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How To Install A Garage Door: A Step By Step Guide

Garage door installation is a lengthy and relatively complex process, but you can nail this task comfortably with the right skills. Though it’s much safer to get it done by a professional, you can save some money if you follow the correct guide. If you’re installing a garage door for the first time, you’ll get a lot of value from reading this article.

A garage door installation’s proper procedure includes:

  1. Releasing the tension
  2. Disconnecting the old door
  3. Preparing the opening
  4. Installing the tracking
  5. Installing the door and paneling
  6. Spring assembly installation

This article will give you a step-by-step guide, which covers the entire garage door installation process…

Tools & Materials Needed to Install a Garage Door

Here’s a list of tools you’ll need while installing a garage door:

  1. Drill and drill bits
  2. Safety glasses
  3. Level
  4. Open-ended adjustable wrench
  5. Hammer
  6. 4 sets of locking pliers (adjustable)
  7. Socket bits
  8. Driver bits
  9. Steel rods (1/2” diameter x 18″ or longer)
  10. Step ladder
  11. A pair of saw-horses (covered in rags or cardboard, so it doesn’t scratch the new door)

Garage Door Installation Instructions

Once you’ve got all the items listed above, it’s time to begin the installation. We assume that you have a preinstalled door in your garage, which needs removal before installing a new one. You can jump to a fresh garage door installation by skipping steps 1 and 2 below. 

Step #1: Releasing The Tension

There are two basic types of garage door counter-balance systems found commonly on residential homes in North America. The most common is the torsion spring assembly. This type is identifiable by the horizontally mounted springs above the door. The other type is older and not as common in new homes, and that is the one-piece steel door. This type has a vertically mounted stretch spring, as opposed to the horizontal torsion spring. 

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IMPORTANT NOTE: Both types of springs can hold significant stored energy, so you must take extreme caution.

Torsion Spring Type

For safety, we advise using a minimum of two sets of locking pliers. It would be best if you clamped the locking pliers on the torsion spring’s shaft. Ensure that the pliers are clamped firmly by wedging them against the wall (above the door) before proceeding.

Next, find the holes in the spring’s winding cones. Ideally, there are four holes used for loosening and tightening. You need to insert a steel rod into one hole. Hold the rod firmly. 

Before you loosen the set screws, take a look at the cable drums. If the cables that go down to the door’s bottom brackets fall off the wall side of the drum, then the force on the rod you are holding will be pushing the rod downward. It would help if you were prepared for the rod to push down with a  good deal of force. Now loosen the setscrews and ensure that the winding cone stays in place.

If the cable falls downward, off the inside of the drums, on the side of the drum that is furthest from the wall, then the installer may have reversed the springs from the standard configuration. Sometimes, a door installed as a ‘low headroom’ application or obstructions block regular cable routing, and the installer must have installed the lift cables in the reverse fashion. When this is the case, the rod will want to pull upward with great force when releasing the set screws.

WARNING: The springs on any garage door hold a lot of energy. If you are not 100% confident you can remove the stored energy safely; please call a professional.

  • Now you’ll need two steel rods. Use one steel rod to rotate the spring one-quarter (so that it loosens). Meanwhile, use the second steel rod to hold the winding cone firmly. After rotating the spring once, use the rods alternatively. It means that the rod you just used to rotate the spring will now hold the winding cone. Repeat until all tension is removed.
  • If there is a second spring, repeat the process on the second spring. Never attempt to remove both spring’s tension at once.

We understand that the process might sound a bit complicated, so here’s a video showing you exactly how to release the tension:

For Vertically Mounted Stretch Springs

These springs are dangerous, which is why the industry has deprecated their use. Why? Because if the spring breaks when you’re standing near it, it can fly up and hit you in the face. Ergo, use extreme caution.

The best way to undo the tension on these springs is by using a cranking come-along. First, you’ll need a SOLID anchor point above the spring. Next, you attach the come-along to pull and stretch the spring, only slightly until the securing nut comes loose. Then loosen the nut off and use the come-along to release stretch on the spring slowly. Ensure you are being safe and use complete personal protective equipment like gloves and eye protection. Safety first, these springs are dangerous.

Step #2: Disconnecting The Door & Door Opener

Garage doors usually have door openers attached to the door. This step covers removing it and the door.

  1. Remove the bolts and or screws of the door opener from the garage ceiling and then from the door panel. Watch this video (on YouTube) that demonstrates this step.
  2. The Garage door consists of multiple panels, and it’s time to remove each of them. Begin with the top panel. Each panel is connected to the adjacent ones with the hinges. Carefully remove the hinges to disconnect the door panels. Be super careful when dealing with the glass panels.
  3. The doorframe has an attached track on which the door moves. You’ll need to remove the screws and or bolts from the doorframe to detach the track.

Step #3: Opening Preparation

If you are replacing a sectional door with torsion springs for the same type of door, you won’t likely need to do much to the door frame.

