A garage door separates your valuable car, tools, bicycles and sometimes the interior of your house from all kinds of weather as well as from vandalism and theft. Doesn’t it therefore make sense to ensure that you have a safe and secure barrier in place, well maintained and well fitted? All too often the garage is classed as an afterthought and doesn’t have as much money spent on it as it deserves.
There are many types of garage door available from retail outlets and contractors and all are perfectly acceptable to use depending on your environment, your requirements and your budget. The many styles tend to fall into three basic types.
Sectional: These doors are probably the most common and consist of a number of horizontal panels fixed together with hinges. The panels are fitted with small wheels and run in a grooved track. The main advantage with these kinds of doors is that they take up very little space when opening and closing. They can be controlled manually or with a remote control. All the moving parts are accessible, keeping maintenance and repair costs relatively low.
Carriage: These doors have a rustic look and swing open on side fitted hinges attached to a frame. Because of this they need a lot of room to open and close. For obvious reasons this type of door is impractical if a driveway slopes uphill away from the house. These doors are usually constructed from wood so they are relatively energy efficient but conversely they tend to deteriorate and rot if routine maintenance is not kept up.
Traditional One Panel: These doors consist of a single panel and swing upwards by means of springs. Once again these doors need a lot of clearance to operate properly and maintenance costs can be high due to the weight and inaccessibility of the door. These can also be used either manually or by a remote control.
Materials of Construction
Garage doors can be made from the following materials:
Wood: Wooden doors are attractive and, if the grain is visible, can be quite beautiful. They are also very sturdy if constructed according to good joinery principles. A problem with wooden doors is that they are prone to rot if you are in a damp environment and are subject to insect or fungal attack. The price of paint and preservative must be included in any maintenance coats.
Steel: Steel doors are strong especially if you live in a storm prone area. Sometimes, depending on your local building or fire regulations, you may be required to fit a steel door. It’s always worth checking first! They are however prone to rust damage and should be inspected regularly for paint cracking and corrosion. Steel is a very bad insulator so you must be prepared for a cold garage unless you have one insulated.
Aluminium: These have most of the advantages of a steel door, but without the rust problem. Aluminium doors are light and hard wearing and require very little maintenance. They can however be quite expensive if repairs are needed. Aluminium is also a bad insulator so expect a cold garage.
Fibreglass: Perfect for environments with extremes of either heat or cold as the material can withstand most commonly experienced temperatures. The material is also a good insulator keeping the inside space quite snug. Fibreglass resists splitting and is easily repaired if damage does occur. There is no problem with rot or rust and is easily painted.
Does it need to be repaired or replaced?
More often than not, a garage door will need only basic maintenance, like greasing of moving parts, springs and wires or painting if your type requires it. When maintaining don’t forget the two items that are so simple to rectify; if you have a remote control, change the batteries and if you have a manual lock, squirt some light lubricating oil into the keyhole. These basic jobs can be done by most people without spending a lot of money, however now and again you will have problems with the springs, wires, runners, motor or the door frame itself. The question then is whether the door needs to be repaired or replaced. A specialist contractor is the only person who is really qualified to decide whether to change or repair the door. The following list will try to give some guidelines as to whether you need to call someone in, and will give you an idea of what is probably the cause of the problem.
1. Will the door open or close properly?
Many things can cause a garage door to stick or not move in the runners properly.
a. Have you a sensor activated system? Check to see if the sensor is obscured by anything. It could be a tree branch or piece of foliage, or something as simple as an object leaning against the sensor. Anything that obscures the sensor can affect its operation.
b. Is there a problem with the motor or remote control? If you have an electric door and nothing is obscuring the sensor, check the main motor switch inside the garage. If, when you use the main switch, the door opens or closes with no problem then check the remote control. Does it need a new battery? If so then change the battery for a new one, this is very inexpensive to do and will save you the trouble of calling someone out. Has the remote sustained any physical damage? If so then you may have to buy a new one or get the old one repaired by a qualified person. These days, you can download Apps for your mobile phone to convert your phone into a remote control. See if your make of door system is compatible with an App.
c. Is there an obstruction in the guide track? Have a go at closing the door manually. If you can’t then there may be an obstruction in the guide track. If not, then has the track sustained any damage and have dents or bends along its length? Is the door hanging evenly in its frame? If not, then why not? An obstruction in the track can probably be fixed by you. If the track is damaged or the door is not hanging properly then you will need a garage door repair contractor.
