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Give your garage door some respect

In our special series, 48 hour Fix-Up, Mr. Fix-It and “Today” contributor, Lou Manfredini, talks about making the entry way for your car work better and safer.
/ Source: TODAY

Your garage door is a lot like comedian Rodney Dangerfield — it gets no respect. Invented in the early 1920’s the overhead door has transformed our lives. The average garage door opens and closes about 1500 times per year. Learn how to install better and safer garage door openers in the latest installment of this special “Today” series, 48 Hour Fix-Up.

There are over 70 million single family garage doors in the U.S. and millions more in multi-family dwellings, according to Clopay door company, a leading manufacturer of garage doors. For many, the garage door is actually their front door. Many homeowners drive right into their attached garage and enter their home through the service door. No matter how you use your garage, convenience and safety are key.

The average life span of a garage door is about thirty years if you take care of it. The automatic opener will tend to last about 10-12 years. But that being said safety features on newer openers should prompt you to consider upgrading your opener and possibly the spring that helps lift the door. All garage door openers have a strike safety feature that activates when an object interferes in the path of the door. But older openers may apply too much force and could injure a pet or a child. Since 1993 Federal laws have mandated the use of electronic eyes as an additional safety feature. These eyes are placed about 4-6 inches from the floor of your garage and if anything passed by or obstructs the beam the door will either not activate or retract in a split second back to the open position. If your overhead garage door does not have this feature REPLACE IT THIS WEEKEND!

Let’s talk openers. I have built many garages and all of them have included professionally installed openers by Chamberlain. I have found these to be the most problem free units on the market, as a builder I want to minimize problems. Chamberlain has a super easy to install DIY unit called a Whisper Drive®. This is a belt drive unit, some people say chain drive is the only way to go, I use to be one of them. But this unit is smooth and quiet and worth installing. You’ll find the units at hardware stores and home centers at a cost of around $229.00. Considering that having a professional install a new opener can run you as much as $600-$800, this is one money saving do-it-yourself project that you’ll get done sooner than 48 hours. Your first step is to remove your old opener. Make sure you clear out a large working area. With the overhead door closed and the opener unplugged start to dismantle the unit. You’ll find this to be pretty easy. If you have a digital camera take a couple of pictures of the old unit, this may help you later as you are trying to remember how it all looked when putting the new one up. Next place a small table in the garage and place all the parts of the new opener on the table, this will help you keep track of all the parts. Don’t worry, yes there are a few pieces but it all makes sense and will only take you a short time to assemble the unit.

Basically you will assemble the entire opener, track and all on the ground. You may need a little help from a spouse or neighbor to actually hang the unit, but the assembly can be done all by you. Setting the safety features is key, follow the directions carefully to make sure all is operating correctly. This new unit not only comes with two remote openers but a remote key pad you can mount on the outside of your garage to open the door by punching in a secure code. Also spend some time tightening any loose bolts around the rollers and hinges of the door. Spray some light weight oil on the track and rollers to ensure smooth operation. Another neat additional safety feature you can purchase is a door sensor that will let you know if the door is open or closed. How many times have you climbed into bed and then said “did I close the garage door?” This sensor stick on the inside of the door and a receiver that you can place anywhere in your home will tell you if the door is open or closed. Safe and secure, that’s what a new overhead opener can ensure you.

One other consideration as to safety of your overhead door are the springs that help the door go up and down. There are typically two types. Tension springs which resemble a large Slinky®. And torsion springs which are long horizontal springs that are attached over the door when it’s in the closed position.

I prefer the torsion springs, I feel that they are a safer type of system to have. Tension springs when under load could break and pieces or the entire spring could injure someone in it’s path. While either spring could pose a danger, the torsion springs have less of a chance of injury to someone standing near. If installing a new spring sounds too complicated you may want to consider having a professional overhead door company do the installation. But if you are a handy fellow or gal there are several DIY units out there. EZ-Set Spring System® by Clopay. Can be purchased from a home center or hardware store. The units include an instructional video and can be installed in a couple of hours.

Once you’ve completed your work you’ll have a worry free, safe garage door. If you have more questions feel free visit my website at