Quiet the Garage Door System
Noises produced by the garage door are usually blamed on the opener just like furnace noises are usually blamed on the blower. In both cases you are dealing with a system comprised of many individual parts that must work together to allow you into, and out of, your garage. (See our article ‘How to Quiet a Noisy Furnace Blower‘)
Yes, it could be the opener. But before you make any big decisions about that, I believe you need to follow a logical progression of inspection, repairs, and maintenance. Some, if not most, of that grinding, squealing, vibration, tapping, and banging will be coming from all of the peripheral parts of the system.
Check the Rollers and Tracks
They are called rollers–not sliders–for a reason. Before getting out the lubricant take a good look at your rollers and tracks. Worn rollers not only cause noise–they create vibration; and because the tracks are attached to your garage framing, you could feel it throughout the structure. The rollers should not be flat on one side–nor should the show signs of much wear on the sides. If the face of the roller is flattening out it is probably seized and will need to be replaced. Although the rollers are designed to move laterally to compensate for slight track variations, they will eventually show evidence of wear as they rub the track.
Even if your existing rollers still look good, they are probably metal on metal. New nylon rollers promise 75% noise reduction–and if you find one that looks worn, why not replace them all. And even if there is not much wrong with the existing ones, you want to reduce noise. Before replacing the rollers, make sure the tracks are lined up and in good shape. If tracks are out of alignment you will probably be hearing a metal on metal grinding or screeching noise.
It is fairly easy to bend door tracks out of alignment. Hitting the thing with your car is fairly obvious, but other things like banging it with the lawnmower, or anything else you are moving around–even tying your crazed Rottweiler to it–can bend the mounts. Make sure they are aligned straight (perpendicular) to the wall and the channels–where the roller wheels run–do not have any narrowed spots (like someone snapping a vice grip onto it for some reason). Then replace the rollers.
Note: Do NOT remove the bottom hinges that have the cables attached unless you enjoy putting all kinds of things back together again. And more importantly–it is dangerous.
Get a good silicone based lubricant like 3 in 1 Garage Door Lubricant and soak everything. Tracks, rollers (if not sealed bearings), hinges, springs, trolley, chain, any metal part that moves.
This product comes out of the can wet. That is the accelerant needed to get it out of the can and onto what you need to lubricate. The liquid will evaporate leaving pure silicone. Lubricating once or twice a year helps prevent noise, premature wear, and extends the life of your door system.
Notes: If a Bush was president last time you did this, you might want to spray all moving parts monthly for a while to make sure the silicone penetrates everywhere. I use silicone for almost everything that needs lubrication. It does not stain, does not dry out, and the smell dissipates fairly quickly.
Do not use oil. It attracts and holds dirt.
Tighten Bolts and Nuts
This should be pretty obvious, but make sure everything is tight. Movement tends to loosen bolts and nuts. It does not take long to grab a wrench and make sure everything is snug. Do not over-tighten. If you find that your hinge bolts have been loose for so long they have worn the bolt holes into oblongs, or worse, the hinge itself is worn–then change them. Having everything fit tight will eliminate panels banging together as the door closes.
You can purchase service kits that come with hinges, rollers, and lubricant. You will probably have to re-use your existing screws, nuts, and bolts which should not be a problem unless some of yours are worn or broken. Although most garage door parts are interchangeable (most rollers fit into most hinges) buying everything at once from one manufacturer should eliminate even the possibility of a mismatch.
Also, make sure you tighten the belt, or chain, if necessary. (Hopefully you still have the instruction book; or can look it up online.) Loose chains will slap, tap, or drag against the mast and no amount of silicone will fix the noise.
Soundproof the Opener
Very rarely does the electric motor cause noise problems. They are very quiet unless they are smoking. (Once you let the smoke out, they usually quit working.) The Impact Noise you hear–especially if there is living space above your garage–comes from some, or all, of the parts attached to the motor and hangars, which transfer through the mast to the garage ceiling. The following suggestions will certainly help quiet your opener.
