally, which can be frustrating for you and bad for the door long-term. Keeping parts clean and tight will keep your door running smoothly, so you won’t have to worry about an uncooperative garage door when you are in a hurry to get to work in the morning.
4. Add to Home’s Value
Replacing your garage door is one of the most highly recommended renovations to add value to your home and has a return on investment of more than 90%. But all of the reasons a new garage door adds value to your home also apply to the garage door you already have if you keep things in tip-top shape. A well-maintained garage door will last longer and be more appealing to potential buyers, not to mention it’s much more likely to come back with a clean bill of health in a home inspection. Plus, by keeping your door clean and the paint or finish in good shape, you will also increase your curb appeal.
5. Save Money Long Term
Maintaining the various components that make up your garage door and paying for the periodic tune-up or minor repair by a garage door technician cost next to nothing when compared to the average price of a serious garage door malfunction or replacement. Your garage door system is made up of several costly components, so it is in your best interest to extend their lives as long as possible. Keep in mind that while most minor garage door repairs cost around $200, the cost of replacing your garage door and operator is generally at least $1000 or more.
Garage Door Terms You Need to Know
When working on your garage door, you are likely to come across some garage-related terminology you are unfamiliar with. Here are a few terms that are useful to know when looking to do repairs on your own or when speaking with a professional about the necessary maintenance for your door.
Backroom: Backroom is the term used for the length of your garage door from front to back. This measurement is used when determining the size your garage door should be.
Bottom Brackets: As the name would imply, bottom brackets are the brackets installed at the bottom of the door to which the lift cables are connected. Either a single or double roller is installed on each bracket, and these pieces should never be removed because the whole lifting system is under a high level of tension.
Cycle: A garage door cycle starts with the door in the closed position. Once the door has been raised to the open position and then return to the closed position, it has completed one full cycle. The lifespan of springs are usually measured in cycles, and most garage door springs last for about 10,000 cycles.
Extension Springs: Sometimes referred to as stretch springs, the extension springs are counterbalanced springs that provide opening power to lift the door as they stretch. They are each mounted on a rear track hanger on either side of the garage and attached to a pulley at the other end.
Headroom: The headroom of a garage refers to the distance on the interior of the garage between the door, or the opening height, and the ceiling.
Panels: Most garage doors are made up of 4 or 5 panels, which is the name for the individual sections of the door.
R-value: The r-value is the measure of a material’s ability to delay the transmission of heat. The higher the r-value, the better job it does at insulating the inside of the garage from the temperature outside. In general, doors with higher r-values are going to be more expensive than doors with lower r-values.
Rollers: The ball-bearing wheels on a garage door are called rollers, and they allow the door to move up and down the track as it opens and closes. Most rollers are made out of either steel or nylon.
Sideroom: Sideroom is the horizontal measurement within the garage between the side wall, or nearest obstruction, and the side of the garage door. Knowing the sideroom is important when installing a garage door because most companies require a minimum distance of 3 ½ to 4 feet on either side of the door.
Torsion Springs: The torsion spring is the spring mounted above the garage door opening, which turns the shaft that raises and lowers the garage door. It utilizes the same counterbalancing function as the extension springs but actually operates more smoothly and lasts longer when installed properly.
Warning! It’s Best to Be Observant
The most important thing you can do to maintain your garage door is to always be observant.
Despite the fact that most people use their garage doors several times a day, they are often neglected until a serious problem arises or they refuse to open or close at all. Like any other appliance, garage doors wear out over time, which can often be detected by a watchful eye or attuned ear.
If your door begins to make unusual noises, does not move as quickly or efficiently as usual, appears dirty or damaged, or exhibits any other behaviors out of the ordinary, do not brush it off or add it to the bottom of your long home maintenance to-do list. Inspect the problem immediately, and when necessary, seek professional assistance.
Your garage door is too valuable and too powerful a tool to ignore, so pay it the attention it deserves. With proper maintenance and care, you will receive a much greater return on your investment, and you can forgo the potential dangers of a run down door.
