Dan's Garage Door Blog

Celebrating 20 Years on the Web

Friday, November 17th, 2017 at 8:26 pm by Dan Musick

The year was 1997. The Internet was just coming of age. Interest in the profit potential of web-based businesses was reminiscent of the gold rush in the last century. It was the year that my 12 year old son, Erich, posted our first web page.

It began, “Welcome to our web site. God knew we could not afford a computer guru to develop this so He gave us one about 12 years ago at the local hospital.”

We had registered our domain, www.garagedoor.org on April 16, 1997. The man who arranged this said businesses use the .org as well so I took his word for it as the www.garagedoor.com URL had already been taken. For more than a decade afterward customers would ask, “Why are You a .org?” That took a lot of explaining.

The company name at the time was DDM Enterprises, Inc. I was a dreamer; I didn’t want to limit the scope of our business to just the garage door industry.

My 12 year-old son was also experimenting with an email link. I can’t remember if he actually posted it.  

Erich also posted a picture made from a photo taken with an old 35 mm camera. At the time I was proud of it. If you can imagine how much computers have changed in 20 years, you might appreciate how this image degraded through multiple file transfers.

After explaining what I was doing, one of my suppliers warned me that people go to the internet just to get free information, and he advised, “you’ll never make any money that way.” I continued posting free information on our site. I later discovered that I was pioneering what later came to be called “content marketing” in college courses. And, we continue to offer service before the sale.

The wild web gold rush exploded in the next few years. Companies invested and lost millions. But not us. We certainly didn’t have any money to invest, and we hadn’t even made enough to pay the quarterly web hosting fee.

My family also had this thing about food, shelter and clothing, so I continued a full time job at Area Door from about 1995 until about 2010. I also had my own repair business on the side and I continued to sell parts. Many of these orders had come from printed catalogs we mailed in the early 90’s.

In 2005 we noticed that people started buying parts from us after getting our name and contact information from the internet. In the same year we posted instructions for replacing garage door torsion springs, along with a second page explaining torsion springs. This page also included a conversion program for longer life springs. These two pages soon provided enough income for me to leave my full time job.

In the same year we encountered what is still a lingering problem – intellectual property theft. One competitor stole both of our pages. He copied the text to his server but he linked to our images, so we found a nifty way to warn customers that the page had been stolen. In one of the earlier images we substituted one of the images with this one. It showed up on his page, but not on ours.

The thief who had stolen several of our pages and who still has much of our property on his site, was booted off Richard Kinch’s site. I had asked Google for help but I don’t think they had their DMCA notice program in place.

From there the business has continued to grow. My older son, Erich, went on to graduate with a software engineering degree from Milwaukee School of Engineering. Now, he’s a senior software developer at Microsoft.

In September of 2011 we moved out of our garage. I had earlier assumed that our kids would just clean out the garage when we died. But God had other plans.

My younger son, David, studied physics, math and German at Wheaton College. Early in his college years he photographed and posted most of our garage door parts, and during most of his remaining college years he worked on our high lift conversion instructions and conversion quote program.

There are three things I remember about his high lift work. One is that he was a perfectionist; he kept me up until 2 AM taking pictures as I installed that high lift for the tutorial.

I also remember the conversion quote program. The first month the program was up high lift purchases almost died. I later discovered that the diy-ers were doing their homework and it took more time before they were ready to order.

A third memory was that David’s program didn’t always match the calculations from our supplier’s program. After some testing we discovered he had actually improved the industry calculations.

David later picked up a masters degree in photonics from the Friedrich-Schiller University in Jena, Germany, and is now working in the same city for Jabil.

Much has happened since those early years. Today we’re in a large warehouse –  the size that customers used to imagine when they saw the magnitude of our web site. They assumed we had a big warehouse, and they were surprised when I would lead them back to our garage to help them get the part they needed.

God never ceases to surprise me.

 

Hormann Garage Doors

Friday, November 10th, 2017 at 5:11 pm by Dan Musick

Hormann is a German garage door manufacturer that has set up a manufacturing plant here in the United States. The purpose of this entry is to show many of the unique features of the door parts.

The bottom fixtures incorporate spring loaded arms to prevent the cables from coming off the drums if the cable tension loosens.

This fixture is normally covered for safety.

The end hinges are graduated and uniquely designed, but their function for supporting rollers is similar to the function of American end hinges. Notice the standard 2″ roller with the 7/16″ stem.

The center hinges are similar to many of the American-made hinges. Here we see the number 3045112.

The adjustable top fixtures look similar to those made by Napoleon and Arrow Tru-line.

The torsion assembly functions the same as American-made systems, but there are serious compatibility issues to consider when replacing parts.

One is that the torsion springs use German Spring Sizes. None of the American measuring or engineering charts work with these wire sizes. Springing the door will require weighing the door.

