How It Works: The Garage Door

garage door

Your garage door may possibly be one of your home’s most prominent, visible elements, but how much do you really know about it? If you answered, “not much,” you’re not alone. The average homeowner doesn’t understand most, if any of the inner workings of a garage door, except that it opens and closes in response to a command.

Here is a basic introduction to garage doors, including types, components and openers.

Garage Door Types

Garage doors have come a long way in recent years. Taking advantage of modern technologies, today’s doors are built from materials designed to naturally boost your home’s curb appeal, and withstand Arizona’s sometimes unpredictable weather conditions. They are built for longevity; assuming routine maintenance is completed.

Almost all garage doors sold are sectional with panels, usually four, that retract along the ceiling of the garage. These doors can be manufactured in your choice of steel, composite, fiberglass, aluminum or wood. For more modern or contemporary homes, there are full-view doors, made from glass and extruded aluminum frames.

All types of garage doors may include windows that are arched or rectangular, frosted or clear, allowing natural light in. Insulation, using polystyrene or polyurethane, is another available option to consider. R-values (thermal resistance) varies from R-6 to R-18.

The heights of residential garage doors range between 6 and 8 feet; width between 4 and 18; and thickness between 1 3/8 and 2 inches. Most garage doors sold are from one of six major garage door manufacturers, including Amarr, C.H.I., Clopay, Overhead Door Corporation, Raynor, and Wayne Dalton.

Garage Door Components

The springs. Garage door springs counterbalance the weight of the door, which makes them the single, most important component to consider. The two types of springs in use today are torsion and extension. In the shape of a coil, torsion springs are inserted into a shaft, and mounted above the door. These springs are typically available in 1 ¾”, 2”, and 2 ¼” inside diameters.

Extension springs, on the other hand, are also shaped like a coil and mounted above the horizontal track on both sides of the door. The difference between the two is that extension springs require more parts and fully extend when the door operates. They are also not as sturdy as torsion springs. Standard torsion springs generally last between 15,000 and 20,000 cycles, whereas extension springs last up to 10,000 cycles.

A cycle represents opening and closing the door one time. To put this in perspective; if you open and close the door four times a day (the national average), the life expectancy of a 10,000-cycle spring would be about 7 seven years. Obviously, the more the door is used, the sooner the springs will need to be replaced by a garage door professional.

The rollers. The door uses rollers, usually 10 to a 4-panel sectional, that extend out from the side and lock into the track to keep them in place. There are basically three types: steel, nylon, and reinforced nylon. The best rollers in our expert opinion are 13-ball nylon due to the fact they offer the quietest operation and last two to three times longer than the standard roller.

The tracks. Vertical and horizontal tracks guide the door as it opens and closes. The thicker the steel, the less chance the tracks will twist, bend or tilt under the weight of the door. Maintaining these tracks is essential for ensuring the safe functioning of your door. Dirt and debris can clog the tracks, causing the door to stick or come off its tracks; the latter requires immediate garage door repair.

The sensors. The photoelectric sensors are a huge component for safety. Located on both sides of the door, they send a beam of light to one another, and instruct the door to automatically reverse direction if that beam is broken. Photoelectric sensors are required on both residential and commercial garage doors to meet U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission requirements.

The weatherstripping: Weatherstripping applied to the door’s exterior frame, bottom, and between door sections helps prevent drafts and cut energy costs. It also prevents unwanted visitors – of the rodent and insect family. You should inspect your door’s weatherstripping at least once a year, replacing it as needed. High-quality weatherstripping materials can be purchased at your local home improvement store.

Garage Door Openers

Garage door openers from brands, such as LiftMaster, and Craftsman allow you to operate the door with the utmost of ease – just push a button or enter a code. There are three types of openers to consider – belt, chain, and screw – that require you take your door’s weight, style and material into consideration. Automatic garage door openers typically provide 10-15 years of reliable service.

The three main types of drive mechanisms are:

Belt. Among the quietest drive option, this opener features a steel-reinforced rubber belt, which is molded into nubby teeth on one side. These rotate through a gear to pull the trolley. While generally more expensive than other types of openers, belt drives are a good choice for homes with attached garages; especially if there are living spaces directly above or adjacent to it.

Chain. Budget-friendly and reliable, this opener uses a thick, bike-like chain to pull or push the trolley. The chain sits slightly slack when the door is open. The downside to these openers is that they can make a racket while operating the door. If you have an attached garage, you may want to consider a different model.

Screw. We like to think of this opener as Goldilocks option – median price and noise level. Screw drives feature a continuous threaded shaft that connects the operator to the trolley. Its arm reaches towards the door. Providing optimal, quiet performance, these openers are perfect for heavier garage doors, such as insulated steel, full-view glass, and solid wood.

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