2. Does the garage door move unevenly?
a. Is there an obstruction? Unless there is an obstruction of some kind, any unevenness in movement will probably be caused by a problem with the springs.
b. Problems with the springs? Rollup doors usually have one central spring and single panel doors usually have two springs or counterweights fitted to both sides of the frame. Playing around with torsion springs is not recommended unless you know what you are doing, they can be very dangerous so phone a contractor.
c. Dented or damaged tracks? If you have any problems with the horizontal or vertical tracks being damaged or dented then there will be problems with the way the door opens. They may not even open at all! Once again, if the damage is slight then it may be a DIY job or if there is a lot of damage then it may mean a new guide track. This will have to be fitted professionally.
3. When you try to open or close your garage doors are there loud or screeching noises?
Any unusual or unexpected noise means something is wrong, usually lack of lubricant.
a. First of all clean the tracks. Don’t use harsh cleaning materials!
b. Once the tracks are clean and dried, apply the recommended lubricant.
c. If you still have a noisy garage door, it is time to call in the professionals.
4. Does your garage door fall too quickly?
If your garage door falls too quickly or bounces around uncontrollably, it is probably a problem with the springs or cables. Do not try to repair this yourself. It is definitely a job for the professionals.
5. Any other problems?
Other minor problems sometimes appear and although small and relatively inexpensive to rectify, should always be done by a professional.
a. Glass Panels. Some garage doors have glass panels fitted. If the glass becomes cracked or has smashed, always have this replaced by a qualified glazier. Glass itself doesn’t cost much so the major expenditure will be labour.
b. Dents and scrapes. Usually, there is no need to call in a tradesman to rectify small dents as they can be repaired quite easily by the amateur. Anything major should only be tackled by someone who knows what they are doing.
c. Remote Controls. Jobs like replacing batteries can be done by you and are quite reasonably priced whereas repairing circuit boards can end up being quite expensive.
d. Rollers. Damaged rollers can be replaced quite easily and are usually not worth repairing.
e. Hinges. If hinges become damaged, it is not worth repairing them, replace instead.
Finishing a garage door
Whether you decide to install a new garage door, repair an old one or just change your colour scheme, you have to consider, not only the colour but also the correct type of finishing material. You will need a different type of paint for steel, aluminium or wood doors. Don’t forget the primer coat and undercoat as well as the top coat. You will need a different one for each material. If you are happy about sanding the door before and between coats and then applying the correct paint skillfully, then go ahead, it will save you money. But if you aren’t confident it will probably be better to employ a professional decorator. If you decide to paint the door yourself, don’t forget to coat the edges and top & bottom as well. Just because it cannot be seen doesn’t mean that water won’t find it. There is nothing worse than a lovely waterproof paint job on the outside surface of the door, when the side edges, top and bottom are still bare wood and soaking up the rain like a sponge. Your garage door will soon be rotten or rusted through.
How to choose a garage door repair contractor
There are many ways to find a good garage door contractor and unfortunately more ways to find a bad one.
How to find a good contractor?
The ideal way to choose a contractor is to ask around and find out who has had a similar job done and whom they recommend.
Contact a local garage door contractor. I say local because they have a reputation in the area they do not want to be damaged. Find these in the phone book or on the internet.
Contact a large national company. They will have the resources to train their workforce properly. Find these in the telephone book or on the internet. Many large companies offer a franchise to small local companies and provide appropriate training under their supervision.
Contact the garage door manufacturer and ask them for a list of approved installation companies near you.
Don’t forget to let your chosen contractor visit and see the job. This visit shouldn’t cost you anything.
Always get at least three quotations from different companies for the same job. Compare prices and estimated timescale for completion.
How to spot a scam
Although a reputable contractor will want to see the job before committing himself to a quotation, he will also be able to give you a ball park cost estimate over the phone. Be specific in the questions you ask. For example, tell him that you want a ballpark figure for fitting an ‘Up and Over’ fibreglass garage door without electric motor. See what the response is.
Beware of local phone numbers that are transferred to a large call centre. These are generally small contractors trying to look bigger than they are.
Always ask for quotations in writing on headed paper and signed by someone in authority.When the contractor arrives to inspect the job, see how professional he is. Is he in a company vehicle or his own car? Is he polite and considerate? Does he sound like he knows what he is talking about? Does it feel right?
