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HomeAdvisor's Guide to Hiring a Garage Door Contractor

Are you in the market for garage door services? There are many reasons why you might need it. You could be shopping for a new home, replacing an outdated door, planning to repair a damaged one or changing accessories such as openers and springs on your current one. Assuming your family opens your garage door an average of four times a day, that's 1,460 annual uses. After five years, it'll reach 7,500 openings.

You'll want to start considering upgrades around this point. View the situation as an opportunity rather than a surprise, though. Garage door replacement is a renovation project that offers one of the best returns on investment. There are so many different products available, however, that shopping can feel overwhelming. Here's a helpful guide to aid you in finding the perfect garage door service.

How to Decide if You Need a Professional

How will you know when to change or fix your garage door? Take note of any instance when it fails to work properly. You must address any issue that recurs immediately. While you consider them a harmless part of your home, garage doors are dangerous weapons if they collapse. They can damage your car, your children, your pets and your personal items in your garage. Insurance will cover the car and the personal items, but you can't run the risk of injuring your family members, human and furry.

Choosing to hire a professional might seem counterintuitive to a DIY enthusiast. You should still explore the option, though. Remember that your garage door is likely the largest moving object in your house. If you don't install or repair it properly, you endanger everything listed above plus yourself. There are plenty of cautionary tales about would-be amateur installers trapping their feet under their new door. Also, if you're not accustomed to holding such a large object, you run the risk of damaging your new garage door yourself.

Here are some signs that you should contact a garage door repair service:

  • Stuck door
  • Bent door
  • Rusted springs
  • Bent springs
  • Uneven door when resting
  • Missing hardware
  • Imbalanced rollers
  • Fractured pulleys

Most service calls cost only $40 to $100 for an inspection. If your garage door requires immediate repair, the professional carries many of the required parts on their truck, so there shouldn't be any delays for servicing. Most repairs cost $300 or less, sometimes as little as $100. Obviously, you don't save much money by performing these services on your own. That's why hiring a professional makes the most sense.

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Questions to Ask Your Garage Door Professional

There are two sets of questions to ask your repair professional. The first involves their proof of expertise before starting the job. The second is for post-repair maintenance. Remember to ask for specifics in both areas. Prior to the repairs, you'll want to ask:

  • Which tasks they'll perform during the service call
  • Description of the warranty
  • Whether they will offer a free estimate on-site
  • Which tasks they'll perform during follow-up maintenance falling within the same payment contract
  • What their emergency service hours are, and how much more they'll charge if forced to perform maintenance outside standard daily service hours and on weekends. As you'll see below, these charges are much higher.
  • Which licenses they hold in their field and whether they're bonded and insured to perform the requisite repairs in your area. It's critical to verify all of this information, because it protects you as a consumer if their work is substandard. Never hire a professional who doesn't carry insurance.
  • Which brands, insulations, sensors and openers they have experience installing, repairing and replacing. This is especially important if you plan to or already have purchased a door or parts on your own. A repairman with a lack of familiarity about your product isn't a worthwhile investment.

Once your garage door professional completes the job, there are other questions you'll want to ask. The most important of these is when you should plan to perform maintenance. Your repairman will likely suggest annual servicing, something they will do for the same visitation fee of $40 to $100.

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Cost of Garage Door Services

The overall cost of your garage door service depends on your needs.

  • If you must replace a garage door opener, the cost to buy and install a new unit is about $315.
  • You can find a system for as little as $100, but it's not a home improvement area where you should try to cut corners.
  • Conversely, some systems sell for as much as $700, which is overkill in most instances.
  • Unless you're paying for emerging technology such as Bluetooth integration or voice command activation that you feel justifies the price, a middle-tier garage door opener in the $200 range is fine.

The cost to replace a garage door also varies. Replacing the door itself will require much more money than fixing a few moving parts. A garage door costs as little as $200 or as much as $4,000, depending on your needs and any local requirements in your neighborhood contract. Double door units are more expensive than single doors, so you can narrow down the range by deciding what works best for your home.

Overall, the average garage door costs roughly $1,060. Expect to pay at least 50 percent more if you're serious about improving your curb appeal. If you only need or want to repair your current door, that'll cost much less. Features that will determine the repair cost include:

  • Garage door style
  • Garage door opener
  • Garage door materials
  • Garage door finishing
  • Broken parts

Note that what you pay isn't entirely up to you. The door you have will need a certain type of materials, so if you have a high-end piece, you'll need high-end materials. If the charges are high enough, you might discover that it's more cost-effective to simply buy a new door instead.

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Garage Door Replacement Considerations

There are several key considerations when determining your garage door repair. The style of door paneling plays a huge part. Single tile-up and roll-up models are cheaper to replace with similar models than are solid wood door frames and custom roll-ups. Don't feel compelled to stay with your current style if you want to change the overall look of your home's exterior.

