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How to install an overhead garage door

Installing an overhead garage door may not be the easiest project you’ll ever tackle, 
but doing it yourself can save a hefty installation fee. Here’s a hands-on account

There’s more to it than you’d think,” commented a friend who used to be a contractor and building supplies retailer. We were discussing what’s involved when installing an overhead garage door in farm workshop. After just finishing my own installation, I had to wholeheartedly agree with him. But getting a quality overhead door installed may be one the best improvements any workshop can get, especially if it involves upgrading from the sliding door types.

One of the problems with sliding doors is it’s difficult to get them to seal to the wall to keep cold winter air out and heat in. Overhead doors do that pretty well. So for that reason we decided to swap out a pair of sliding doors on our workshop for something better. And to save about $1,000 in installer fees, we tackled the project ourselves.

Based on our experience, here are our tips for anyone contemplating a do-it-yourself overhead door installation.

The tips

If you’ve never tackled an installation like this before, make sure you have all the instruction sheets you need before beginning. When our door arrived, there was a box full of jumbled hardware but no instructions and no materials list. So, it took a couple of phone calls and a wasted day trying to get them.

Even after tracking down instruction sheets, laying out the door sections and hardware on the ground, before trying to put anything together, was helpful in understanding how things should fit together. Take your time here and understand the process before you begin.

There are a couple of ways to tackle the job. Both require setting the bottom door section (with rollers attached) in the opening, centring and levelling it. Drive a framing nail into the jamb on each side and bend them around the door section to hold it in place when you’re satisfied it’s in perfect positon. You may have to place a shim under one side of the bottom door section if your concrete sill isn’t perfectly level. Keeping the door and tracks level and plumb is critical.

From here, there are two ways you can go. You can continue stacking sections and holding them in place with nails until all are in place and level all the way to the top. Or, you can install both vertical tracks after placing just the bottom section.

If you go with the second option and install the tracks first, installation of additional door sections requires you attach a hinge on one side and pivot the roller into the track as you stack the section on the one below it. Then slip the opposite roller and hinge into the track and slide it down onto the door section to attach it.

If you’ve shimmed one side of the door, be sure to shim the bottom of the vertical track on that side as well. The tracks on both sides of the door need to be level or the door will bind when you try to raise it.

The vertical track is designed to tilt back, away from the wall. To compensate and keep the door fitting tightly to the wall when it’s closed, hinges will progressively place the roller about 1/4-inch farther back from the door on each section. The rearward angle of the track allows the door to pull away from the jamb as it’s lifted, eliminating any drag. Each hinge will have a number stamped into it to indicate where it’s placed on the door. The higher up the door the hinge is mounted, the higher number it will have.

Once the door sections and the vertical track are in place and properly levelled and plumbed, install the horizontal tracks and temporarily secure them to their mounting points on the ceiling with a rope. There is pre-drilled aluminum angle iron available just for the purpose of mounting tracks to the ceiling, but it likely won’t be included with your door kit. Building supply stores carry it.

Measure carefully to ensure both horizontal tracks are square to each other and at 90 degrees to the wall in order to prevent binding when the door is raised. Depending on your particular door and the type of lifting mechanism, the horizontal tracks may need to be level or tilted slightly upward.

The tensioner spring used to help raise the door needs to be manually wound the appropriate number of times to give the proper lift assistance. Check your instructions for the proper tension. Winding them the necessary amount for a large shop door will involve a little sweat.

Overall, this type of installation is not a one-man job. You’ll need at least one helper. If you have a friend who has installed a door before, do your best to convince him to come over for the day and give you a hand. Having someone on site with experience doing this job will definitely help.

About the author

Contributor

Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.

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