Common Defects: Garage Doors

Most garage doors these days are overhead and mechanical. They are typically operated by garage door openers from a button and pose some safety risks that don’t come with older, manually operated doors.

Mechanical (electronic) doors come with two main safety features: “red eye” safety lasers and an auto-reverse feature. The red eyes are the lasers located at the bottom of the door tracks. They detect movement and should cause the garage door to stop and reverse if they sense an obstruction in the path of the lasers. You can easily check their proper function by pushing the button to close the door and then sticking your foot out between the lasers. To be most effective,  red eyes should be 6-8 inches off the ground. The auto-reverse is another safety feature that causes the garage door to stop and reverse automatically if the door physically hits an obstruction that exerts a certain amount of resistance to the downward force of the door. You can check this feature by closing the door and physically exerting force with your hand on the bottom of the door as it’s moving downward.

In some cases, red eyes are missing entirely from door tracks. In other cases, the red eyes are present and working fine but the auto-reverse function requires far too much force before the door stops and/or reverses. The auto-reverse is easily adjusted on most door openers on the back of the opener with a screwdriver, and testing the feature and adjusting the setting as necessary is highly recommended.

These built-in garage door safety features are important, and periodic testing of their proper function should be done by any homeowner who owns mechanically operated garage doors. The safety features are especially important for homes that contain small children, as they can easily be hurt, or even crushed, by garage doors if the safety functions are malfunctioning. Human safety is obviously the biggest concern, but damage to vehicles and other objects is also a possibility when the safety features aren’t working as intended.

If you have mechanical garage doors, ensure that red eye lasers are present at the bottom of the door tracks 6-8 inches off the ground and that the auto-reverse is adjusted to respond to minimal force. Doing so could literally save a life, or at least your car, from unexpected damage.

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Author: hillinspections

I am a Certified Master Inspector (CMI) and the owner and operator of Hill Property Inspections LLC, the top-rated inspection company in the greater Johnstown, PA area, based out of western Pennsylvania. I specialize in property inspections and environmental testing services and have a passion for helping my own clients and other families in learning to properly maintain their homes. I’m also the owner of Hill Pest Control, LLC and a pest management professional committed to helping our clients rid their homes and businesses of unwanted pests. I am an Army veteran, former State Farm Insurance Agent, and real estate investor with experience in all facets of real estate construction, transaction and insurance. I am also the founder and President of the Southwestern PA Chapter of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) and an affiliate member of the Cambria-Somerset Association of Realtors (CSAR).

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