How to Repair Garage Doors on Your Rental Properties
Parking for rental properties comes in many shapes and sizes, from street parking to carports but a vast majority of single family homes, townhomes, and duplexes have retractable garage doors. Damage to these doors is surprisingly common as almost any accidental impact can leave dents, bend tracks, or even snap tension cables, and property managers often take a hand in repairs even if the tenant is officially responsible to ensure they are done correctly and in keeping with the landlord's wishes. The good news is that garage door parts are cheap and most of the time repairs are fairly straight forward. If you're handy with a wrench and have a worried tenant on your hands, here's a quick guide on torsion-lift garages for what you can solve on your own and when it's time to call a contractor.
The number one cause of garage door damage is accidentally backing into it when it is fully or partially down. This usually causes a noticeable dent in one or two panels and can potentially pull the door slightly out of alignment. For minor damage, you can try this common trick or simply un-bolt the panels from their fasteners and hammer out the dents with a rubber mallet, then rehang them. If the panels are too warped for quick repairs, replacement panels can be easily attained, usually for less than $200 each, and then re-hung without costly external labor.
Sometimes damage to a garage door will bend or even buckle the tracks used by the rollers to guide the door up and down. These tracks come in two pieces, the vertical track which is a straight metal piece curved in around the edges to catch the rollers and the horizontal track which curves up to parallel the ceiling. When the track is bent, rollers either pull out and fall or stop, unable to pass. Vertical tracks can be removed and either hammered back into shape or replaced by docking the garage door in the upright position. Remember to use a c-clamp or vice grip under the final rollers to keep it in place. Damage severe enough to warp the horizontal bar usually requires something more akin to a full track replacement, so you may want to call a contractor.
Slipped or Broken Cables
If one of the cables has come loose or snapped, this is also a relatively easy fix but can seem quite upsettingly broken to a worried tenant. Once again, roll the garage door all the way open and clamp it below the rollers to keep it in place. Remove the old cable and replace it with one that matches the size and weight of your garage door, which usually costs about $6 to $15. Slip the beaded end into the end of your cable drum, then wind it along the drum grooves until the loop end is close to the bottom of the garage door. Attach the loop to the bolt waiting for it. Adjust the drum for slack, then close the door (remove the clamp first) and adjust again to make sure the sides are even.
Know Your Limits
There is only so much one handy property manager can do on their own unless you are a trained garage door technician already. If there is something wrong with the springs, electrical unit, or upper tracks, it's usually best to call in a contractor. Likewise, if there is a great enough variety of damage such that a reinstallation would be easier than repairing each one of them, it's advisable not to try complete reinstallation on your own, as garage doors are incredibly heavy moving objects and mishandling them is a recipe for personal injury and property damage.
If the damage is minor and you're good at repairs, you can save yourself and a worried tenant several hundred dollars in contractor fees with a few inexpensive parts and some applied physics. The vast majority of garage repairs can be performed with a rubber mallet and a basic knowledge of how the pieces fit together. All you need to worry about is knowing the difference between a few dents and serious issues that require a professional.