Stop! Before You Begin Door Maintenance or Repair...
It is paramount that all the necessary safety precautions be taken when doing work on your garage door. It is the largest moving part in your house, so carelessness can lead to serious injury and even death in some cases. Garage door accidents cause around 30,000 injuries every year, and 1,600 of those occur when people try to do their own garage maintenance without seeking help from a professional. Before doing any work on your garage door, you need to take the following 5 precautions to lessen the risk of any accidents or injuries.
1. Inform others that you will be doing garage door work.
The last thing you want is for another member of your household to try to use the door while you are working on it. It is also useful to have at least one other person present who knows what you are doing and can be of assistance in case of an emergency.
2. Unplug your opener from its power source and make sure no one else has or might use a remote.
Even though you have told everyone you will be working on your garage door, it is best to ensure that it cannot be used or activated by accident during maintenance.
3. Always place locking pliers below the lowest rollers when working on an open door.
4. Always be sure to remove tension from your extension springs.
Should you need to do any work involving your lift cables, you must do this before beginning. These springs can do significant damage if they pop or are released incorrectly.
5. Know your technical knowledge and physical limitations.
Don’t attempt repairs you are uncomfortable with handling yourself. If you have a weird feeling about something, just stop and call a professional. Do NOT mess with your torsion spring. This is one piece of equipment that needs to be left to the professionals because it has the potential to cause serious harm to you or your home if not handled properly.
Periodic Visual Inspection Items
The first step to maintaining your garage door is to always be attentive and pay attention to the way your door and opener are operating. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, it could be an indicator of a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Along with giving your garage door the attention it needs and deserves, you should periodically take the time to give it a closer look and really evaluate the condition of the individual parts. It will only take a few minutes of your time to do a basic visual inspection, and you will save yourself both time and money in the long run.
Start by inspecting your rollers for cracks and chips that will prevent them from moving smoothly along the tracks, especially if your door uses nylon rollers that have a tendency to wear away over time. If you have steel rollers, you’ll want to take a look at the bearings to be sure the wheel has not become tilted and is still rolling evenly.
You should NEVER remove the bottom roller bracket while making repairs because it is connected to a cable under a great deal of tension and could snap, injuring you or anyone nearby. If you need to make any replacements, a variety of rollers can be found at your local hardware store, along with a set of instructions to walk you through the process.
The high-tension cables that help operate your garage door need to be checked for wear and fraying, especially where they connect near the bottom roller bracket because this area receives the most exposure to moisture. If there is any dirt or buildup present, you should remove it using an old toothbrush or another soft-bristled brush, but do NOT attempt to fix or replace any worn or frayed cables as that could be dangerous.
Contact a garage door specialist for cable replacement, as it is something only a trained professional is qualified to do. If one of the cables were to snap, it could injure or even kill you due to the high level of tension under which they are kept.
3. Clear Tracks
If the your garage door tracks are not in good shape, they will prevent your garage door from opening and closing properly, if at all. This also places an increased amount of strain on your garage door opener, as well as the springs and cables, which can cause them to wear out and need replacing much more quickly.
First examine the tracks for bends, breaks, cracks, and other damage. Should any be found, contact a garage door specialist. Track replacement and repair is a job best left to a professional.
Next, you want to use a bubble level to ensure that your track has not come loose or shifted over time. If the track needs to be adjusted, you can do this by loosening the screws on the support bracket and shifting the track until the level is even. Once the adjustments have been made, secure the track in place and tighten the bolts.
Finally, you want to make sure that the tracks remain clear of dirt and debris. You can use an old toothbrush to dislodge any buildup, and then they should be wiped down to remove any remaining dirt and grime. It is recommended to use brake cleaner as a cleaning agent, but never use lubrication on the tracks as this can make them too slippery and cause them to become unbalanced.
