Installing a garage door

MATERIALS: Garage door assembly, shims, rear track hangers, nails

TOOLS: Sawhorses, hammer, level, utility knife, drill, two wrenches, tape measure, locking pliers or C-clamps

Garage doors are made of wood, metal, or fiberglass. They can be highly decorative or very plain. Whatever the style, they all depend on a good set of springs to make them work. The springs provide the lift that opens the door, as well as the resistance that keeps it from crashing down on your head. If the door has extension springs, like the door shown here, getting the proper tension on the springs is simple and safe for the homeowner. If the door has torsion springs, which are essentially huge window-shade rollers, leave the job to a pro. These springs need to be wound up, and losing control of them can be dangerous. (Fortunately, most doors made for residential use are on extension springs, and any style you do find on torsion springs is likely to be available in extension springs.)

Installation of garage doors varies both from brand to brand and situation to situation. The instructions here are typical, but pay close attention to the directions that come with your door. It’s the largest moving part of your home, and, pretty face or not, safe installation requires attention to detail.

TORSION SPRINGS ARE DANGEROUS - On some garage doors a tightly wound spring called a torsion spring runs over the top of the door and helps open and close it by counterbalancing the weight. These springs are always under tension and are extremely powerful. An unplanned release can cause serious injury if you don't know how to remove them safely. Instead of attempting to remove one yourself, get a garage door professional to do the removal or installation.

1 PUT THE DOOR PANELS ON A PAIR OF SAWHORSES to make working on them easier. Slip the weather stripping into its channel, screw it in place if so directed, and trim off the excess with a knife.

2 SET THE FIRST PANEL IN THE OPENING. Check for level and shim as necessary. Hold it in place by driving nails into the door framing at an angle so that the upper portion of the nail traps the door. Do not drive nails through the door.

3 STACK THE REST OF THE PANELS. Hold them in place with bent-over nails. Attach one side of the hinges along the edges and middle of the door before you stack them. Attach the top rollers to the top edges of the panel.

4 INSERT ROLLER SHAFTS INTO THE HINGES AS DIRECTED BY THE MANUFACTURER. If any are held in place by special brackets, install them now too. If a separate bracket holds the rope you use to close the door, install it now.

5 INSTALL THE TRACKS AROUND THE ASSEMBLED DOOR. Begin by slipping the straight tracks over the lower wheels in the door. Put the mounting brackets against the wood framing, positioning them so that there is about 5/8 inch to 7/8 inch between the door and track. Temporarily bolt the brackets in place. (You will need to adjust them later.)

6 ASSEMBLE THE CURVED, J-SHAPED TRACKS NEXT. Each side has a track that bolts to two angle irons, which are joined at 90 degrees. Assemble the pieces on the floor, then slip them over the door rollers. Temporarily support the back end with a ladder or board if necessary. Position the track so it’s level and plumb, shimming from the ladder as necessary.

7 INSTALL THE REAR TRACK HANGERS. (You’ll need to purchase these separately.) The track hangers must support the full weight of the door, so they must be attached securely to a rafter or joist. Measure the distance between the back end of the J-shaped tracks and the nearest rafter. Cut the track hangers to length, if necessary, as directed by the manufacturer and attach them to the joist or rafter.

8 ATTACH THE TRACK TO THE HANGER. The rear track hangers hold the track level and square to the door. Check by comparing two diagonal measurements: one from the top left-hand corner of the door to the rear right-hand horizontal track and the other from the right front to the left rear. Adjust the tracks until the measurements are within 1/2 inch; temporarily fasten the hangers.

9 ADJUST THE TOP ROLLER AND ATTACH THE PULLEY WHEEL. Some doors will have a top roller that adjusts to keep the door tight against the jamb. Attach the front pulley wheels to the horizontal angles as directed by the manufacturer. Now you are ready to roll up the door for the first time. Remove the nails before you raise the door.

10 RAISE THE DOOR ABOUT A FEET, J PROP IT OPEN, and look to see whether the spacing between the door and track is between 5/8 inch and 7/8 inch along the entire track. If not, lower the door and correct the problem by repositioning the track hanger on the joist. Once the tracks are properly aligned and the door opens smoothly from top to bottom, permanently fasten the tracks and hangers.

11 A CABLE CALLED THE LIFT CABLE CONNECTS THE SPRING AND DOORS. Carefully raise the door to the fully open position. Attach locking pliers or C-clamps to the track to keep the door in place. Attach the spring to a hook installed in the rear hanging bracket then attach one end of the cable to the bottom of the door, as directed by the manufacturer. Thread the cable around the front pulley and around the spring pulley, and attach the end to an S-hook, using the hardware provided. Attach the S-hook to the horizontal track support, leaving the same amount of slack in each cable, as directed by the manufacturer.

RELEASE THE DOOR AND TEST IT TO MAKE SURE IT CLOSES GENTLY ON THE FLOOR. If it comes down with a crash, increase the spring tension, either by moving the S-hook forward on the horizontal track support or by adjusting the cable where it attaches to the S-hook. If the door won't close all the way, decrease the spring tension.

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