Does the contractor start to list repair costs on his inspection? This is a bad sign and can be designed to confuse the householder. If he gives you prices for different types of spring, ask for them to be written down and make sure that you understand what is the difference between the various options.
Try to find out beforehand what is likely to be wrong with your existing door and whether it can be repaired or whether you need a new one.
Will the contractor give you a guarantee certificate or warranty backed by the manufacturer? If not then find someone who will.
Spotting a scam or a disreputable tradesman is always a lottery. If you get his name and ask for a proper quotation on company headed notepaper or email, you can always ask around family and friends, the local Chamber of Commerce or even Social Media to find out what his work is like. Ask him to provide references for his previous work. And don’t forget to follow them up! Speak to his previous customers and get their opinion of his work. Always get at least three different quotations for the same job specification. Understand the difference between an estimate and a quotation
What other services will the contractor usually offer?
The garage door contractor will usually be able to provide tradesmen skilled in groundwork, bricklaying, carpentry, electrical, glazing, painting & decorating as well as fitting garage doors. All these jobs could be necessary in the normal repair and maintenance of a garage door, its frame and associated systems.
Garage door repair cost breakdown
Costs of labour and materials will vary depending on where in the world you live, what type of work needs to be done and on what you can afford. Always pay for the best job you can afford. Below you can see typical prices for the various jobs involved with fitting or repairing a garage door.
In order to minimise the risk of having major repairs in the first place it is always a good idea to have a professional inspect your garage door regularly. It is usually less expensive to replace or repair before the door or mechanisms actually fail. Not only will a professional check for damage but will also provide small adjustments on spring tension, chain or cable tension and door lubrication. If the company is reputable they will also advise you when items are likely to need replacement. For example, if one cable has broken, then the chances are that the other will break soon. Have them both changed at the same time and save the cost of a visit. For even better savings, why not schedule a service visit at the same time as repair work?
Cost of repairs
Homeadvisor: suggest the following approximate estimated costs:
|Job||Approximate Average Labour cost||Minimum Labour + Parts||Maximum Labour + Parts
|Routine Inspections||1 hour - $85||$148||$329
|Track repairs||1 hour - $85||$133||$154
|Correcting uneven hanging doors||1 to 2 hours - $150||$125||Varies
|Replacement of springs or cables||1 to 2 hours - $150||$300||$2000
|Replacement of chains or cables||1 to 2 hours - $150||$150||$200
|Broken glass pane||1 to 2 hours - $100||$100||$125
|Labour to repair damaged track||1 to 2 hours - $100||$75||Varies
|Remote Control repairs||1 hour - $85||$100||$125
|Replace hinges||1 to 2 hours - $100||$110||$120
|Type of Door||Average Cost to repair
|Traditional One Pane Doors||$172
|Type of Material||Minimum Cost to repair||Maximum Cost to repair
|Wood (per panel)||$190||$215
|Steel (per door)||$135||$155
|Aluminium (per door)||$176||$200
As always, these costs will vary depending on where you live in the world. What they show however is the approximate range of costs for different types of door and different types of repair.
Installing a new garage door
If your garage door is old and needs a replacement panel or in fact needs any type of major repair you may be in luck and the manufacturer may still make your model of door. If so it will be a straightforward job for a specialist company to replace the damaged part. If however, your garage door is old and no longer manufactured, you will have to decide whether to have something custom made, replace the whole door with a new one or choose an upgrade to something more stylish, modern or functional. Remember the garage door is part of your home and so will affect the appearance of your house as well as providing home security. Any money spent on this item can be classed as a good investment and will enhance the saleability of your house if you decide to move. Always ask a specialist company to install a new garage door as they have the specialist tools and will be able to provide a guarantee against faulty workmanship and manufacture.
Choosing a new garage door
First thing is to decide on the style you want. This decision will depend on the following:
What is the style of your house? Obviously you will want a style that complements the existing decor of your house.
Is your house modern or old? In which decade was your house built? A 1940s house will require a different garage door style to one built in the 1980s or 1990s.
Do you live in a house of historical interest? You may live in a Conservation Area or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or your house itself may be of historical interest. If you fall into any of these categories you will definitely find that you have restrictions on the type of garage door you are allowed to fit. Contact the planning department in your local authority to find out. You may be limited to a range of styles by local byelaws or council regulations as well.