4. Check Electrical Wiring
It is easy to forget about the wiring for your garage door opener and photo eye sensors, but it needs to be inspected along with the rest of the garage door system to ensure everything is properly connected and the system has adequate access to its power source.
Take a few minutes to inspect the wires running from the photo eye sensors, as they are located nearest to the opening of the garage door and are most likely to be exposed to wind and rain.
The garage is also the area of the home most likely to contain pests, which can easily damage or disconnect wires. Be sure that your garage door opener is securely plugged into the outlet (only after any other repair work is complete) and that there is no damage to the outlet or outlet cover into which is plugged. If you have any exposed wires, don’t try to fix it yourself since electricity can be dangerous. Simply call a professional to make the necessary repairs and prevent any further issues.
Four Must-Do Quarterly Garage Door Tests
Along with your periodic visual inspection, there are 4 tests you should perform every three months to ensure that all of the safety features built into your garage door system are indeed functioning correctly. These built-in safety measures make garage doors exponentially safer than they once were, but they won’t do you any good if they aren’t working. By performing these simple tests, you can ensure your garage door is truly as safe as it should be.
1. Is My Garage Door Balanced?
To test the balance of your garage door, you will first need to close the door and disconnect the opener. Most openers are outfitted with a red pull cord attached to the disconnect switch, which allows you to open and close the door manually when enabled.
After disconnecting, manually raise the door about halfway. The door should be easy to lift and remain halfway open without falling or continuing to open on its own. Your springs are under too much tension if the door continues to rise and not enough tension if it falls after being released. If your door is not properly balanced, contact a garage door repairman to adjust the tension in your springs.
2. Does My Auto-Reverse Sensor Work?
In order to prevent someone or something from being trapped under or crushed by your garage door, the auto-reverse sensor on garage doors was made mandatory, along with the photo eye, on all doors made starting in 1993. This safety feature is easy to test and lessens the risk of serious accidents and damage caused by your garage door.
While the door is fully open, lay a solid object that will not be detected by the photo eye (such as a brick or 2x4) centered on the floor beneath the garage door. Press the button to close the garage door. When the door makes contact with the object, it should immediately reverse to avoid doing any damage. If the door harms the object or does not reverse at all, you should contact a professional to adjust your door as soon as possible.
3. Are My Photo Eye Sensors Aligned?
The photo eye is a safety feature on your garage door designed to prevent the door from closing on someone or something. This feature is simple to test and can usually be easily adjusted.
First double check that your sensors are located about six inches from the ground and appear to be aligned with one another. Stand near the sensor and use your remote to close the door. As it begins to close, wave an object back and forth in between the sensors to interrupt their connection. The door should immediately stop and begin to rise again.
If this does not happen, inspect the wiring around your photo eyes to ensure that they are properly connected and check to make sure the red and green LED lights are lit on each sensor. If the problem persists, contact a professional for assistance.
4. Is My Force Setting Too High or Too Low?
The force settings on your garage door opener are what regulate how much power is used to open and close the door. There is an up limit and down limit, and they need to be set correctly in order for the door to open and close as it should.
The closing force is the largest concern because if it is set too high, your door could crush someone or something beneath it, and if it is set too low, your door will be overly sensitive and have trouble staying closed at all.
To test the force setting, start with your garage door in the open position and, once you are ready, close the door. As it closes, hold your hands firmly out in front of you beneath the door. When the door makes contact with your hands, it should quickly begin to reverse.
If it does not, quickly remove your hands and adjust the setting on your opener. There are two knobs that can be used to alter the up and down force settings located on the opener itself, and your user manual should be consulted for the proper range at which they should be set.
4 Important Tune-Ups At Least Once A Year
Some of the parts on your garage door do not need to be inspected or serviced quite as often but still require routine maintenance to maximize the efficiency of your garage door. If you have time, you can perform these tasks along with your quarterly safety testing. But at the very least, make time for these services once a year, and your garage door will benefit significantly.
1. Why Tighten Loose Parts?
If you have an overly noisy garage door, loose nuts and bolts are likely the culprit.