- Replace your old chain drive opener with a belt drive opener. They are much quieter. Make sure you get everything you need including a new mast that is the correct length. (I really suggest a one-piece mast. Mine had an extension because of the 8′ door. It broke right at the join. Probably had nothing to do with the door being frozen solid to the concrete.)
2. Another opener option is a screw-drive unit. It is becoming more popular because of its smooth operation and relatively simple installation. Polymer coated trolley rails and regular lubrication will keep them fairly quiet. (Note: These work best on single doors. They may not be strong enough for heavy double doors.)
3. Whether you are replacing the opener or making your existing unit quieter you can decouple your mounts from the framing with both noise insulators between the motor block and the mounting brackets; and an RSIC-GDS garage door silencer from Acoustical Surfaces. The noise insulators are quick and inexpensive but before tackling the garage door silencer you might want to take a look at the PDF installation instructions at acousticalsurfaces.com. It is much more involved than just changing out a couple of bolts.
4. Install soundproofing material on the ceiling above the motor and the length of the mast. (Do not wrap the motor–unless you want it to overheat.) This will not lessen the Impact Noise coming through the motor mounts, but it may help with the Airborne Noise directly above the equipment. (I really do not think this is good value for your time and money. To be really effective, you would have to do the complete ceiling. Please see our article on How to Soundproof a Garage.)
Garage Insulation and Weatherstrip
It is possible that some of the funky squealing comes from the door sliding against the door weatherstrip. Some of that old weatherstrip with 4 coats of paint on it will cut a 2 x 4 as quickly as a chop saw. At the very least, it is scratching up your door. Replace it.
Soundproof the Garage Door Panels
Many newer garage doors are insulated. But uninsulated panels are still an option; and countless existing doors are just heavy gauge metal. Not only will insulating your door keep it warmer/cooler inside, it will help soundproof the garage. I will also eliminate, or at least cut down, that ‘kind of hollow booming’ sound you hear from the flexing panels themselves as the door moves up and down. Quite often this noise is caused by the door not being aligned properly due to the track, roller, lubrication problems you addressed earlier.
Replace Garage Door Bottom Weatherstrip
‘What has this got to do with a Quiet Garage Door Opener?’ Possibly quite a bit. If your bottom weatherstrip is missing, torn, or thin–and the base it is resting on is off-level, heaved, bowed, or broken up–chances are the door is not seating itself properly, causing stress and wear on the hinges. It could also cause the door panels to flex giving you that hollow booming noise. Replacing the bottom weatherstrip has the added benefits of helping to soundproof the garage, keep it warmer, and prevent small rodents and insects from setting up shop inside.
Although sectional ‘raise and lower’ garage doors are the ones I have been concentrating on, there are a couple of other subjects I want to touch on.
Ugly Old One Panel Garage Doors
Although these are not really our subject, they still need to open and close–quietly, if possible. Some are sectional and some are those gawdawful single metal panels designed to take off a kneecap if you are not careful. If you have not motorized yours–or even if you have–it will require much of the same maintenance. Rollers, track, lubrication, and tightening. And springs–sometimes.
Garage Door Springs
Garage doors usually have one of two types of springs–extension springs or torsion springs.
- Extension Springs – These are springs on each side of the door attached to a pulley system. (They are color-coded for door size and weight.)Some of the ones I have seen are older than dirt and stretched so far that they droop. They also make all kinds of banging, tapping, and some kind of sponging noises. They are also fairly useless when over-stretched. Change them in pairs to make adjustments easier. (You can also purchase a complete kit if your pulleys and cables are also worn.) Your door will be much quieter, and work way better. If you are changing springs, you might want to consider switching to torsion springs.
- Torsion Springs – These are the large rolls of steel attached to the header above your garage door. Generally, they are much quieter than extension springs and easier to maintain. (Regular lubrication.) They also have a much longer life span.
Note: Changing either type of spring can potentially be dangerous. I have met a couple of door installers who suffered broken arms from winding torsion springs. If you do not feel comfortable tackling these yourself, call a professional.