When you inspect the garage, you should always check the operation of the exterior door or doors. Open and close each door, and note whether it operates relatively easily. The most common type of door for an attached garage is the sectional overhead type. This door has the advantage of not taking up usable space when open. Look for obvious deficiencies such as broken or missing springs or guide wheels, loose and misaligned tracks, and so on. Check the door’s operation. If it is difficult to lift, stuck in a fixed position, out of plumb, or does not stay in the up position, some minor maintenance is needed. When closing the door, give it a start and let it come down by itself. If the door closes rapidly and heavily, it is a hazard, especially for small children. Adjustment is needed to the spring tension, or a new spring should be installed.
Check to see if there is a restraining cable that runs through the center of the spring. The cable is a safety feature that prevents the spring from whipping around and injuring a person or damaging a car in the event that the spring breaks. When the door is closed, use the lock mechanism. You might find that the lock bars need to be reset.
Many overhead doors are opened by an automatic control. Operate the control. The doors should open and close smoothly without binding in the tracks. Check to see if the control unit has a reversing feature. This is very important from a safety point of view. When the door is closing, exert a force in the upward direction at the bottom of the door. The door should stop and then reverse its downward travel. If it doesn’t, record that fact on your worksheet. Repair or replacement of the control unit is recommended because it is a potential safety hazard. The newer garage door opener assemblies include a photoelectric sensor that will reverse the door when it is closing if a person or animal breaks the beam by passing through the opening. Make certain that the radio controllers work. Ask the owner to demonstrate that they exist and work.
Some overhead doors are the one-piece, swing-up type rather than the sectional, roll-up type. These doors often require additional efforts to open, particularly during periods of snow and wind. Other doors found on a garage are the sliding and folding types. Sliding doors usually hang from overhead tracks. One disadvantage of such doors is that they take up valuable wall space when open. Also, small pieces of debris on the ground can interfere with their operation. Fold-out doors often sag, have loose hinges, and drag on the ground, making opening and closing quite difficult. In general, they require more frequent maintenance. These conditions can and should be corrected.
Look around the garage for an electrical outlet. There should be at least one three-prong convenience outlet. Also, there should be overhead lights controlled by a switch near the interior door and the exterior door. Two desirable features, although not necessary, are windows that provide daylight and ventilation and a service door that can be used as access to the garage without opening the automobile entry doors.
Depending on the location of the house, the garage might be heated. Heat is usually provided by extending the central heating system (hot water, steam, or warm air) into the garage area. The radiators or heat registers providing the heat should be checked as part of the overall heating-system inspection. If there are warm air ducts in the garage, look for return grilles. There shouldn’t be any because through them poisonous exhaust fumes could be brought back into the system and circulated throughout the house. When a garage is used solely for storage of automobiles, it is necessary (and not even always) to bring the temperature only above freezing. Heating the garage above that temperature is wasteful of energy.
Last, when inspecting an attached garage, look for termites in any exposed wood-frame members. The area most vulnerable to termite infestation (aside from wood found in a sewer cleanout pit) is the wood framing around the base of the exterior door.