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How Does a Garage Door System Work?
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Your garage door is probably the largest open in your home, and requires the largest door in your home. 

The garage door works with many components all working together to form one system. The garage 

door  not only helps seal your home from the elements, but provides security for the items in your 

garage and house.

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The first thing in the system is the door itself. The size, shape and weight of the Garage door will 

determine what is needed for the other parts of the garage door system. For your door you can choose 

many different materials from wood to metal to vinyl. The styles range from very modern smooth panel 

doors to carriage style, decorative doors. The garage door can have windows or no windows and you 

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can choose to have your door built with or without insulation. Depending on where you live you can 

even choose to have a wind rated garage door. Check your local building code and homeowners 

association for requirements in your area. The choice of material and styles is up to you and your 

Once you know the style of door you want, what material you want it constructed with and what other 

features you desire, then the proper hardware can be determined. The next component you need to 

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decide on is the spring system. In all cases we recommend a torsion spring system although you could 

choose to use extension springs. You must know the weight of the garage door to determine what 

spring(s) you will need and the number of springs your garage door will require.

The weight of the door will also help you decide on the gauge of steel needed for the garage door tracks 

and even the hinges. The heavier the garage door the stronger steel you will need for the tracks and 

hinges. If the steel is too light weight it will lead to premature failure.

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There are also a selection of cables and drums designed for larger heavier garage doors. It is important 

with large heavy doors to use larger drums and heavier gauge cables. Remember the springs provide the 

strength to counter balance the weight of the garage door while the cables and drums do the lifting. 

Finally are the rollers that help the door travel smoothly up and down in the garage door tracks. The 

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choices are start with plastic rollers with no ball bearings, steel rollers with or without ball bearings and 

then nylon rollers with different numbers of ball bearings and even sealed ball bearing designs. For large 

heavy doors we recommend nylon sealed bearing rollers (z-bearing) while with lighter doors  other 

rollers will work as well. Much of the noise from a garage door system come from the rollers, so you 

have choices in quality that will affect the noise the rollers produce.

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The final component is the garage door opener. There are many choices and manufacturers to choose 

from. The first decision is whether you want a screw drive, chain drive , belt drive and even a jack shaft 

garage door opener. 

First  let’s consider the screw drive opener. This opener utilizes a motor that turns the screw that opens 

and closes the garage door. This system utilizes a slider that the screw drives when opening and closing 

The chain drive and belt drive utilize a similar system. The opener motor is attached to a gear and 

sprocket. The sprocket driven by the gear moves the chain or belt to open and close the garage door. A 

chain is very strong, but can be noisy while the belt made of Kevlar is almost as strong as the chain and 

much quieter than either the chain or the screw drive. The chain or belt pushes the slider up and down 

as the garage door opens and closes.

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Finally is the jack shaft designed garage door opener. The jack shaft opener does not utilize overhead 

rails like the screw, chain and belt drive. This system utilizes a motor that turns the torsion tube/spring 

bar to open and close the garage door. This system is very strong and quite, but is more expensive than 

the other systems available. This system will only work with a torsion spring system, but will also work if 

head clearance is an issue with the other openers. This system does require enough clearance on the 

sides of the garage door as the opener motor mounts to the side of the garage door as opposed to being 

mounted in the center of the garage.

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Next think about the difference between garage door openers you buy at your local home improvement 

store and professional models. The biggest difference is in the rails, professional models utilize one 

piece rails while the models you buy at your local home improvement store use sectional rails that must 

be bolted together. The single piece rails in professional models are much stronger and easier to install 

than sectional rails. There are also differences in the some of the gears and electrical components inside 

the motor of the professional  model making them stronger than the ones you buy at a local home 

improvement store.

These components along with the associated hardware all make the garage door system work efficiently 

in opening and closing the garage door. Your personal style and budget will determine what type and 

style of door you will choose to install at your home. 

Remember the more decorative and features you want on your garage door the more you will have to 

pay for those features. Do not skimp on the components you install on your door as they directly affect 

the way the door functions. The same is true for electric garage door openers. Make sure you choose a 

model with enough horse power to open and close your garage door. The heavier the door the stronger 

the garage door opener should be. If a quiet door is important I recommend the belt drive or jack-shaft, 

but again you have many options to fit your desires and budget.

Prices will vary widely depending on what style and design door you choose and what type of electric 

garage door opener you choose. 

Remember: Always check your local building codes and homeowners association guidelines to make 

sure the garage door you choose meets the guidelines in your area.