Hitting or backing into the garage door is more common than you might think – in fact it happens all the time. Most of these types of accidents happen during early morning hours when homeowners are tired and running late for work. Maybe their morning caffeine hasn’t kicked in yet or maybe its the early morning darkness. In either case its usually user error as opposed to malfunctioning openers that causes garage door accidents.
A car backed into the garage door can be an embarrassing and stressful situation. Damaged vehicles and garage door sections are costly to repair or replace. The decision to have a new garage door installed versus trying to repair your current overhead door system can be tricky. Before making a decision you should weigh a few important factors. Door age, number of sections damaged and the ability to make repairs on your own are important factors to consider.
1. What causes doors to get backed into?
Garage doors get backed into for a variety of reasons, but the most common theme is user error due to the homeowner being in a rush to go somewhere. Most door related accidents occur early in the morning when it is dark out and homeowners are likely rushing to get to work on time. They hit the garage door opener remote, failing to let the door open completely before backing up. If there is any binding or obstruction in the track the door could automatically reverse while the vehicle is backing up – clipping the bottom section.
Accidents also happen on the exterior (driveway side) of the garage door- hitting the gas pedal instead of the brake is a common source of these types of accidents. Downsloping driveways are another source of trouble for door accidents in the winter time. Ice can build up causing vehicles to lose control and slide into the garage door.
2. Should you call your insurance company?
All car damage can be taken care of through your auto insurance company, but it may be better to pay for costs out of pocket – depending on your deductible. The same can be said about calling your homeowners insurance to cover the cost of your overhead door. Most garage door repairs are in the hundreds of dollars, but can range into the thousands depending on the damage done and the door model.
Always assess the damage to your door system and call several reputable companies for free estimates before filing an insurance claim. If only the bottom few sections of your door have been hit the door can usually be repaired for a few hundred dollars. Since most homeowners insurance deductibles are around $1,000 its not worth it to file a claim.
3. How much will the garage door repair cost?
If you think you can live with dented and bent garage door panels repair might be an option. Depending on how hard your door was hit bracing up the sections could provide a temporary fix. The repair would likely consist of bending the panels back into place and installing struts or punch angle to brace up the damaged area.
The main issue with dented or bent panels is the joint alignment. Garage doors have either tongue and groove joints or ship-lap (stair step design) where they come together. If these joints don’t hit in alignment the sections will pop and shake during door operation. Eventually the thin walls of bent garage door sections will split just like an aluminum can leading to bigger problems.
4. What if the accident happens after hours?
Emergency service calls carry a big price tag, especially in secluded physical locations or on holidays. After hours service rates can be 50-100% higher than normal operating hours. If makes economical sense to deal with whatever door issues you can by yourself until normal business hours.However you may need to call a professional for help if a vehicle is stuck inside the garage.
Was your garage door hit from inside the garage or from the exterior driveway side? If you hit the door from the outside its likely that you just need to get the door down to secure your belongings in the garage. Your car obviously isn’t stuck so its best to wait for normal operating hours. You should be able to disconnect your opener by pulling the red release cord and pulling the door shut.
Never attempt to use the garage door opener if your door has been hit. Doing so could strip the nylon drive gear or further damage the top door section.
If you backed in the door from inside the garage you could potentially have some safety issues. If your garage door is stuck closed, pull the red release cord to disconnect the opener from the door. Then look at the cables and drums making sure the cables have not slipped off. If everything is intact you can attempt to lift the door up the track.
Keep in mind you may need help from a neighbor to lift heavy doors – especially if the cable has come loose. If you are able to get the door open always be sure to clamp off the track using a set of vice grips on each side. This should prevent the door from slamming back down to the floor.
5. What if the garage door is stuck?
If your garage door is stuck its likely because the cables have come off the drums or rollers have slipped out of the tracks. In most cases this will require a professional garage door repair technician to fix the door. In either case its going to require some heavy lifting and caution.
If the door has been hit hard enough that it can’t be repaired it can be dangerous to raise it open. The sections can be damaged enough that they run the risk of falling out of the horizontal tracks overhead. This could potentially hurt someone in the garage or cause further damage to your vehicle.
Service technicians may attempt to raise the door enough to get trapped vehicles out. Then they would likely close the door and cut the cables so that it can’t be until replacement is made.
6. Should I replace the entire door or just the panels?
Replacing sections only instead of the entire door (track, springs, hardware) is usually 75% of the complete door price. So a garage door system that costs $1000 in materials would cost $750 for sections only.
The labor to install sections only vs replacing the entire door system has a similar ratio. If labor to replace the entire garage door costs $200 you can expect to pay about $150 to take down your old sections and replace them.
