Weekend DIY: Install a garage door opener

These easy tips will help your garage door installation go smoothly

By Jay Somerset

garage door opener

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Visiting my parents the other week, I was faced with a tremendous physical challenge. No, I wasn’t helping them move furniture; I was merely trying to open the garage door. Pushing up the heavy door, I felt like a clean-and-jerk Olympian. How they can get the door open and closed boggles the mind. Time for a garage-door opener, methinks.

Similar to buying a dishwasher or installing central vac, a garage door opener is all about convenience and speed. While models and prices vary, installation instructions are pretty similar across brands and types. Four hours on a weekend and you should be up and running. I won’t bore/confuse you with “attach this bracket to that brace” instructions since your model will come with a detailed installation guide. Rather, read on for a few tips you won’t find in the manual.

Assessing your garage door

There’s no use installing an opener onto a door that is damaged. Part of the reason my parents’ door was so difficult to lift was because the rails it ran on were bent, so the door’s wheels couldn’t properly roll. As well, the massive springs that control the door’s tension were in need of replacement.

Your door should open and close without much effort, and it should stop tightly in the up and down positions. To test spring tension, open the door halfway and let it go. If it stays in this position then the tension is correct. (If you’re worried about this, simply call a garage door specialist for a 30-minute overlook.)

Assuming your door is in working order, the next consideration concerns power. Make sure you have a grounded receptacle within easy reach of the door opener you’re about to install. Like all outdoor outlets, the outlet must be GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) equipped.

Choosing a make and model

OK, you’re in the hardware store faced with myriad sizes and prices: how to choose? Begin with power. If you’ve got a double-door garage, you’re going to need a motor that can handle the weight of the door. For this size you’ll need a ½-horsepower engine. In general, the stronger the motor, the longer it’ll last and the quieter it’ll run. Also, a higher engine also means you won’t be sitting for five minutes while the door creeps up and down like a slow-moving train.

Also, many models list “soft” start and stop, which means the door cushions to a stop, saving your door from abrupt slamming.

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