Exterior Doors (Entrance, Sliding & Garage)

You might not think about them much, but your exterior doors get a lot of daily use. Fortunately, there isn’t a lot you need to do to keep your entry and sliding doors clean and functional. With regular inspection and maintenance, you’ll help keep your garage door—and all your exterior doors—in excellent working order.

Exterior Doors

The exterior doors on your home, which include your entrance and sliding doors, need only minor adjustments and maintenance throughout the year to keep them working smoothly.

Care and Maintenance

Follow these care and maintenance suggestions for your home’s exterior doors.

General Maintenance

For exterior doors, a proper seal will prevent most water and dust from entering your home, although wind-driven rain and dust can’t always be stopped. The weatherstripping around your doors should help to seal them. If you see light around or under these doors, try adjusting the weatherstripping, the sweeps, and the thresholds, if they’re adjustable.

Entrance Doors

Inspect all exterior doors each spring and fall to confirm that the weatherstripping is fastened tightly.

Apply petroleum jelly to vinyl and rubber weatherstripping to keep the door from sticking.

Use aerosol lubricant on squeaky hinges and sticking locks.

Apply silicone to door hinges to minimize any grinding.

Wood doors, jambs, and trim should be scraped, sanded, and sealed if the paint begins to peel.

Caulk any cracks with elastomeric caulking.

Inspect the transition between the jamb and the threshold every three months, and caulk it as needed.  

Check the seal base of the door for rips, tears, and excess wear.

Check the screws on the threshold. Tighten them if they stick up, so they don’t damage the door seal.

If you see the black residue of iron around door hinges:

You can remove the iron residue with a magnet behind a cloth or by lightly wiping with a damp sponge or clean cloth. This residue is a by-product of the friction created when the hinges open and close.

Sliding Glass Doors

Always keep the tracks clean of debris.

Apply a very small amount of oil periodically at both the bottom of the door and at the lock mechanism.

Apply silicone lubricant to the tracks. It’s important to take special care of the tracks of aluminum sliding glass doors.

Make adjustments to the threshold if the door doesn’t slide properly, such as if it drags on the sill or is difficult to open.

Check the manufacturer’s instructions to find out how to adjust a door. Also, check the manufacturer’s instructions if the door fails to latch or slide smoothly.

If Your Home Is Part of a Homeowners Association (HOA)

Check with your HOA regarding maintenance, and be familiar with all HOA documentation.

Garage Door

An automatic garage door is a great convenience and probably the largest and heaviest moving object in your home.

Safety is important when anyone is operating the garage door. To keep you and your family safe, it’s critical to make sure the door can open properly.

The garage door operates with the help of a spring under high tension. To provide safe, trouble-free operation, it’s important to maintain and test the garage door and automatic opener periodically. Also, follow these basic safety rules:

  • Keep the door in full view and free of obstructions while operating.
  • Don’t allow children to play with or operate the door or electric door controls.
  • Never stand under or walk through the doorway while the door is moving.

Care and Maintenance

If you follow these safety and maintenance instructions, you’ll prolong the life of the door, help prevent costly service calls, and keep you and your family safe from accidents. To keep your garage door operating efficiently, perform the following maintenance procedures.

To Maintain the Door

Inspect your garage door and opener at regular intervals for signs of wear and improper alignment.

Check cables, rollers, and hinges for signs of wear every three months. Tighten any loose hinge screws.

Lubricate all hinges, rollers, and moving parts every month with light oil or spray lubricant to reduce noise and add to their life span.

Never lubricate the chain or screw drive. It is lubricated by the manufacturer; aftermarket lubricants can cause it to slip.

If you have a wood garage door, check to see if the door sticks. If the door sticks because of uneven alignment, which can occur as your home settles, check to make sure the hinge screws are tight and are holding properly. If they’re tight, but the door is still out of alignment, sand or plane the edge of the door that sticks. Paint or varnish any areas you sand or plane to protect them from moisture and further swelling. Also, check to see if the door needs refinishing. In hot, humid climates, wooden exterior doors have to be refinished on a regular basis.  

If you have a metal door, adding insulating panels to the garage door changes its weight. Call a licensed contractor to adjust the tension of the springs. Also, always remember to lubricate the torsion spring; otherwise, it may lose tension and fail. The appearance of rust on the spring indicates that there isn’t enough lubrication.

To Conduct a Balance Test

Test the balance of your garage door at least twice a year. It’s important to conduct this test because if your door is out of balance, it will strain the opener (the device that opens and closes the door), reducing its life span.

