HomeownerEducational: A-M

Garage Doors

Garage Doors

Garage Door Maintenance

Regular maintenance by a professional is important for keeping your garage door in safe working order. However, there are several safety tests and maintenance tasks that can be done by the homeowner and should be performed on a monthly basis. If anything looks or sounds different than normal, call a professional.

Visual inspection. From the inside of the garage, look at the garage door system. Check the cables, springs, pulleys, rollers, and hardware to make sure they are not damaged, loose, or showing signs of wear.

Lubrication. Apply garage door lubricant to the garage door hinges and springs as well as the roller bearings if they are unsealed. Be sure to clean out any hardened or clumpy grease. Do not lubricate any plastic parts, and use caution when lubricating the springs. Garage door springs operate under high tension, and mishandling can result in severe injuries and property damage. Homeowners who live in dry, dusty locations or areas that experience a lot of cold weather will need to clean and lubricate their garage door systems more often than those who live in areas with more moderate climates.

Door balance test. If a garage door opener is installed, disengage it before conducting this test. Open the garage door by hand to confirm that it opens as it should. Then, pull the door about halfway down, and let go of it. It should stop between three and four feet above the ground.

Reversal test. If a garage door opener is automatic and was manufactured after January 1, 1993, it is legally required to have a reversing mechanism and a sensor at the bottom of the door in order to prevent the garage door from closing if something is in its path. To test that the reversing mechanism and sensor are working, place a small wooden beam on the floor where the garage door should close, and then attempt to close the door. The door should hit the piece of wood and immediately reverse to a fully open position.

Force setting test. Automatic garage door openers have a setting that determines the amount of force with which a garage door closes. To test the force setting, push against the bottom of the garage door as it closes. This should trigger the reversing mechanism, causing the door to go back to an open position.

When to Call a Contractor

Damaged or broken springs. Garage door systems include either torsion or extension springs above the garage door. During proper operation, much of the weight of the door is supported by these springs, allowing for easy opening. When a spring breaks, the door is no longer properly supported and will become difficult or impossible to lift. If the garage door opener seems to be working but the door barely moves or doesn’t move at all, a broken spring is likely to blame. Replacing garage door springs is an extremely dangerous job that should always be left to the experts, and springs should be replaced in pairs to ensure that the weight of the door remains evenly distributed. Pairing a new, strong spring with an older one will hasten the wear on the old spring, which will usually break a short while later as a result.

Missing or broken cables. When a garage door spring breaks, it releases a tremendous amount of energy and, if uncontrolled, can seriously injure a person or damage a vehicle or a wall. If a garage door has a torsion spring system, the springs will be located inside a shaft or tube that should prevent them from causing any harm if they break. Extension springs, on the other hand, are attached to safety cables that, if properly installed, will prevent damage and injury by controlling the springs if they fail. If a garage door has extension springs but not safety cables, arrange for a professional to install safety cables as soon as possible.

Grinding or unusual noises when opening or closing. Because garage door systems involve a lot of moving parts, the process of opening and closing a garage door can be rather noisy. However, if the homeowner hears grinding noises or anything that sounds out of the ordinary, it is important to stop the garage door opener or, if the door is being maneuvered by hand, stop attempting to open or close it. Grinding or unusual noises can be caused by a number of different issues, from broken or loose rollers to worn hardware to a bad gear drive in the opener. Unless the solution is obvious, it is best to consult a garage door professional for diagnosis.

Unbalanced door. If a garage door falls or starts to close by itself when opened manually, or if it doesn’t stay in contact with the ground after being closed, the door is most likely out of balance. Unbalanced garage doors often appear to be uneven or slanted to one side. This puts unnecessary strain on one side of the garage door system and will cause the hardware on that side to wear out more quickly. Imbalance can also contribute to unusual noises when opening and closing the door.

Broken opener. If nothing happens when the button on the garage door opener is pushed, make sure the opener has power. The opener is usually plugged into a normal electrical outlet located directly above it. Try plugging something else into the outlet to see if it’s working. If the electrical outlet is not functioning, check the circuit breakers in the main service panel before calling a professional for help.

Garage Door Materials

Steel garage doors. Due to its strength, high insulation capability, and few maintenance requirements, steel is one of the most popular materials for garage doors.

Wooden garage doors. The classic garage door material, wood’s durability and beauty continue to appeal to homeowners. However, wooden garage doors are very high maintenance. Wood is an especially popular material for custom garage doors.

Aluminum garage doors. Aluminum does not rust and is largely maintenance-free. The light weight of aluminum doors makes them a good choice for wide garage openings.

Fiberglass garage doors. Unlike metal or wood garage doors, fiberglass doors are salt-air resistant, making them a great option for homes in coastal areas. However, fiberglass does not fare as well in cold climates. In addition to being a poor insulator, fiberglass is more susceptible to breakage in low temperatures.

Plastic or vinyl garage doors. Due to their durability, light weight, and minimal upkeep, plastic and vinyl garage doors have gained a boost of popularity in recent years. Plastic and vinyl doors will not rot or corrode, and because light-colored doors are typically manufactured with UV-resistant materials, they are less likely to fade from sun exposure.

Painting garage doors. Most garage door materials can be easily painted. Painting is a fun and affordable customization option for those who do not need a brand-new door.