Is your house detached or semi-detached? Sometimes houses are joined with their neighbours, and are usually joined by the garage. You should take into account the style of the door on your neighbour’s garage. In fact this may be the subject of a Covenant in your deeds or a local regulation. If this is the case then you will have very little choice but to replace the old door with a new one that looks the same or at least very similar.
Is your garage part of the house or detached? Some garages are integral with the house and occupy the same footprint. Others are joined to the side of the house and some are completely detached from the house and somewhat hidden. If the garage is attached to or part of the house then it would be sensible to choose a garage door that matches and blends in with other parts of the house, for example the house windows and doors. If the garage is detached and perhaps hidden somewhere in the garden, then the requirement to match may not be so important.
What about energy efficiency? If the garage is part of the house and below living rooms, then heat insulation is imperative. In this case the door will require a high ‘R’ Value or similar certification depending on your country. Usually garages of this type have only an internal fire door between the garage space and the house space so security of the garage door will be a consideration as well. If the garage is connected to the house but not part of it, then insulation will not be as much of an issue. Likewise if the garage is detached from the house then no major insulation requirements would be needed.
What is the garage used for? If the garage is used as a storage space for car or items too big for the house and is not easily accessible to the house interior, then security will be less of an issue than if the garage is used as a living room or play room. Sometimes garages can be fitted out with gym equipment or play equipment or will it be a hobby space or workshop? Basically if the space will be used by people regularly then security and warmth will be more of an issue than if it is being used solely for storage.
Any safety considerations? As well as style and security, you must also consider any safety aspects. Do you have children who may tamper with the door and trap fingers? Is the garden or area near the garage used for ball games which might provide a risk to any glass panels within the door? Speak to a reputable installer or visit the manufacturer’s website to find out more about the safety aspect.
What is your budget?
In conjunction with considerations of style, security and purpose, you must also consider the amount of money you have available for a new garage door. You may be lucky and have cash in the bank, in which case you just have to choose the door and find a contractor. If however you are like the majority of home owners, you may have to find the money from elsewhere. Your bank or your mortgage lender may be approachable for a home improvement loan; after all an attractive garage door will definitely increase the value of your house. If this is your chosen route then it is imperative to consult a registered financial advisor for advice. Unfortunately detailed consideration of the financial aspects is outside the scope of this article so we must now move on.
Garage door installation costs
Assume you have decided on the style of door you would like to buy. What other factors must we consider?
All garage doors are large and heavy to carry, are there any difficulties with installing yours in its preferred location? Is there enough access for a large vehicle to deliver the door? Does the driveway slope upwards away from the door? If so then side hung doors will not be suitable because of clearance with the ground.
Is the door electrically operated? If so, do you need to install electricity or is it already there? If the garage is part of the house or adjoining the house, the chances are that an electricity supply is either already available or is easily extended from the house. If the garage is detached then a completely new supply may have to be brought from the house. This will involve digging and laying proper underground electricity cables together with circuit breakers and other legal requirements.
The old door will have to be removed from your property and requires a large enough vehicle to transport it to a registered waste disposal point.
All these extras need to be considered when thinking about costings. A good garage door contractor or small construction company will have the knowledge, manpower, tools and vehicles to provide a swift all-round service. They will be able to give you a quotation which includes all these extra factors.
Remember too that an insulated steel door, although more expensive than a wooden one, will probably outlive and require less maintenance than a wooden door. It all depends on your personal circumstances.
It is always wise to have the professional inspect your property and discuss with you your requirements before giving you a detailed quotation. Never accept a quote over the phone as the contractor will not be aware of your specific circumstances and you might find extra costs or workmanship suffers because of this.
To summarise this section. The costs of installing a new door will always depend on:
Materials. The wide choice of material, sizes, style, method of opening and profiles will make the price vary.
Workmanship and guarantee of work. If you are happy to do a DIY job, then you can try to replace the door yourself. But a specialist contractor will already have all the tools he needs and will be familiar with the method of installation. He will also give you a guarantee that the workmanship is fit for purpose. If the installation is not done properly, the door may need extra maintenance or repairs in a few years. In fact the job may not even be safe if done by an amateur as the door is heavy and electricity can be deadly.
Location of your garage. The design and location of your house and garage will determine which kind of door you need.
Does the opening require resizing? If you are increasing the dimensions of the garage door then the opening will also require alteration and a new door frame will be required. Does the opening enlargement need architect’s drawings or local authority permission?
