As long as it is doing its job right, your garage door likely never captures your attention. But the moment it sticks midpoint, refuses to close, grinds up or down, or far worse, injures you or someone else, it jumps to the top of the priority list. Addressing your garage door’s basic needs for maintenance will keep it working in tip-top shape and help you avoid expensive service calls from garage door technicians.
Types of Garage Doors and Their Pros and Cons
Like everything else in your house, garage doors come in many different materials, shapes, and colors. But all doors can be classed into one of three basic opening styles: those that swing up, those that roll up, and those that swing out.
Swing-up doors, also called overhead or canopy doors, were the most popular style of door for decades until supplanted by sectional doors. These single panel doors tilt upward and inward by means of torsion springs, then tuck into the overhead space in your garage.
• Less expensive than other types of garage doors.
• Cheaper to maintain because there are fewer moving parts (like wheels and tracks) than sectional doors. Torsion springs and cables are relatively easy and inexpensive to replace.
• Because no tracks run through the garage, it is possible to create limited ceiling storage in the narrow area between the door and ceiling.
• Vehicles outside cannot be parked near the door. Vehicles mistakenly parked too close to a swing-up door are at risk for damage.
• The first foot or two of the swing-up motion can be difficult (though the spring takes over quickly and completes the motion.)
Sectional (Roll-Up) Doors
Sectional garage doors are the most popular door today. Between three and eight solid sections move upward on vertical tracks on the door frame. These tracks guide the sections up, then through a sharp curve. After that point, horizontal tracks inside the garage, attached to the ceiling, take over and guide the door the rest of the way into the garage.
• Maximizes door width, due to the outside vertical tracks which run up the door frame. This gives your vehicles a little wider passage in and out of the garage.
• Doors are less likely to accidentally fall down on its own (in contrast to single-panel swing-up doors, which can fail catastrophically.)
• Limits garage ceiling storage space due to supporting brackets, which connect to the ceiling.
• Sectional doors can be expensive to install and maintain since there are so many moving parts. The tracks, in particular, need to be kept clean and lubricated.
Though sectional doors do roll upward, they are differentiated from another type of garage door called a roll-up door. Typically seen on warehouses and other commercial buildings, this is a flexible curtain of steel that collects above the door frame in a roll (like a roll of paper towels).
Do you have a vintage house, or just wish to boost your home’s curb appeal? Side-hinged doors maximize the retro look, since wooden carriage-style doors fit into this category. These doors are less popular than other types, because most require manual operation. Electrically operated swing doors can be installed, but they tend to be prohibitively expensive.
• With so few moving parts to break down, side-hinged garage doors rarely break down. Hinges and latches are essentially the only moving parts, both of which can be fixed by most homeowners.
• Side-swinging garage doors require you to exit the vehicle and manually operate them. If you are concerned about security, this may not be an option for you.
• Snow and other obstructions in the driveway must be fully cleared before doors can open. The doors only have a few inches of clearance.
• Because they meet at the center, side-swinging doors tend to be less secure against home invasion than other types of doors.1
Basic Garage Door Maintenance and Safety
Dealing with basic but essential garage door maintenance issues on a regular basis is key to ensuring smooth and safe operation. Some maintenance activities are universal to all doors, while other activities pertain only to swing-up, sectional, or swing-out doors.
• Garage doors may seem like benign devices that slowly lumber up and down. How could they hurt you? Easy. Annually, 30,000 injuries occur in the U.S. related to garage doors, according the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
• Deactivate: Unplug the door opener motor so that it cannot accidentally turn on. This plug is usually located in the ceiling
• Clamp: Use a pair of screw-type wood clamps (or two Vise-Grip pliers) and attach them to the roller tracks below the roller to prevent the door from slamming down.
• Spring Safety: Unless it has broken, a torsion spring is always under tension. It is generally recommended that most DIYers leave garage door spring work to the professionals, as this can be highly dangerous.2
Common to All Doors
• All automatic doors have a photoelectric sensor, or “eye,” which prevents the door from closing if the sensor beam is blocked
• Sensors will be located on both sides of the door, around the track area and near the floor.