If you are replacing a one-piece steel door, you’ll likely need to add a 2 x 4 frame on the inside of the opening. Add extra wood in the center, above the door, and parallel to the opening along with the header. Likewise, you will need wood framing on the inside sides; this wood must extend upwards, about 16″ above the door opening.

The spring assembly will mount to the center and the left and right extensions of wood that I just mentioned. Ensure these are structurally sound. Please take a look at this image layout to see what I mean. This layout works for a standard 8 x 7 or 16 x 7 door. (7)

Step #4: Install Part Of Tracking

The next step is to install the vertical tracks. Install the tracks according to the instructions provided. Typical installations will have the level of the vertical track with the opening sides and pitched slightly inward toward the top of the opening, being closer to the wall at the bottom and further from the wall at the top. It ensures the last few inches of the door’s travel produce a door that fits tight against the weather stripping.

If the door is a horizontal lift, which is the case in most residential doors, then the horizontal track can wait until we have the door face entirely in place.

Step #5: Fresh Door Panels Installation

Usually, new door panels come with holes pre-drilled or at least dimpled by the manufacturer. Making use of these holes or dimples helps avoid installation errors. Assuming that you’re installing a multi-panel, sectional door, let’s see the installation steps.

Step #6: Panel Setup

Take the two sawhorses and set them up so you can place each door panel on the sawhorses, one at a time. You need to locate the instructions and the bottom panel first.

Ensure your sawhorses are padded (I use some rags or cardboard) so you don’t scratch the new door face. Set the new panels, one at a time, as you need them, onto the sawhorses. This way, installation of the hinges, top, and bottom brackets is easy.

Start With The Bottom

  1. Take the bottom door panel and install the bottom bracket and one hinge to one side of the panel only. Do this with each panel, as you go, only installing the upper hinge on one side at a time.
  2. Once you’ve installed the hinge, slide a roller into the hinge, as shown in the instructions.
  3. Place the bottom door panel into the door opening by angling the panel so the rollers in the ONE SIDE you installed will insert into the track. Then, straighten the panel into place in the opening, and you will see that the rollers and hinges installed on one side will hold the panel upright and in place. 
  4. Take the other bottom bracket and hinge for the other side of the bottom panel and install them. Ensure you attach the cable to the bottom brackets now because it is easier to access at this point.
  5. Attach another panel on top of that panel. Remember to install hinges in the pre-drilled holes and use the sawhorse to install only one hinge on the top of the panel on one side. Use the angle technique you used on the bottom panel to insert the panel. Install the hinge and roller on the opposite side, route the cable up and behind the roller and repeat this process with the rest of the door panels.

Step #7: Spring Assembly Installation

The next step is to assemble all the pieces to make a spring assembly and attach it to the tracks. Once again, you have to read the instruction manual to learn how to make an assembly.

Install your horizontal tracks and spring shaft bearings. These bearings will hold the horizontal spring assembly shaft.

Though you’ve installed the tracks and the door till here, don’t try to open the door. It won’t operate. That’s because there are no springs yet.

Installing The Door Header Torsion Spring Assembly

The spring (or springs) assembly mounts above the door, usually on the header, but sometimes back a distance on the ceiling. The springs mount to a shaft, and the drums are also mounted on either end of the shaft to carry cables attach to the door’s bottom brackets. The spring assembly facilitates the opening and closing of the garage door by acting as a counter-balance system. Let’s see how to install it.

It’s best to fix the door header spring at the center of the door. So the first step is to locate the center point on the door. Once located, mark it with a pencil or something else. Here, we will be installing the spring support later.

The header spring assembly will consist of two cable drums, one or two torsion springs, and a shaft. The springs will be mounted onto the shaft and the drums to either side of the shaft. Consult your user’s manual for proper handling instruction. Typically, the cables will roll off the ‘back of the drum, that is, the side closest to the wall.

Assemble the torsion assembly now, tightening the set screws on the springs only enough to hold them from sliding while you maneuver the shaft assembly into place. The same applies to the drums, but these should go near the springs first, and you should only finger-tighten the set screws, so they don’t slide around while lifting the spring assembly into position.

Insert the torsion assembly into the bearing on one side of the door and carefully slide it in enough that you can now get the other side into its bearing. Split the difference in the excess shaft, so both sides have equal amounts of the shaft sticking out. Then loosen the drums and slide them to the bearing plates on the sides. Tighten the drums, so the cable connection points are in the same and exact location on the left and right drums. It will ensure the door lifts evenly.

Attach the cables to the drums and roll the shaft, so the cable tightens on the drum, fitting into the grooves of the drum without skipping over.

Using your locking pliers, lock down the shaft position so the cables are slightly tight.

Recall the door header spring mark in the center of the door. It’s time to install the center header bracket at that point. Perhaps you’ll need to lift the center header before fastening it. Loosen the spring set screws so you can move the springs on the shaft without disturbing the cables you have already installed. If possible, get someone’s help for the spring assembly. Use screws and or bolts to fix the header center spring plate at the correct location in the center and ensure the shaft is level.