Does the door frame and track need repair? It is always advisable to let the specialist see the old garage door to decide whether work is required on the track or the frame before the new door is installed.
Are the cables or brackets in need of repair? The contractor will check to see if the cables are frayed or worn, or whether any brackets have worked loose. These will also have to be remedied before the new door is fitted.
Are the electronics in good order? Will the existing electrical system need any repair before the new door is fitted? Is the existing motor strong enough to lift the new door? This is quite possible if you are replacing a light fibreglass or aluminium door with a steel or wooden door.
Are the moving doors safe? If you choose a motorised door, ensure the sensors work properly to prevent people or pets from becoming trapped by a moving door. If they don’t work then you will have to replace them.
Does a new electrical supply need to be installed? In most countries any new electrical work is required by law to be done by, or at least checked by, a qualified and registered electrician.
How is the old door to be removed? Is the contractor expected to remove the old door and electrical fittings or are you?
You can organise all these extra jobs yourself, or ask the garage door contractor to include them in his quotation. You will probably find it is less expensive and easier for him to do the work than get them done separately.
DIY vs professional. Which is best?
As mentioned earlier it is possible to do a lot of repair and maintenance jobs yourself but if you are installing a new door, it is better to use a professional garage door repair company. If other specialist trades are required, for examples ground workers for trench digging for electricity supply, connect garage door motors to the electricity supply, carpenters to fit a new door frame, glazier to fit glass panels, painters to decorate the door, the contractor will already either have these working for him or he can subcontract these jobs to other tradesmen he has used before.
10 questions to ask the contractor before hiring
1. Have you done this kind of work before?
Vitally important question. This may be his first job installing this kind of door.
2. How many workers will it take?
Does he work alone or with a colleague? He will certainly need someone to help lift a heavy door. Most companies now require that no one works alone for Health and Safety reasons.
3. When could you start?
You need time to organise other quotes. Don’t be forced into accepting a convenient date for the contractor. You are the customer and therefore your convenience comes first.
4. How long will the job take?
A reputable tradesman will know approximately how long it will take to do a particular job. Don’t be put off if he won’t commit himself until he has worked out prices. He will have to consult his diary and organise his workforce’s diary .
5. Do you foresee any major problems?
An experienced contractor will usually be able to see at a glance if there are likely to be any problems. If he isn’t sure whether there are or not then he should be confident enough to admit the fact. Remember that unknowns in a quotation will result in the contractor covering himself and charging more.
6. Can I have a firm quotation?
If at all possible try to get a firm quotation. If there are any unknowns on the job then the contractor should say so and tell you that he will quote you a price accordingly. There is no reason why he cannot give you a quotation for ‘known’ stages of the job and charge an hourly rate for unknowns.
7. Have you any references from previous customers?
Always try to get references from previous clients. The contractor’s reluctance to give these will mean that either he is new to the job or his previous work was unsatisfactory. If you can’t get any references, then ask around family and friends to see if anyone has heard of him.
8. When do you require payment?
Alarm bells will ring if he says to pay cash in advance. No reputable contractor will do this. They will always provide you with an invoice on successful completion of the job.
9. What is your ‘after sales service’?
Basically you want to know if you can call him back if anything goes wrong after the job is finished. Ask him to include the terms in his written quotation. If there is any reluctance then the chances are that he is working a scam.
10. What will he expect of you?
Will his workforce require access to the house for electricity or water or to use the toilet facilities? Do they need special access to parts of the house, for example main electrical distribution board? This may be difficult if you and your family are at work during the day.
As I said in the first paragraph, a garage door separates the outside world from your valuables. It is therefore worth investing money on its upkeep. Choosing the correct materials for your environment will prove cost effective in the long term as less maintenance will have to be done. When it is time for maintenance to be done, whether by yourself, a garage door contractor or your local handyman, always plan properly. Find out the prices of labour and materials. When you make the final choice, always choose the best option you can afford. It will be worth it. If you have to install a new door, find out from the local authority if there are any restrictions you have to adhere to. Choose your garage door wisely and choose your contractor even more wisely. Find out as much about him and his company as possible. Ask everyone in the neighbourhood and ask him for references.
When you have chosen the door and the contractor, and the work has gone smoothly, pay your bill promptly. No matter how large the company, monetary cash-flow is the lifeblood of business.
Lastly when the job is completed and the bills have been paid, enjoy your garage and its newly repaired or installed door hopefully for many years to come.