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Singing the garage door blues

by Leon A. Frechette

How many times have you found yourself in this situation? It's Friday, you worked late, you're tired, it's raining, and you had to go grocery shopping. With a car full of groceries, you head for home, and a wishful thought comes to mind, "I hope the kids left the garage door open tonight." As you start down the driveway, which by now seems endless, you stare out your fogged-up windshield as your headlights search for the front of the garage. Did they? Yes—Yes—NO! You dash out to lift the door and barely get back to the car when you hear the door roll back to the ground.

My guess is we have all been in a similar situation at one time or another. Perhaps you just couldn't get the door open. I would also guess that you thought about solving the problem but never got around to it. Whatever your reason, there is a simple solution—install a garage door opener. This is something you can handle yourself and is one sure way to cure those garage door blues. Imagine not having to get out of the car in bad weather to open the door. A click on the remote button will lift that door as if by magic.

A Great Weekend Project

So what are you waiting for? This is a great weekend project so invite your buddies over to help. You'll be able to automatically close that door as you leave for work on Monday morning.

First check to make sure you have at least 7 feet (or more) above the garage floor, which is recommended for installing an opener. Then determine the type of door you have—track operating (straight track or curved, the most popular) or trackless (one-piece with jamb- or pivot-type hardware). Once you reach your local home improvement or hardware store, you will discover that garage door openers come in two styles: chain-driven or screw-type. I personally prefer the screw-type because of the constructed one-piece unit, its overall strength, and quiet action.

As long as you're going to install an opener, purchase one that has all the bells and whistles: safety light, hand-held units that accept a personal security code, security vacation lock, etc.

A reversing system is an important consideration, especially if you have children. Select an operator that has both non-contact and contact built-in features. Don't forget to compare warranties.

Manufacturers provide a great selection of openers, all accompanied by complete step-by-step instructions, with how-to videos available at your place of purchase. Both help to eliminate the fear that some homeowners associate with home improvement projects.

It is important that you follow the manufacturer's instructions during the different phases of the project to achieve a correct installation. It is also a good idea to check the parts against the parts list before getting started.

Check Your Garage Door's Balance

To extend the life of your new opener, be sure your garage door is properly balanced. Raise the door about 3 feet off the floor; if the door moves up or down on its own, have the door professionally adjusted. Because of the amount of tension on the main door spring, do not work on or remove this spring! A sudden release of spring tension can result in a serious (possibly fatal) injury—call in a professional.

An opener does provide security, so using the manual lock on your door is not necessary. As a precautionary measure, remove all locks and ropes to help prevent motor burnout, especially if the manual lock should accidentally engage.

Before you can actually hang the operator, you will have to install a header bracket. Mount it on a solid surface at least 2 1/2" above the highest point of the door's travel. If you have an overhead tension spring and it is in the way, don't worry—install the header bracket above it.

Just like an erector set, assemble the entire unit, motor and track, following the manual as you go. With the help of those extra hands, lift the unit so the front end of the track has been placed into the header bracket and secured with the retaining pin. Lift the motor end and place on a tall ladder. Using wood scraps placed under the motor and on top of the ladder, level the entire unit. With the unit in place, attach an angle iron to the ceiling joist and make the final installation by attaching the motor to the angle iron using the mounting straps.

Do not forget to install the door bracket. It is important if you have a lightweight door or one made of fiberglass, masonite, or metal, that you have a solid backing to support that bracket. Consult the local distributor for your make of door to see if they have backing or bracing instructions for an automatic door operator. Now you are ready to install the door arm assembly to the release carriage located on the track.

Have you forgotten anything? How about the wall control, wall console, and infrared beam (transmitter and receiver)? Remember to hook up the wires to the motor.

Electricity Required

By the way, only the hand-held units of your automatic garage door opener run on batteries. The actual operator requires electrical service. You may want to consult with or hire a licensed electrician to complete this portion of the job.

I repeat my earlier question: What are you waiting for?

Copyright © 1994, 1998, & 02/20/08 LAF/C.R.S., Inc. All rights reserved. The previous article,
in whole or in part, appeared in the January/February 1995 issue of HomeImage.

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