DIY Garage Door Opener Basics

Do it Yourself Garage Door InstallationEvery garage door opener comes with an installation manual or guide with clear (or not) instructions that fit it individually. This article isn’t meant to replace those instructions, but to give you an idea of what’s involved with a DIY installation of a garage door opener before you even buy one. This is not a step-by-step instruction set, just an overview.

I’m assuming that you are going to do a fresh install and not a replacement. The only differences are that you may have to remove some gear or that you’ll save some effort if that gear fits your new unit, so keep that in mind.


In general, you’ll need a few tools to install a garage door opener. These include some clamps, a tape measure, a drill (preferably cordless), a hacksaw and a set of wrenches. You opener may specify some lengths of 2×4 wood and the best material to mount the opener is heavy duty slotted angle iron.

First Things First

Before you open the garage opener box, heck before you even order it, inspect your garage door.

What type of door do you have? Sectional overhead doors are the most common, but other designs exist. Make sure your opener is explicitly designed to accommodate the type of door you have. If not, then make sure you either purchase the correct one or send the incorrectly ordered one back unopened.

Don’t try to use an opener on a door it wasn’t designed for. This can create a potentially dangerous situation. There are big mechanical forces at work when a 300-plus pound garage door is opening, so don’t mess around with it.

Inspector Gadget

Next, inspect the garage door and its workings. Contrary to popular belief, when a garage door opener lifts the door, it isn’t pulling all that weight itself. The torsion springs in the door provide assistance with energy stored from gravity during closing.

If your springs are old or broken, you’ll be putting much more strain on the motor than it was designed for, and may damage the door as well.

If you see a gap in the spring coils, it means that they are broken. This isn’t a DIY job to replace, so if you have a broken spring it’s time to call a professional.

If you have a sectional door with rollers, check them to see if they all work properly. Are any sticking, broken or wobbly? Does the door open smoothly without difficulty, excessive vibration, balance issues or noise?

If not you may need to repair the door first. You may also want to take the opportunity to replace old steel with modern nylon ones. They are much quieter and smoother.

I strongly suggest you get a professional to make any repairs to the door itself, since this is dangerous work that needs the right experience and tools.

Setting Up

You’ll need an eight-foot ladder to hold the opener up as you measure the distance from the center top of the door to the ceiling of the garage. It’s best to lock the door in the open position using clamps on the roller track. Aligning the opener with the center of the door is easier this way. The idea is to get the opener into the correct position where it will actually hang. You may need to put some planks on top of the ladder to get the opener unit to the correct height.

Angling for Perfection

Using a hacksaw and slotted angle iron bought from the hardware store, build a brace and mount that will close the gap between the ceiling and opener.

Of course you’re free to use the straps that are included in most kits, but the angle iron method will yield a stable, quieter and smoother solution.

Test, Test.

Once you have the opener installed you need to set its opening and closing points. Most modern openers can learn this in a few seconds, so just follow the instructions.

Make sure that the photo eyes are working properly. Cover one with your hand and click the remote. The door should not move. If it does, there’s a serious problem and you should phone the manufacturer for advice. Even a broken photo eye should stop the door from opening or closing.

Also test the force sensor. Close the door and push the sole of your shoe against the door (never put it in the way of the door!). Try to open the door with the remote. Just the little bit of force (at least five pounds) from your foot should prevent the door from working. If it still opens you may need to adjust the force properly.

In Closing

In general, that’s what you can expect to be doing when installing your opener. It’s not a terribly difficult job, but the openers can be finicky. Before you go the DIY route, get a free quote from your local installer before deciding to go for it yourself.