Visual Inspections Key to Garage Door Safety
Courtesy of Nashville Home Inspections | June 2015 Monthly Tip
As long as garage doors go up and down… and do so in a reasonably quiet fashion… most homeowners don’t give this important entryway much thought. But get locked out of the front door, or have the garage door freeze in place (up and down) and it will loom front and center on everyone’s mind. Not only are ingress and egress blocked, but cars, bikes, lawn mowers and other equipment may be inaccessible.
Experts make several suggestions when it comes to garage door maintenance. The first and easiest one is a visual inspection that can be carried out monthly or bimonthly by standing inside the garage with the door closed. A visual examination of the garage door springs, cables, rollers, pulleys and mounting hardware may reveal signs of wear or damage. Things to notice in particular are cable wear or fraying, loose hardware anything that doesn’t look – or sound right. At this point, closer inspection by a professional may be warranted.
It is easy today to take the operation of an automatic garage door for granted. In fact, automatic doors were a rarity fifty years ago, and when first included in new construction, not always installed with safety in mind. A federal law, enacted in 1992, changed that, requiring all doors manufactured after January 1, 1993, to be equipped with a reversing mechanism and a sensor to prevent entrapment. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) prompted the law to reduce the number of deaths to children who become entrapped under garage doors with automatic openers.
If an automatic door does not include these features, it is recommended that the system be replaced for safety reasons. Doors that are equipped with pressure sensors can be tested by placing a 2 x 4 on the ground underneath the closing door. This will allow the door to press against an unyielding object. If the door does not automatically reverse direction, the door should be immediately serviced by a trained technician. Testing the force it takes to reverse the door can be done by holding the bottom of the door with hands outstretched and firm. If the door continues to close, the sensor could be set too high and there may be an issue.
To test the photo eye sensor, if that is the system in the garage door, waving an object such as a broomstick in front of one of the door’s photo eyes should cause the door to reverse direction. If the door continues downward, and cleaning the eye with a cloth does not help, a technician should be enlisted.
Depending on the age of the garage door, it may come with self-lubricated or plastic parts that need no oil. In an older door, that may not be the case. After using a leaf blower to remove any debris trapped in the door tracks (this can also be done using a rag or brush), a small amount of spray lubricant applied to door hinges, rollers and tracks may keep the mechanism sliding smoothly.
The rubber seal on the bottom of the garage door is an important line of defense against rodents and other pests, as well as dirt, debris or moisture. If the rubber seal has hardened or chipped, the seal should be replaced. This can be done for under $100.
Although it’s easy to forget, it never hurts to clean and inspect the interior door leading into the house in an attached garage. This should be done at least every other year, if not every year. To keep energy from escaping into and out of the garage, this door should be properly weather-stripped with a threshold seal that fits snugly against the bottom of the door.
Most building codes require this door to be fire-rated and self-closing. If the door is damaged or put in place before more stringent fire codes were enacted, a new fire-rated door can be purchased and installed. Check with your local municipality for exact building codes.
Source: John Watkins, Nashville Home Inspection; June 2015 Monthly Tip eblast distribution