Another complicating feature is that the cable drums on residential doors are not the standard four inch. They’re considerably larger. Notice also that the end of the cable is secured with a set screw. When spring the door it will be necessary to replace the drums and cables, or to get engineering information from Richard Kinch’s site.

The springs appear to have two inch inside diameters, but the ends are hooked like the old BarCol door springs.

Here you can see the end hooked over a pin on the winding cone.

The other end of the spring hooks over a pin on the stationary cone.

The spring anchor bracket holes do not have the standard 3 3/8″ center line spacing, so a conversion from the German hardware will require replacing this part as well.

One nice feature of the Hormann spring assembly is that the shaft has a one inch outside diameter and the bearings have inside diameters of just slightly over an inch so these parts can be reused if converting to standard torsion hardware. This also applies to the end bearing plates, pictured below. These plates also are larger to support the junction for the vertical and horizontal tracks.

Notice also that the doors use standard 2″ tracks, but rather than the curve being only on the horizontal track, half the curve is on the top of the vertical track and half is on the jamb end of the horizontal track.

 

WWJD – What Would Jesus Do?

Friday, November 3rd, 2017 at 5:25 pm by Dan Musick

Many years ago I was replacing a gear on a Chamberlain/Liftmaster/Sears opener. I had learned from previous jobs that the top neck of the drive shaft often wears from dried grease. I put two and two together and I concluded that if I replaced just the gear, I would probably need to return in a few months to replace the drive shaft and another gear because it is not possible to purchase just the drive shaft.

At the time each repair cost over a third of the price of a new opener. What should I do? Then I asked, “What would Jesus do?” And I thought, Jesus would not just replace the gear; He would also clean and lube the neck of the drive shaft. He would treat others, in this case the customer, the way I would want to be treated if I were the customer. That’s the golden rule.

I attend Bethel Baptist Church where redeemed sinners learn to be more like Jesus. In our small group last night, David Kells, one of the elders, wrote on the white board two words, “excellence” and “obedience.” Then he asked, “Which is more important?”

The answer that quickly came to my mind is “obedience.” Treating customers the way I want to be treated – obeying Jesus’ golden rule – will produce excellence in all we do.

When I sold our service and installation company to Matt’s Garage Doors, I reminded Matt to honor Christ in all he does, not to worry about reviews, and to continue serving customers as he did so well when working for us. And I remind him and our employees even now: “Pursue Christ’s standard of perfection and it will inform every dimension of our work. Sacrificing to serve a customer is as much a part of our worship as singing the rich hymns of our faith on Sunday morning.”

We are different because of our hope. As we were reminded last night, God has shown us mercy – not giving us the punishment we deserve, and He’s shown us grace – giving us the joy we don’t deserve. We received that hope through faith in Christ’s perfect life, His death for us, and His resurrection from the dead. It’s good news indeed!

The reality is that our lives are hidden in Christ. (Colossians 3:3) And, as the quote on our church’s website reminds us, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20) If you see anything commendable in us, it is Christ you see, His work, not ours.

It is for His kingdom and His glory that this business exists.

The Myth of Free Shipping

Friday, October 27th, 2017 at 3:42 pm by Dan Musick

In this age of Amazon and instant deliveries it is easy to conclude that shipping always is or should be free.

The fact is that shipping products is never free. If the customer does not pay for shipping, it is because the seller adds shipping to the cost of the product. Discerning shoppers recognize this, and they add the product cost to the shipping cost to determine the real cost.

A wise shopper also checks for quality of product. “Where is it made? What kind of comments have customers posted on Google, Yelp or Amazon reviews? How well does the product perform or last?” Here, again, wise shoppers take reviews with a grain of salt.

Awhile back I ordered a mini SD card from Amazon. As I remember, all the five star reviews were certified. I ordered and then returned the defective part. I suspect the seller sold OEM parts in the beginning, secured positive reviews, and then switched their product. Breaking even on the first 100,000 might allow a seller to retire on the next 100,000 lower quality cards that the seller purchases at a fraction of the cost.

DDM Garage Doors, Inc. Warehouse

Wise shoppers also check for quality of service. They ask, “Does the seller stock the product, and how soon will it ship? Is there an extra charge for normal shipping times?” We have competitors who sell products on Amazon at our wholesale cost, and they make their profits on exorbitant shipping or on handling fees if the customer can’t wait a few weeks for the item.

Shoppers also look for support and technical advice. The garage door business is highly technical. Our sales support staff advises DIY customers as well as wholesale customers.

And, what about orders that have already been placed? What happens if they receive the wrong item or if they need help with the order? About a year ago I went to Amazon’s site and I ordered two special cutters for our warehouse. Our order was mixed up with an order in Atlanta. The customer there got our two tools and we received only the single tool that they had ordered. There was no phone number to call and no email address. My only contact was through Amazon. I had to pay to return the incorrect order, I received credit only for the single tool I had received, and I had to pay a restocking fee. The net result was a return of only five or ten percent of what I had originally paid at the beginning. Filing with Amazon proved to be a waste.