The average garage door goes up and down more than 1,000 times a year, which is a lot of vibration and movement for the hardware to endure. All you will need for this quick tune-up is a socket wrench and a little elbow grease. Once you tighten up the roller brackets and the bolts that connect the brackets to the rail itself, your garage door should move up and down without all the racket.
2. How Effective Is My Weatherstripping?
Weatherstripping is essential to keeping the elements out of your garage and sealing it against moisture. At least once a year, you need to check the stripping along the bottom of your door and along the edges of the opening to your garage to check for signs of significant wear, cracks, chips, or brittleness. You can also detect a break in the seal by looking for places through which light is still able to shine while the garage door is completely closed.
If you want to replace your weatherstripping yourself, it can be found at most hardware stores and is a relatively cheap fix. However, if you do not feel comfortable installing it yourself or simply don’t have the time, most garage door companies are able and willing to perform the service for you.
3. Is Lubrication Really Necessary?
Keeping the parts of your garage door well lubricated can add years to its life and will only cost you a few minutes and the price of a can of lubricant.
You will want to lubricate the garage door’s springs, hinges, and bearings, being careful not to use any lubrication on the tracks or on nylon rollers (though the bearings in the center of the rollers should still be lubricated).
When trying to decide what to use to lubricate your door, do NOT use WD-40. People often mistake this product as a lubricant, but it is not. You want to use a silicon-based spray or white lithium grease for the best, most long-lasting effects when lubricating your garage door.
4. What? I Need to Clean My Garage Door?
Your garage door makes up about 1/3 of the front view of your home, so keeping it clean has the added bonus of improving the overall appearance of your house. It also helps maintain the materials from which your door is made, extending the life of the door by keeping everything in good condition.
Both the inside and outside of the door need to be cleaned. The soap or cleaner used on your garage door will depend on what kind of garage door you have. Most doors should be cleaned with water and a mild liquid soap using a soft sponge or cloth and rinsed with the hose.
Wooden doors, however, should be wiped down using a dry cloth and may need to occasionally be repainted or stained to maintain its appearance and seal the wood from the elements. Before cleaning the inside of the door, you may first want to use a broom to remove any cobwebs or debris that have built up since the last cleaning.
One-Time Completion, Long-Term Benefits
Should I Install Lift Handles?
While garage doors are much less likely to be lifted by hand today than they were twenty years ago, the installation of lift handles can still be a handy addition to your door.
Most garage doors are comprised of a series of panels that pose a threat to fingers as the door moves and gaps flatten out and disappear. The number one injury caused by garage doors is people catching their hands and fingers between door panels, which can pinch, crush, or even amputate the targeted appendage. By adding a lift handle, you provide yourself with a safe place to grab the door should you ever need to raise or lower it manually.
When installing your handle, you will need to consider the headroom in your garage. You do not want to install a handle that sticks out too far and prevents your garage door from opening fully. If there is only a little space between your garage ceiling and the door itself, look for a handle that sits relatively close to the door to prevent blockage.
What Do Containment Cables Do?
The springs on your garage door are very powerful and can do serious damage to anyone or anything around them when they break. Containment cables are a safety feature designed to prevent springs from lashing out or whipping around in case they snap and something you can easily and safely install yourself in just a matter of minutes.
To install your containment cables, first bolt the cable to the bracket at the front of your upper rail. Run it through the spring and out the other side, bolting it to the upper support bracket. Be sure to make one full loop with the cable around the bolt, and then secure it with a fender washer and locknut. This secures the spring, keeping it in place if it snaps or is disconnected unintentionally.
7 Questions to Ask Your Garage Door Maintenance Company
Unfortunately, today people should maintain a heightened sense of caution when hiring contractors to work in and around their homes, and the garage door industry is no different.
The Better Business Bureau has dealt with reports of garage door repair scams, and you can never be too careful where the safety of your home and family are concerned. Before hiring someone to work on your garage door, here are 7 questions you can ask the company in order to make sure you receive quality service for an honest price.
