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Garage Doors: A Quick Guide to Installing Them Safely and Correctly


In my line of work as a door expert witness, I am frequently consulted to assess the damage caused by garage doors. Different sizes and styles of garage doors are available. Their uses extend from merely hiding an area for aesthetic purposes to providing essential security. There are only a handful of distinct door types. Overhead sectional garage doors are the most common type used in modern homes with garages. This type of door can be had in various shapes, sizes, materials, degrees of insulation, and visual presentation. You can buy them in a premade kit or have them custom-made to fit the style of your home or office. More stringent safety measures are typically required in commercial warehouse settings. The “roll-up” design, resembling a roll-top desk, is a fantastic option for this safety door. It is incredibly tough to break through this door since it may be made from several materials as robust as the surrounding walls. Lightweight aluminum single or sectional panel doors are also frequently used in commercial buildings. These doors are mainly for aesthetic purposes than for providing additional protection at a checkpoint.

Safety hazards from the springs used to counterbalance the door’s weight have historically been the primary issue when using an overhead garage door. Before the middle of the 1960s, most garage doors were installed with stretched (tensioned) springs attached to the hinges to help lift and lower the door. As the door was closed, the strain was applied to these springs, and they were loaded. The accumulated energy of the springs was “unloaded” (released) when the door was opened to the horizontal overhead position. The points of connection of these spring systems would rust or weaken over time, often without any maintenance or

inspection. Damage to the springs or connection places would eventually cause them to fail suddenly and violently, sending shards of spring and steel flying through the air and embedding themselves in the garage’s walls, vehicles, and anything else in their path. Sometimes, people were unlucky enough to be in the line of these cataclysmic events. Some manufacturers have responded to the failure of these springs by creating a “caging” system. The stretched springs had cages installed onto them to catch the falling pieces. These caging aids were helpful, but they weren’t foolproof. There are still some of these spring-based gadgets in use today. A professional service specialist should be contacted if this problem develops or whenever there is doubt about the quality of garage components.

In light of the dangers associated with traditional garage door springs, a new and much safer method of opening garage doors was developed. A torsion (twisted) spring was attached to a vertical rod to transfer the door’s weight from the cable and pulley system to the rod. Specialized hardware attaches one end of this sort of spring to a stationary plate, and the entire spring is wrapped around a horizontal pipe. Typically, this load-balancing apparatus is mounted over the garage door’s header. The torsion spring system supports the garage door by transferring the door’s weight through the use of cables, connectors, and pulleys. The method in which a spring’s energy is stored differentiates the traditional stretched spring from the more modern torsion spring. Standard extended springs hold potential power until you pull them or return them to their original length. Depending on the direction of use, a torsion spring transfers or dissipates energy by being rotated in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction. When the garage door is

professionally installed, the installer has complete control over how much weight the torsion spring is subjected to based on the size and weight of the garage door. This torsion spring will remain on the horizontal control rod even after breaking. Torsion springs are far safer than the stretched older design garage door springs, which can cause injuries from flying components. That doesn’t mean torsion springs haven’t hurt people, though. When handled by an experienced garage door installer, this spring type poses no safety risks. When inexperienced people try to install or repair this sort of spring, tragic results often occur. When a garage door is installed, a warning label is typically left next to the torsion spring. This tag should warn anyone who comes into contact with the spring or any attached hardware, as it contains stored energy that might cause severe injury or death. Suppose the warning label that should be connected to this spring has been removed, tampered with, or destroyed in any way. In that case, a new label must be affixed as soon as possible to demonstrate the risks associated with its stress.

In addition to being powered automatically by a motor, garage doors can be operated by hand. In all circumstances, the garage door’s functionality depends on the accuracy with which the door’s weight, springs, and other hardware components are balanced. A power-assisted automated motor cannot overcome a poorly balanced garage door. All garage doors tend to look heavier than they are. Most people don’t give much thought to the total weight of an opened and closed door until the springs no longer assist. All garage door types rely on a well-oiled machine with a door opener, track, hardware, and hinges. Entries that aren’t aligned properly, shift out of place, or get stuck might be challenging to open and close. Injuries can result from applying counter forces to a garage door that aren’t accounted for in the design of the door’s parts. Negligent or absent maintenance has resulted in severe injuries to people. While trying to force a garage door to open while one or more of its parts are broken or damaged might cause serious injury. Every type of door system requires regular maintenance to function correctly.

Roll-up garage doors operate differently than sectional or single-panel doors installed overhead. These entrances can be hidden from sight in a ceiling or floor trough. The only difference between these doors and a roll-top desk door is how they are stored. When retracted, they often coil, and large gear systems are needed to make raising and lowering them easier. These roll-up doors typically require a reduction transmission to move due to the considerable weight and high force requirements. Chains can be manually or electrically powered to open and close these doors. In comparison to conventional overhead garage doors, roll-up doors need more regular inspection and maintenance. The vertically placed tracks on either side of the garage opening are the most problematic since they are more likely to become clogged with debris or be destroyed in a collision, necessitating more frequent maintenance and cleaning. These roll-up doors often use a ratcheting mechanism to stay open. The weight of these doors is typically significantly more than that of an overhead door, making it even more crucial that they are adequately balanced than an overhead door.

As a lawyer, I’ve been involved in several cases involving garage doors and injuries sustained due to them. I have seen a few trends as an expert witness who both plaintiffs and defendants have hired. It’s common for incompetent people to try fixing or installing garage doors. They haven’t had the expertise to get the job done right, and they don’t have the equipment they need to do it safely. Manufacturers and installers of garage doors have retained me as an expert witness to refute accusations that they are liable for damages caused by product flaws. Most broken components can be traced back to user misuse or incorrect installation.

As mentioned, an inexperienced person should not attempt to install most garage doors. The exception to this rule is the “do it yourself” garage door kits found at most home improvement stores. Because the hardware included in these kits is not of professional quality, installing the door does not necessitate professional assistance. Torsion springs, which would require training, experience, and the right equipment to install, are not commonly used in these kits. Light traffic is recommended for the doors. If a homeowner requires assistance with a specific installation, they may usually get it at a home improvement store offering professional installation services. Years of experience as a professional installation are required to qualify tradespeople for their contractor’s license, as is the case with other specialized occupations. In most cases, a homeowner who has watched a few television episodes that provide only vague instructions on installing a garage door should not attempt to do so alone. These “how-to” shows on TV can’t compare to the real-world experience required to master the many tasks involved.

The preceding article is a brief overview of several varieties of garage doors. I have not provided specifics about what constitutes a fair business practice or what bodily harm could be expected.

Mike Panish is a consultant and expert witness in the building trade. Doors and automatic door hardware are among his key areas of competence. He has worked installing and servicing customized door systems for businesses, apartment complexes, hotels, medical facilities, and laboratories for over 30 years. He is an expert in automatic door systems and has written extensively on door-related claims and maintenance difficulties. He has his California contractor’s license for installing doors and hardware. He has provided forensic analysis, case

investigation, and consultation services for numerous garage door-related injury claims, and his work has taken him all over the United States. Both plaintiffs and defendants have sought his advice and expertise as they pursue claims involving injuries sustained via doors. Mike can quickly gather information, explain the most important details of your case, and help you build it from the ground up, all the way through discovery and the trial. He maintains offices in the Bay Area, New Hampshire, and Boston. He travels the country to examine, consult, analyze, and testify as an expert witness. The best number to reach Michael Panish is (818) 429-1963 (Sharon). You can contact me at [email protected]. To learn more about Michael Panish’s expert witness services, please visit

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