Labor is heavily weighted to the initial call out fee. Replacing one bottom section might cost $75 in labor, but labor to replace all 4-5 sections might cost $175. The labor per section decreases with the total amount of sections being replaced.
When is the last time you had your torsion springs replaced? If its been longer than 7 years you are getting to the end of their 10,000 cycle lifespan. A typical spring change on a double door goes from $200-$400 depending on the size of the springs. It doesn’t make economical sense to have the sections only replaced and then call again in 6-12 month for a spring repair. If the springs haven’t been replaced lately its cost effective to replace the entire overhead door system.
7. How Old is Your Garage Door?
Much like an automobile, garage door value decreases with age while the replacement value steadily increases due to price inflation. Garage doors last between 15-25 years with normal use although most doors show evidence of fading, chipping, cracking and splitting at about 10 years of age.
Overhead doors older than 10 years should probably be replaced completely. Finding replacement sections for older doors (20+ years) can be difficult or impossible depending on the brand. Even if you are lucky enough to find matching panels, you may end up paying a high price for a hard to find door section.
Older doors also have issues with fading – especially if they are dark color and facing direct sunlight the majority of the day. If you decide to replace just a damaged section vs the entire door be prepared to repaint the entire door. New garage door sections installed on an older door will be noticeably brighter – even from the street.
8. How Many Sections Were Damaged??
The bottom section of your garage door is most frequently hit due to its location. Sometimes garage door openers cause the door to reverse back down while your car is backing up. Other times people are in a hurry to leave and fail to let the door open completely.
Residential garage doors are usually 7ft tall and made up of (4) 21″ tall sections. Doors that are 8ft tall are made up of (2) 21″ tall panels and (3) 18″ panels.
The number of sections damaged is important in making the most economical decision about your door system. If 2 or more door sections need to be replaced you are usually better off replacing the entire set of panels.
The damage doesn’t end with just the door sections. Plenty of other parts can be damaged like hinges, rollers, cables and brackets. If you hit the door hard enough the vertical track can get bent out of alignment causing the rollers to fall out of the track channels.
Glass adds a lot to the price of the door and sections. Thankfully windows are usually installed towards the top of the door out of harms way. If you end up hitting the bottom of the garage door its best to replace all the sections except the garage door. Glass and design inserts can add about 25% to the price of the door. Save your glass section when possible and replace the remaining sections when possible.
9. Can You Install the Panels Yourself?
It may not be any cheaper to replace 2-3 sections as opposed to the complete door. The amount of time and labor needed to install a few sections is likely the same as a complete set of sections. If you can buy panels yourself from a dealer replacing a few sections would be cost effective.
Double Car Door Example:
16×7 Vinyl Back Insulated, Raised Panel Solid Door
Complete Door ( Includes track, springs, hinges, rollers etc) – $600.00
Full Set of Sections (4 panels) – $475.00
Labor to Install Door – $175.00
Bottom Panel (Seal Included) – $150.00
Intermediate Panels (each) – $130.00
Labor to Install Section (each) – $75.00
Spring Change (two springs) – $250.00
A complete door installed (including labor) would cost about $800 and sections only would cost $675. Installing one section (labor included) would cost $225.00 and two sections would run $430. Having a third section installed would cost $635. Putting money into a 15 year old door is a poor way to invest money. Your money is better served getting an entire new door – especially when a new door comes with a fresh pair of torsion springs. New torsion springs represent a value of $250.00 or more.
10. Should you get an estimate first?
Always get multiple estimates on all door repairs and installation projects. The worst thing you can do is just call a door company out to your house without ever asking for the cost. I’m not saying every door company out there is in the business of ripping people off, but I know there are plenty that do that so don’t take any chances.
With the technology we have today you should be able to get an estimate emailed to you. Just be sure to provide the correct size, color and model to your local door pro to ensure an accurate quote. Important door information and the serial number should be located on a sticker on the end stile of the door sections.
With the development of social media and review sites like Google business its much easier to see what companies have a good reputation. Always try to get written estimates from several companies to protect yourself. You may not always want to go with the lowest price. Availability of the product, speed of service and track record should be factored into your decision even if that means paying (slightly) more. Reviews and rankings on the internet matter so be sure to factor those into your decision making.
Getting multiple quotes also gives you the option for price matching programs. If a garage door company is particularly slow they might be willing to offer a discount to match or beat a competitors price. If you live in a large city this is almost always an option.
Price quotes can also vary based on name brand. Sometimes door manufacturers like CHI. Clopay, Amarr and Raynor will partner with a major garage door repair company and not sell to competitors. If a section needs to be replaced you will have to go through that particular door brand dealer. If you ask for an estimate from a competitor that section will get marked up twice!
Have you ever backed into your garage door? Share your experience and any additional tips in the comments section below.