In most houses, the garage door is a significant part of the exterior of the home. How your garage door looks and functions has a big influence on the curb-side appeal of your property. Maintaining a garage door to increase its lifespan makes your life easier and improves your property value.
Your garage door is a complicated piece of equipment. Unlike other doors in the house which move on simple hinges, lifting and controlling the weight of a garage door requires specialized hinges, tracks, rollers, motor, cables, brackets, and electronic safety sensors and opening devices.
Maintaining all of these parts keeps a garage door working for as long as possible. Understanding the components of your garage door and opener, and knowing what care they need, is the starting point for increasing the lifespan of your garage door.
- Get to Know Your Garage Door
Many people are not familiar with how their garage door is constructed or how it operates. If this is you, start off by getting to know more about your garage door and its opening mechanism.
The garage door itself and the garage door opener are two separate products. Each one comes with an owner’s manual. The owner’s manual contains important information about maintenance and repair, and reading it only takes a few minutes.
If you do not have a manual, you may be able to download one online. Look on the door itself and also on the opener motor. Each should have a tag with make, model, and serial number information which you can type into a search box to locate an owner’s manual.
There are a wide variety of garage door types and just as many garage door opening systems. Once you have read the manuals (if possible), move on to looking at your door and opener and familiarizing yourself with their parts.
Most garage doors open upwards into the ceiling of the garage. Some types open outward in carriage-house door style. Most residences do not have garage doors that roll up, but they are common in commercial settings and occasionally are installed in homes.
Garage doors that open upwards come in sectional models and fixed panel models. Each type uses a different kind of hinge mechanism for lifting the door. Sectional garage doors have hinges bolted onto the inside of the door holding three to six horizontal panels together and allowing them to fold as the door is lifted.
Fixed doors do not fold. Instead, they tilt and slide upward and backward into the garage ceiling. Fixed doors have a scissor like hinge on each side of the door for maneuvering it backward and up.
A spring provides counterbalance to the weight of the door as it moves. These come in two main types. Extension springs are regular looking, elongated springs. On torsion spring models, there is metal bar above the door containing a spring inside a housing.
Finally, there is the garage door opening mechanism. This unit has
- a cable connected at the top and center of the door and attached to the emergency release leaver,
- a motor,
- wall mounted openers,
- electronic eye safety sensors.
Once you are familiar with the components of your garage door, each time you use it, look and listen for
- any changes in the sound of the motor or scraping sounds in the tracks,
- the door opening evenly from side to side,
- the door moving at a constant speed.
Because garage doors are complex, they need more maintenance than other parts of a home. As soon as you notice problems in the operation of your garage door, take action yourself or call a repairman.
- Test Safety Features and Door Balance Regularly
A garage door balance check only takes a few minutes. When the door is not properly balanced, it is no longer safe and the opener motor has to work harder. This decreases the life of the opener.
The door balance test tells you whether the springs, tensioner, or cables need adjusting. If they do, this is not a do-it-yourself job for most people. These components are under extreme tension and are dangerous to work on. If the door fails the balance test, call a professional for help.
To test the door balance, close the door and disconnect the opener by pulling the emergency release handle. This cord is usually red and hangs just above the middle of the door. Pulling the cord lets you open the door manually.
Now lift the door by hand until it is about half way open and let it go. Be sure your feet are not underneath it. The door should stay put or slowly open or close. If it closes or goes up quickly, contact a garage door specialist to make adjustments.
The other important safety check is the automatic reverse opening mechanism. This is usually controlled by photo eyes located about six inches above the floor on either side of the door. Wipe these sensors with a clean cloth a few times a year to get rid of dust and bugs.
Then check the mechanism by closing the door with the remote and waving a broom or other object into the path of the photo beam. As soon as the object breaks the light beam, the door should retract and go back up. If it does not, get it repaired as soon as possible and avoid using the door until you do.
- Inspect Rollers and Tighten Fasteners
The rollers run inside the tracks and are usually made of nylon or steel. They last about seven or eight years under normal use and are an important part to replace when they get worn. Inspect them visually about twice a year looking for cracking, chipping, or excessive wear. Open and close the door while watching and listening to the rollers and lubricate them and any other components according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Garage doors and openers are attached to the framing of the house with hex-head bolts. There are also small bolts on the hinges on sectional doors. These bolts come loose over time due to the vibration caused by opening and closing the door and should be tightened once a year with a socket wrench. Do not adjust any bolts painted red. These are high tension adjustment screws which should only be worked on by someone with training.
- Maintain Weather Stripping, Caulk, and Insulation
Like other doors and windows, garage doors require caulking around the outside of the door frame. Caulking needs replacement when it begins to discolor, crack, or fall out of place.
There is also usually rubber weather stripping on the bottom of the door. When it becomes brittle or broken, the old rubber can be pulled out and replaced with new weather stripping.
Some doors have insulation on the inside. Insulation can come loose or become damaged and should be replaced as needed.
- Maintain the Door Exterior
Garage doors tend to get shabby looking on the outside before the whole house needs a new paint job. Cleaning a garage door is simple. Just put some mild detergent in a bucket and use a scrub brush or mop to clean the surface. Then rinse the door with a garden hose.
Look at the condition of the door itself. Wooden doors can warp and splinter. Wood and steel doors may need touch up painting. Vinyl and aluminum doors can crack or bend, needing replacement. Maintaining the exterior surface of the door protects it against the elements and extends its lifespan.
- Consider Hiring a Garage Door Professional
If keeping up with all the maintenance and repair of your garage door is too much for you, consider using the services of a professional garage door company.
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