The main garage door styles are:

  • Roll-up: the most popular style, which rolls up like a curtain shade
  • Sliding: doors pull apart horizontally and slide back into the sides of the wall
  • Swing out: opens toward the exterior and then slides back into the interior of the garage
  • Swing-up: doors tilt backward and lift toward the roof of the garage

Once you identify whether you're keeping your current style or installing a new one, it's time to pick the perfect color. Choose a color that matches your home's exterior or use this opportunity as an excuse to freshen your curb appeal by painting your entire house to match your new door.

Materials will also influence the cost of your repair. There are four primary kinds:

  • Steel: an inexpensive and therefore popular material that will require more insulation due to its heat capacity
  • Vinyl: a slightly more durable option that also looks better than steel.
  • Wood composite: a cheap material made from recycled products. It's an eco-friendly material that also enables customization since you'll have to paint it.
  • Custom wood: an elegant but pricey door facing that adds a stately presence to your exterior. Mahogany, cedar and hemlock are the primary types.

There are many garage door brands. The most popular ones are:

  • Craftsman: the Sears hardware branch
  • Genie: one of the industry leaders in garage door sales
  • LiftMaster: one of the industry's most respected brands
  • Chamberlain: one of the best reviewed brands

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Garage Door Maintenance and Repair

If you encounter any of the following issues, your garage door needs repair:

  • Misaligned track prevents proper door lift
  • Dead transmitter batteries in the remote and wall units
  • Seemingly random door openings
  • Garage door fails to shut completely, going part of the way before returning to the top
  • Misaligned eye beam
  • Garage door slams shut with extremely loud sound
  • Garage door lifts and closes unevenly
  • Garage door lifts awkwardly and looks like it might collapse

Door repairs come with charges of as little as $80 and as much as $525. As long as you don't have to replace the door, $210 is a fair expectation for the overall project expense. You might pay as little as a few dollars if you only have to replace the batteries. As mentioned, hiring a professional sets a fixed cost of $40 to $100 plus the cost of parts and services. If you prefer to do it yourself, make certain that the maintenance required won't add up to more than what you'd pay someone else for repairs.

To avoid unwelcome repair expenses, you can perform regular maintenance to increase your garage door's lifespan and efficiency.

On an annual basis, you should:

  • Tighten the nuts and bolts on the apparatus.
  • Oil the chains to make sure they experience little friction during standard operating motion.
  • Check for rust.
  • Replace the rubber weather stripping at the bottom of the doors. Because it hits the ground repeatedly, it deteriorates faster than the rest of the hardware.
  • Listen for sounds of stuttering machinery. These are warning signs for failing equipment.
  • Clear the tracks of clutter and debris.
  • Test the auto-reverse system to verify its safety features are working. Place an object such as a wood plank under the door. If the system doesn't recognize its presence and continues to descend, you must repair it immediately.

On a monthly basis, you should also:

  • Perform a visual examination of the hardware in operation.
  • Lift the door manually by deactivating the opener if applicable. Check to see that it opens smoothly and has no balance issues.
  • Check the photo eye sensor that's required by law. Wave an object in front of the beam to verify that it stops the door from descending. If not, you need to schedule immediate maintenance.
  • Check the door's speed of descent. If it's going down too fast, it's a danger.

As you can see, there's a lot involved. So, the service fee of $100 or less is quite reasonable.

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Garage Terms to Know

To prepare yourself for the repair process, familiarize yourself with some of the terms. The garage door panels are the squares built into the door. You'll use them to locate the other parts of the repair/installation process. Crossing one of the panels is the lock bar and its accompanying lock. These are the parts that prevent the door from opening randomly.

On the corners of each door, near the panels, are the hinges. Each of these pieces screws into the door to secure the pulley and track system. Here's where the terminology gets a bit confusing. The mechanics of a garage door opener include:

  • The operator: the large piece of hardware that sits in the center of your ceiling. It triggers the door-opening process.
  • The belt: the center beam that supports the door as it's lifted in the air.
  • The curved door arm: the lifting piece that functions as the load bearer during door-opening.
  • The emergency release rope: you pull if you need to perform an emergency stop of the lifting motion.
  • The safety reversing sensor: the emergency tool discussed above.
  • The rollers: they actually move to lift the door.
  • The door and trolley tracks: the paths for the rollers as they lift the door.

Deciding whether you need a new door or a repair of your current one shouldn't be difficult. The guide above and the sage advice of the garage door professional you hire should address your primary needs. Remember that your home's curb appeal partly relies on your garage door choice. When making repairs or replacements, you can improve your home's resale value while also increasing your family's safety.

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