Charleston Home Inspector discusses Garage Door Safety

Submitted by Ray Thornburg on Wed, 07/06/2011 - 13:28

Blue Palmetto Home Inspection serves CharlestonA good home inspector will carefully examine your garage door. You'd be amazed at how many homes that I have been to have garage doors which are improperly adjusted or even dangerous. Most people don't realize how dangerous they can be. Every year people die because a heavy garage door falls on them.  A garage door can be quite heavy and is held up by springs.  If these springs break or are not adjusted right it could make opening the door quite difficult. A properly adjusted door should be easy to pick up and it should stay up on its on if you pick it up to a height of about three foot. If it doesn't pass this test have it adjusted professionally as some doors have external springs which are quite dangerous for the do it yourself handyman to adjust.  Sometime people will attempt to "fix" a heavy door by installing an opener.  This is a mistake..... adjust the door first and then install the opener to keep from burning the motor up on your opener.  Also an improperly adjusted opener can damage your door so make sure you have a professional install it.

Your inspector should:

  • Observe any significant damage. (bent panels, dings, loose bolts etc.
  • Make sure door and opener are mounted securely.
  • Observe the cables and springs and report any safety concerns. Broken springs or disconnected cables are not uncommon.
  • Operate the door manually first. Never try to operate it with the opener until you can confirm the door is not locked and that it is properly tensioned. Door should be easy to lift with no binding, rubbing or uneven pulling.
  • Door should stay up on its own. It should stay up on its own at full height and when lifted to about 3'6" off the ground.
  • Operate the opener only if the door is installed properly.
  • Inspect to see if the safety "eyes" are about 6" off the ground.
  • Check to see if the safety reversal is working (safety eye beams).
  • Check if travel limits are correct.
  • Check to see if the manual release cord is present.
  • If the inspector decides to inspect the force reversal system caution is advised. This is how much force the motor will exert before it reverses itself. The force adjustment should be set to allow enough force to open and close the door depending on how heavy the door is but still back it up if it encounters an obstacle.
  • The opener control button should be 5' or more above the floor in direct sight of the door.

Below are some photos and commentary to help you understand garage door safety. 


Parts of a garage door









  • Springs- On the door above there are external springs on the bar above the door. Sometimes they are inside the bar (internal springs).
  • Extension Springs - Doors with extension springs have no bar above the door. The springs are located on the side of the door.
  • U Bar- These bar go across the door on the inside to reinforce it. A door with an opener should have one across the top. Also in some areas with high wind zones multiple bars are required to meet the code. You'll see this extra reinforcement on newer homes to meet the requirement. The door (and springs) need to be designed for the extra weight.
  • Safety Label- Entrapment label should be put on the door by whoever installs the opener.
  • Safety Eye- The safety eyes shoot an invisible beam of light across the bottom of the door opening (about 6" up). If there is an obstacle in the way the door will automatically reverse.

Now let's check out some crazy home inspection photos.


missing hardware on garage door found on this home during a Charleston home inspection.

  Believe it or not the hardware was left off of this newly installed door. Sometimes though, the bolts and screws that hold a door together get loose over time and need to be checked. Missing or loose hardware is not uncommon to find on a home inspection.



no safety cable on garage door

   The safety cable was absent on this door with extension springs. The safety cable threads through the middle of the spring and is attached to the wall and a brace behind the spring. It is required to hold the springs up (when the door is open) and to prevent injury if the springs break. 



minor adjustment needed on gdo In this photo the opener was pulling the door too far up. This is a deficiency because pulling the door beyond where it is sprung could allow the cables (which hold the door up) to become unwound creating a dangerous situation. The arrows show how much extra the door was being pulled up.



gdo pushing door too far down    This opener is pushing the door too far down partially bending the opener bar upward. This will put a lot of stress on the door and opener wearing it out over time. Contrary to what some people believe a garage is not designed to be air tight (think exhaust fumes). Trying to seal tightly around a garage door is a waste of time (they are not insulated). Note the red manual release cable that is required. If the release cable is not there it is a deficiency.  The inspector must be able to disengage the opener to inspect the door.



vertical gdo bar

     This bar should actually be at a slight angle (tilted to the right at the top). The reason is that the slightest resistance in the door will make the bar push ahead of the door causing damage. Minor adjustments needed here.






missing safety eye

 A missing or disconnected safety eye like the one not seen in this picture will cause the opener not to function. This is a common occurrence; they are subject to being kicked, dislodged or misaligned by stored items.





rigged photo eye on garage door opener

    We actually see this quite a bit. The installer circumvented the designed safety feature of the opener by locating the safety eyes on the ceiling pointing at each other. A safety hazard.  Note the birds nest on top of the opener. This door was in such bad shape it couldn't close all the way thus allowing critters entrance into the garage.



garage door cable too loose    The photo at left shows what happens when the opener raises the door higher than the door is sprung. The cables pictured are loose and could come unwound. The solution is to adjust the opener or tighten the springs depending on the severity of the problem.






Check out our other blogs about a variety of home inspection topics. 

Blue Palmetto Home Inspection serves the entire Charleston lowcountry Area. Call us today! 843-608-5851

Submitted by Ray Thornburg on Wed, 07/06/2011 - 13:28