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How to Replace a Garage Door

This Old House carpenter Nathan Gilbert helps a homeowner upgrade her curb appeal by replacing her old garage door.

Carpenter Nathan Gilbert makes a house call to help a homeowner replace her overhead garage door. After explaining some of the safety concerns to be aware of, Nathan and the homeowner get to work removing the existing garage door one section at a time.

How To Replace a Garage Door

Note: Some doors may be under considerable spring-loaded tension. It’s very important to be extremely careful when working with these doors. Also, garage doors are heavy, so it’s best to enlist the help of a friend.

  1. Start the project by ensuring that the new door will fit the opening. Using a tape measure, measure across the existing door and compare the measurements to the new door.
  2. Lift the existing door up so that it is fully open. Use a C-clamp placed in the track to keep the door from rolling back down. Carefully remove the steel cables that connect the garage door to the spring on both sides. Disconnect the garage door arm if it’s still connected and carefully lower the garage door (it will feel much heavier).
  3. Starting with the top panel, remove the screws or bolts holding the hinges to the door. In many cases, it’s best to use a wrench and work slowly to prevent damaging older bolts. As each hinge set comes loose, lift one end of the panel and guide the rollers out of the track before removing them from the other side. Carefully set each panel down and out of the way before moving to the next panel and repeating.
  4. Lay the new bottom section face-down on a work table or the garage floor (throw drop cloths down to prevent damage). Attach the bottom bracket and first hinge to one side of the panel using the impact driver and socket set. Do not attach both hinges or bottom brackets yet. Once attached, slide a set of rollers into the hinge and bracket.
  5. Place the worktable in the center of the garage door opening. Carefully maneuver the attached rollers into the track and allow the panel to rest on the table.
  6. Working with the other track, install the rollers, brackets, and hinges. Align the bottom bracket with the holes in the panel and secure it with the impact driver before moving on to the hinge.
  7. Carefully remove the work table and lower the panel to the ground. Place a level on the panel’s top and shim it until it’s level. This will provide a level base to attach the following panels, removing the need to adjust brackets and hinges down the road.
  8. Repeat the process of attaching hinges and rollers for the second and third panels (and the fourth in a five-panel door).
  9. Check the topmost panel to ensure that the new brackets will align with the track. For two-track systems, it may be necessary to salvage the bracket from the old panel. To install this panel, place it into the opening, snap the rollers into the tracks, and secure the hinges and brackets to the panel.
  10. To reattach the springs, open the door fully and place the clamp back on the track to prevent it from falling. Hook the cable to the bracket on the bottom panel and route it over the pulley according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Then, route it back toward the pulley attached to the spring before connecting it with the tensioning clip. Adjust the clip’s positioning for more or less tension and then repeat on the other side.
  11. Lower the door completely. Disconnect the arm from the garage door closer and slide it forward. Remove the screws holding the middle hinge in place, position the bracket over the top of the hinge, and resecure it using the same screws. Next, lift the door open until the arm snaps back into the closure mechanism and test its function.
  12. Finally, use the miter saw to cut vinyl strips and attach them to the jamb using a brad nailer to close the gap between the door and the jamb for a finished look.