To-Do List: Garage Door

I've always wanted to install a garage door. I'm not entirely certain why, but it might have something to do with the fact that the vast majority of garage door installations I've seen over the years were sloppy-looking and ill-fitting; I wanted mine to be as close to perfect as humanly possible. (Yes, I'm anal.)

Originally I'd wanted an all-glass door to admit lots of light (above), but budget constraints prevented this. The new design was inspired by my choice of exterior doors, which had the added benefit of lowering the price from well over $4K to around $1.5K. Home Depot has a nifty online widget that lets you build your own custom garage door. Although the widget's rendering of the finished product left something be desired, it did provide a general notion of the look sufficient to get me to click the "buy now" button.

I placed the order for the door on 15 November 2018. Unfortunately, the lead time was six weeks, and the expected delivery was quoted as 30 December. In the meantime, I'd pre-wired the garage door opener control system so there would be no exposed wiring; the wires would exit the walls and ceiling at junction boxes:

Subsequently, delivery was rescheduled for 13 December 2018, allowing me to button up the whole house two weeks earlier than expected. When it arrived, I was somewhat surprised to see that it looked remarkably similar to the little preview in the online widget. By the next day, I had the door itself installed. The process seemed a little strange: basically, the whole door is assembled in situ in the closed position, before installing the track. In retrospect, however, I realized this made sense, because it meant the door would be in precisely the correct position when closed.

Things didn't go together quite as smoothly as the instructions suggested, although it wasn't awful by any means. A few of the parts that were indicated as not included were in fact included, and vice-versa. The trickiest aspect was that the garage foundation interfered with the bottom track brackets, so I had to relocate them a few inches higher; this was not a simple fix since everything was riveted together. It's a good thing I'm very handy and have a full array of tools and hardware at my disposal.

One off-putting aspect of the recommended track hanging procedure was that it's designed for garages where the ceiling joists run parallel to the tracks, with no recommended options for the alternative. Huh? You mean mine is the only garage built this way? Again, it's a good thing I'm handy! Consequently, my installation is stronger and neater because I attached the hangers directly to the ceiling joists (above), instead of additional brackets, as shown in the instructions. This required drilling the tracks for new attachments, but again this wasn't a big deal at all.

The most difficult part of the installation was the return spring connection: it required lifting the assembled door to the fully-open position with no spring assist. Given that I could just about manage one of the four panels on my own, the whole door was well past my ability to lift—indeed, it would have been a challenge for two people. I wound up raising it incrementally with a hydraulic jack (below left), until it reached a height where I could heft it up the rest of the way by hand.

Another thing that bothered me was that the instructions showed the return spring cables anchored to holes in the door track, which bunched the cables together. I elected to add new cable anchors to keep the cables well separated (below left), as well as to hold the springs up, rather than allow them to droop down onto the tracks. The new anchors are actually bracket parts left over from the track hanger assemblies, since my installation was much simpler than the recommended arrangement.

Meanwhile, the door opener installation wasn't glitch-free, either. Not only were two machine screws missing, but the holes into which they were supposed to go weren't threaded; I substituted a pair of self-tapping screws from my generous hardware larder. And, like the door, the opener mount was designed for ceiling joists running the other way. I added a pair of two-bys between the joists (above right) so the drive unit could be mounted without the need for a separately-purchased steel bracket assembly. The result is stronger and much cleaner-looking.

The drive unit wound up nearly two feet further from the front wall than I'd anticipated, so I relocated the outlet and control wire junction boxes further back (above) to keep the wires well clear of the chain drive. This was quite easy to do, and resulted in a very neat installation, which was all wrapped up on the morning of 17 December 2018. I even programmed my car's built-in door opener to operate it. Kinda cool.

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