To conduct a balance test, follow these steps:

1. Start the balance test with the garage door closed. Locate the emergency release – a red handle that hangs on the end of a rope. Pull down lightly on the handle to disconnect the door from the opener, so you can operate the door by hand.

2. Lift the garage door by hand. Do this by standing in front of the door and pulling it upward. The door should work smoothly and with little resistance.

3. Stop lifting the garage door when it’s approximately 4 feet from the ground. When you release your hands from the door, it should stay in place. Some slight movement is acceptable. If the door doesn’t stay in place, it’s likely out of balance and needs to be adjusted by a qualified garage door technician.

4. Close the garage door by hand. Reset the emergency release by pulling the handle toward the opener power head. Pulling on the handle should reconnect the garage door to the opener.

If the door fails to remain in position, call a qualified professional to adjust the spring tension.

To Clean the Exterior of the Door

Clean the exterior surface of the door periodically to keep the buildup of dirt and rust-causing particles to a minimum. Use warm, soapy water to clean the door. Rinse thoroughly.

Don’t use harsh cleaners or stiff-bristled brushes to clean the garage door.

To Conduct a Force Setting Test

Test the force setting of your garage door monthly. This safety test is used to detect whether or not the force setting is too high. When the force setting is too high, the garage door can close with too much force, potentially causing damage to the door and any people or objects in the way, before reversing direction as it should. Never use a high force setting to compensate for a garage door that’s unbalanced or sticking.

To conduct a force setting test, follow these steps:

1. Push the remote control unit or the wall button to close the garage door.

You should be standing near the door when pushing the button in order to do the next step properly. If your wall button isn’t near the door, use the remote control unit instead to close the door.

2. Apply light, upward pressure on the bottom of the door as it closes. The door should readily reverse direction. If the door doesn’t readily reverse, the force may be excessive and need adjusting.

3. Adjust the door’s force setting according to the instructions in your garage door owner’s manual. The owner’s manual provides instructions on testing the force setting.

4. Repeat steps 1 and 2 after adjusting the force setting. The door should now readily reverse direction.

If the door fails to reverse direction, call a qualified professional for service.

To Conduct a Reversal Test

Test the reverse mechanism of your garage door monthly. The reverse mechanism is an important safety feature. When a garage door is Closing and comes into contact with a vehicle or other obstruction, the reverse mechanism should cause the door to reverse direction, so it heads up instead of continuing down.

To conduct a reversal test, follow these steps:

1. Start the reversal test with the garage door open. Place a 2x4 wood board flat on the floor at the center of the garage door opening.

If you don’t have a 2x4 wood board handy, use an object 11⁄2 inches high that can withstand contact with a garage door without being damaged.

2. Push the remote control unit or the wall button to close the door.

3. Watch the door as it closes. When it comes into contact with the board, it should stop and then reverse direction. If the door doesn’t readily reverse direction, one or more parts may need adjusting.

4. Adjust the door according to the instructions in your garage door owner’s manual. The owner’s manual provides instructions involving a reversal test.

5. Repeat steps 1 and 2 after making adjustments. The door should now readily reverse direction when it comes into contact with the board.

If the door still isn’t reversing, call a qualified professional for service. Until then, close the door, disconnect it from the opener (by pulling the red emergency release handle), and discontinue use.

Check the Photocells

Check the photocells monthly. They’re located on either side of the garage door, 5 inches from the floor, and project a beam of light from one to the other.

If they’re working correctly:

  • One photocell should have a constant red indicator light, and the other should have a constant green indicator light.

If they aren’t working correctly:

  • The red indicator light will be flashing because the beams of light aren’t aligned, a wire has been knocked loose, or the beam is blocked.
  • If you try to shut the garage door automatically when the beam is broken, the door will reverse. You can hold down the wall button until the door fully closes, but this won’t fix the problem.
  • Instead, remove all visible dirt or objects, such as leaves or spiderwebs, from the lens of the photocell, which will prevent the system from working. If this doesn’t fix the problem, call a qualified professional to make repairs.

Refer to your garage door owner’s manual for more troubleshooting steps.

Don’t make repairs to the garage door or the opener. Only a qualified professional should perform repairs.

Don’t attempt to make adjustments to the torsion springs, cables, or bottom fixtures connecting the cables to the door. Only a qualified professional with the proper tools and experience should perform repairs or make adjustments to the cables and torsion springs.

Check the Batteries in the Remote Control Units

Check the batteries in the remote control units annually. When replacing the batteries, check terminals for signs of corrosion.

If Your Home Is Part of a Homeowners Association (HOA)

Check with your HOA regarding maintenance, and be familiar with all HOA documentation.