Please double-check that your pliers are locking in the shaft position, that they cannot rotate, and the cables are tight. If these are all okay, you can add tension to the springs.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for adding tension to the spring assembly. It typically involves using the metal bars to wind the springs a specified amount of turns, then tighten the set-screws, so the tension transfers from the spring through the shaft, drums, cables, and inevitably to the bottom brackets and the door. The tension will counteract the effects of gravity, so the door opens smoothly without needing to lift its actual weight.

Ensure you lock off a roller with another locking plier before removing the plier, locking the shaft in position. That way, if you have too much tension, the door won’t go flying up! Remove the pliers and Voila! If you followed the installation instructions, you should now have a functional sectional garage door installed.

Garage Door Replacement Warnings

This section lists a few conditions under which you might need to replace your garage door.

Peeled Or Cracked Paint

Wooden doors often start rotting and peeling, or cracked paint indicates that. The UV exposure also leaves an impact on the door, resulting in discolored or faded doors. Wooden doors need replacing if you can see holes, cracks, faded paint, damage from moisture, etc.

Bent Doors

Over time, wooden doors begin to sag. It happens due to improper maintenance and a lack of a support strut. As a result, you might notice gaps under the door or between the door sections. It also hinders their appearance. If your garage door is sagging, we recommend replacing it at the earliest.

Quick Maintenance Guide for Garage Doors

If you’re cautious about the garage door’s longevity, here’s a quick guide that you can follow. Take care of the door system’s essential parts by asking yourself a couple of questions as listed below.

Taking Care of Springs

  • Ensure that the springs are intact and lubricated. Never run a door with a broken spring.
  • Test whether or not the tension is appropriate. The easiest way to find whether your springs are fine is by half-opening the garage door. If the door doesn’t remain still, it indicates a problem with the spring. They might be broken or require adjustment.
  • Readjusting the springs is extremely dangerous. Hence, we highly recommend calling a professional to get them fixed.

Checking the Cables

  • Worn-out cables can be identified by checking the hanging strips (if any) on the sides of the door. If yes, then perhaps your safety cable needs to be replaced.
  • If the edges of your safety cables wear, there are several outcomes which you won’t like at all. The worn-out strips might get stuck anywhere in the tracks. pulley, etc.

DID YOU KNOW? That even a small dent in your garage door can cause major problems if not addressed immediately? Make sure to check for bends in your garage door and have them fixed ASAP! Here’s an article I wrote on how to fix a bent garage door.

Garage Door Precautions

  1. Discourage and or prohibit your kids from playing near the garage when you’re working on this project. Furthermore, ensure that kids are not in contact with the garage controls, such as door opener control.
  2. Avoid placing your fingers between the door sections, and make sure you’re wearing safety glass all the time.
  3. Always use proper tools.
  4. Ensure that you’re always using the bolts of the correct size. Never use oversized or undersized bolts. That’s risky.
  5. We suggest wearing safety gloves when handling glasses (if any).
  6. Never forget to lubricate the hinges, torsion springs, and wheeled axle after completing the installation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is Installing A Garage Door Easy?

Installing a garage door isn’t simple at all. The process doesn’t seem simple either. Not only it’s difficult, but the installation process is also dangerous. Furthermore, installing a manual garage door is relatively more straightforward than an automatic door. That’s because manual doors are lighter and include less complexity.

The most complex part of the entire installation process is the torsion spring system. Inefficient handling can put all the efforts into vain. Moreover, incorrect installation can prevent proper movement of the door.

What Is The Rough Opening For A Garage Door?

Rough opening measurement is essential to figure out the correct garage door size. Measuring it is pretty easy if you have the essential mathematical ability.

The rough opening is the actual size of the finished door. You’ll need the width and height of the opening of your garage from inside. Rough opening is equal to the garage door size. For example, if the inside of the garage opening is 16’x7’, then that’s the required door size.

Can You Install A New Garage Door On Old Tracks?

It isn’t practically impossible to keep using the old tracks while upgrading your garage door. However, there are a few solid reasons for not doing so.

Tracks are usually specific for each door. Though there’s a fair chance that the old tracks might be compatible with the new door, no one can assure that they will be a perfect match. So it’s better not to go with the old tracks to avoid regrets in the future.

Because of safety, we recommend replacing the tracks when replacing the garage doors. That’s because tracks are metal, and they’ll receive massive damage from wear and tear and rusting. You never know the actual remaining life of tracks when you’re upgrading your doors.

Finally, imagine yourself. Brand new shiny doors paired with rusty old tracks won’t look very good.

There are still surplus reasons.

How Long Will Garage Door Installation Take?

Some people suggest it’ll take one full day to complete the project, while some assume it’ll finish in 2 days. A veteran door installer will remove an old door and install a new door in a matter of hours, but that skill takes years of experience. 

On average, consider this project to consume at least 1 to 2 days if you don’t have experience.