1. How qualified are your technicians?
As an industry, licensing is not required for garage door technicians, but you want to make sure your repairman has the necessary experience and expertise to properly service your garage door. The company should be able to tell you what type of certification or training is required of their employees and their average technician tenure, and your technician needs to appear in a professional manner (uniform, vehicle, etc.) and provide valid identification upon arrival.
2. Does the business belong to any trade associations?
Reputable companies are likely to belong to some form of industry trade group at either the local, state, national, or international level. Organizations like the International Door Association and Door & Access Systems Manufacturers Association ensure that their members meet certain criteria, so membership indicates a high level of commitment to the field and helps keep companies up-to-date on the best practices and products used in the industry.
If your company is not associated with any groups or organizations, you might ask why they have chosen not to be involved.
3. Do you offer service in my area? Will there be additional fees for travel?
There are usually more than one garage door company in every city, sometimes tens or even hundreds depending on where you live, so you want to be sure that the company you are working with has a technician located near your address.
Some companies may have a large service area and are willing to travel, but this “generous” service is often accompanied by an inflated price. If that’s the case, you want to find a company in your area so that you can avoid already having a bill before the work on your door even begins.
4. What payment options do you offer?
Be very cautious if the company says they will only accept cash payment. This should be a red flag and may indicate that the business does not have the necessary licensing or is evading taxes. With modern technology, any reputable company should be able to accept credit cards in addition to cash and checks.
5. Do you charge for estimates? If so, how much?
You want to know everything you will be charged for when seeking service for your garage door, and some companies will charge you just to give you their opinion of what the problem might be. Look for a business that is willing to assess the problem and help you make a decision about what needs to be done without pressuring you into using their service or hitting you with additional service fees. Some reputable companies will charge a minimal fee for estimates but allow you to deduct that from your order if you choose them.
6. How quickly can I schedule? How long will the work take?
While same or next-day service is ideal and offered by many companies, you should at least be able to find a company that will service your door within a reasonable amount of time from your initial inquiry. Keep in mind that certain times of the year may be busier than others, but do not wait around on a company that insists on weeks and weeks of advanced notice or if they cancel your appointment more than once.
7. What type of warranties do you offer and for how long do they last?
You want the company working on your garage door to stand confidently behind their work so that you can have confidence in the work you receive. At the very least, the company should match the manufacturer’s warranty of their products, and often they will offer an extended guarantee on their service. You do not want a company that expects you to pay a second time if a part they replaced stops working just a few weeks later. Plus, ask them how long they’ve been in business; they can offer a fabulous guarantee and then close up shop, leaving no recourse of warranty work that needs to be done.
Aside from asking questions, you should also take time to research the company and explore their web presence. Read customer reviews and check ratings on Yelp and Google to see what experiences past users have had. Remember that no company is perfect, so do not expect the company to have nothing but a perfect string of 5-star ratings. You are looking for honest reviews and an overall consensus that the company is upstanding and does quality work for an affordable price.
Why Use Mr. Garage Door?
Your garage door is an indispensable part of your daily life and is worth the time and energy to properly maintain. Remember that being attentive is the key to keeping your garage door running safely and efficiently, but sometimes you will need to rely on professional assistance to help you with some of the more involved maintenance tasks.
Mr. Garage Door is a full-service garage door company that strives to provide every customer with reliable, expert service for an affordable price. All of our technicians receive individual training both in the classroom and out in the field to ensure they know how to provide you with the service you need, and we offer free estimates and upfront pricing so that you always know exactly what our work will cost. Everything we do is backed by our 100% Lifetime Workmanship Guarantee because your satisfaction is our top priority.
Your garage door is too important to entrust to just anyone. When you need garage door service and repair, choose a company you can count on to do the job well and for a reasonable price. We hope that for you, Mr. Garage Door can be your company. Call us today at (844) 900-3015!