Wood is among the most attractive materials for garage doors, but with all that beauty comes a frailty that requires a great deal of upkeep. If you’ve chosen to install a wooden garage door, or you’ve purchased a home that has one already installed, you’ll have to do yearly maintenance to keep your door looking its best. Pick a day each year in the fall or spring, when the weather’s nice and rain isn’t expected to run through this to do list:
Prod for Rot. Rot is your wooden garage door’s enemy. Hungry little bacteria and fungus eat away at your door, often at the spots that remain moist the longest. Check the bottom of your door, as well as the door’s trimwork, by prodding the areas with a long-handled screwdriver. If your screwdriver goes through the surface, you have repairs to take care of before you can even begin to contemplate maintenance. These types of repairs are best for a professional if you’re not confident with tools like reciprocating saws.
Look for Pests. While you’re poking and prodding your wooden garage door, keep an eye out for pests. Termites can be problematic with anything made from wood, as are other wood-consuming insects like boring beetles and decomposers like slugs and snails. If you see anything live alongside wood rot or little tunnels made of mud, take time to get a good look and ID the buggers before treating your door. Call a pest control expert if you’re not sure what species you’re seeing.
Remove Peeling and Chipped Finishes. Wooden garage door finishes aren’t created equal -- and even the best will peel or crack if they weren’t applied to properly prepared surfaces. If you inherited a painted door, make sure you hit it hard with a paint scraper to remove any loose paint chips. Bits of uneven wood should be smoothed out before you dress your door for the next year; fill any holes with wood putty and allow them to dry.
Apply a New Coat of Finish. Whether your wooden garage door is painted, polyurethaned or simply water sealed, it’s going to need a new coat of finish to keep it looking its best. After repairing damaged wood and prepping your surfaces thoroughly, apply a new coat of your choice according to package directions and allow it to dry completely. Doors with windows may need to be taped to simplify clean-up.
Check the Hardware. Once your door is refinished and completely dry, roll it up and down and listen for any harsh sounds. Scraping and screeching aren’t normal noises for a garage door to make and they indicate further investigation is needed. Along with tightening all screws and connection points, check the rollers for wear and lubricate the springs with a lightweight grease.
Examine the Seals. Last but not least are the seals. Shut your door and take a hard look. Can you see light shining between the seals and the door from inside the garage? If so, your seals are worn out, undersized, or both. Remove the seals and take them with you to your favorite hardware store to find a suitable replacement that will protect your garage from water damage and extreme temperature fluctuations. Doors without bottom weatherseals should have them added.
Garage doors take up the most visual real estate of any element of your home -- keeping your garage door in top shape will pay dividends in curb appeal for your whole house. Most wooden garage door maintenance can be easily tackled by a homeowner, but if you feel the least bit nervous about any of these steps, call in a pro -- a new wooden door can be a huge expense if you don’t have the time or skills to keep it in good shape.