• Wipe down the sensors to remove dust and debris.
• Adjust the sensors so that the beam from the sending sensor hits the receiving sensor. Most modern doors have a green LED light on the sending sensor that will light up when the beam is successfully hitting its target.
• Lubricate the chain or drive screw with spray-on white lithium grease. The motor powers the door up and down; the chain or screw (your door will have one or the other) transmits this energy to the door.3
• Inspect the rubber weather-stripping (formal name: U-shaped astragal) at the bottom of the garage door. Treat with spray-on silicone to protect it. Replace if cracked.
Inspect and tighten the hardware on the roller track, roller, and roller bracket. Rollers slide along the roller track. The roller bracket attaches to the garage door itself. Lubricate moving parts with white lithium grease.
Nearly all one-piece garage doors are lifted with the aid of powerful spring powered mechanisms that equalize the weight of the door. Do not try to adjust the spring tension that balances the weight of the door. Fixed parts are anchored to the door jamb, and the moving parts are on the doorframe.
Spray lithium grease on the pivot points, but avoid the springs, as this will not help them move more freely. Inspect the springs to make sure that they are not slipping off of their connection brackets or that the brackets have not begun to bend over time. If the springs fly off, it can be highly dangerous.
If your door is an older style swing-up door, it may not have a continuous cable running through the spring. A continuous cable is a simple safety device that acts to contain the spring if it should snap loose.45
Garage Door Cosmetic Repair Guide
Garage doors are tough enough to stand up to the elements, but eventually time will take its toll. No type of garage door material is immune. Baseballs and basketballs will dent metal doors, and wood doors will degrade under the sun’s UV rays. Learn how to make simple cosmetic repairs on wood and metal garage doors:
Wood doors should be cosmetically repaired the way you would repair any other wood item: with exterior-grade paint.
• Peel off paint that is curling on the edges by light application with a heat gun and paint scraper.
• Sand the surface, wash by hand with mild soap and water, then rinse thoroughly and let dry.
• Fill in dents, chips, or grooves with wood filler. Sand to smooth.
• Repaint the entire door with exterior-grade acrylic-latex paint. Do not spot-paint, since it will be difficult to match colors.
For this fix, you will need a bucket, sponge, dish soap, aluminum foil, kitchen lighter, and compressed air canister.
• Wash dented area using a squirt of dish soap in a bucket of warm water. Sponge onto the dent to remove all dirt. Thoroughly rinse down with water so that no particles remain. Allow to dry completely.
• Cut off a piece of kitchen aluminum foil so that it is big enough to cover the dent with excess on all sides.
• Press the foil over the dent so that it conforms to the dent.
• Light a kitchen lighter, wave it around the foil, and maintain the flame for about one minute.
• Remove the foil. Quickly hold a compressed air canister upside-down and spray the dent for about 30 seconds
• The dent should pop out by itself.6
It is a decision that will have a major impact on your bank account: replace your garage door or keep on repairing it?
Knowing whether to repair or replace your garage will save you money and frustration. Continually repairing a door that should be replaced is time-consuming and a safety hazard. Replacing a door that can be repaired is a huge waste of money and it wastes natural resources by landfilling large materials.
When to Repair
• Door Stops Working: The solution to doors that do not move could be as simple as dead batteries in the remote control or a flipped circuit breaker.
• Door Feels Heavy: Heavy doors are often the result of worn torsion springs. Replacement of springs is a job for a garage technician.
• One or Two Panels Damaged: Dents in metal sectional panels can be fixed with a compressed air hack or pounded out from the back with a rubber mallet. Or you can replace individual panels rather than the entire door.
When to Replace
• Door is Severely Damaged: When a vehicle has hit the door, even lightly, the door, roller tracks, rollers, brackets, springs, and a host of other parts may be damaged.
• Door Always Giving You Problems: If you have been spot-repairing your door for over three years, you may want to cut your losses and replace it.
• Door Is Older-Style Model: It may have safety or functional problems that are difficult to fix.7
Keep your garage door and related mechanisms in top shape with this guide to garage door maintenance, upkeep, and safety.
Source: Fix.com Blog
Photo: Getty Images