Buyer Beware! Amazon does have high standards for sellers, but these standards do often have cracks filled with low life sellers. I shop for lowest prices, but I’ve also been burned. Sellers who lower their prices to increase sales may not be there when you need them. If they have a phone or email they don’t respond. And often they disappear after realizing their meager profits were not worth all the time invested.

 

Business Kingdom Purpose

Friday, October 20th, 2017 at 5:09 pm by Dan Musick

Business Focus

Over the years our main focus has been to honor God by being good stewards of the resources He has provided.

I learned this principle from two Christian business men, Bill Pollard and Dick Lauber, elders at a church I attended many years ago. Several years ago I began a Twitter Page expressing my gratitude for them. The purpose of that page is to help other entrepreneurs understand business from God’s perspective.

In the early years of our business the resources to steward included a camera, my writing skills and my son’s internet skills. As the business grew, the resources God provided became more specialized, from photography to video, from html to PHP, from employees and accountants to lawyers and numerous other skills and professions.

One of the more recent treasures God has provided for us to steward is the Convene business network which links Christian businessmen.

Their site states: “We believe two heads are better than one. And a peer team committed to each other’s success is exponentially better. . . . Time is money. At Convene, we can guarantee that your time is well-spent. The people, resources, and materials available to our members help to multiply their time.”

This is my first month in their program; the resources they provide are incredible. One of my first tasks was to help focus the business by establishing a kingdom purpose.

It took time, but I knew the time invested would be worth it. Here it is.

“God has uniquely positioned, gifted and called DDM Garage Doors to glorify God by exemplifying Christ-likeness in our leadership, by praying for and discipling our employees, by sharing the gospel with our customers, and by funding ministries that take the gospel to the ends of the world.”

To God be the glory!!!

 

How to Support End Bearing Plates

Friday, October 13th, 2017 at 6:12 pm by Dan Musick

For shafts to turn properly inside the end bearings, the end bearing plate must remain plumb. If the plate is not supported it can lean, causing the bearing or shaft to wear. Often a worn bearing will wear completely through the shaft causing the shaft and drum to drop and the garage door to become out of level.

Many of the bearing plates are flat and the horizontal track angle was not strong enough to support the plate, so additional angle was added. Here the bottom of the angle is bolted to the horizontal angle and the top is wedged into the jamb.

Another way to support a flat end bearing is the top of the flag bracket. On this door the drum was scraping the top of the flag bracket.

The simplest solution, without adding any angle, was to re-position the end bearing plate so the flag bracket supported the outside of the end bearing plate. Doing this may require moving one of the drums.

Another way to support a bracket on 12″ radius tracks is by wedging angle between the horizontal angle and the top of the flag bracket.

The support angle can also be bolted at the top and bottom.

One of the better inventions in the door industry for residential doors was the spring anchor bracket with the added edge that can be secured to the jamb. On 12″ radius tracks the top of the flag bracket supports the bracket. The top hole allows for an optional bolt but this is not normally needed on 12″ tracks if the cable drums are properly installed touching the races of the bearings.

On 15″ radius tracks, however, the top of the bracket must be secured. Normally a single 5/16″ X 1 5/8″ lag screw is needed, as shown here.

Sometimes additional support is needed as you see here where the top edge did not reach the jamb.

On one job a recessed I-beam prevented the normal installation and angle was run from the horizontal angle to the board on top of the beam.

Here is another solution where angle was added because the top edge of the bracket was above the header.

 

Way to go, Jorie!

Friday, October 6th, 2017 at 2:23 pm by Dan Musick

In an earlier blog we mentioned Jorie’s and Neal’s wedding. Neal is our warehouse manager and Jorie has helped here with personnel matters, including completing a company policy manual that had been started several years previously. She also helped to see that the orders got to their intended destinations.

At the time she had just finished her education. After a little time to get settled and to look for a career in her field of study she is embarking on a career in human resources in the corporate offices at Aldi Foods.

As part of her going away celebration we brought in scrumptious fresh cooked pot pies from Pie Boss. The owner there is the worship leader at Neal’s and Jorie’s Faith Bridge Church.

In the card we gave her I let her know I trust her husband, Neal, will keep me apprised of all Jorie’s achievements. We expect to hear great things about her.

Best wishes, Jorie. We’re all proud of you!

Garage Door Sections

Friday, September 29th, 2017 at 4:49 pm by Dan Musick

Most garage doors consist of sections that are connected with hinges. The end hinges and fixtures have rollers to allow the door to roll up into the tracks.

History of Garage Door Section Construction

In the early decades of door construction most sections were made of wood. There were four main types.

Wood Flush Sections

These sections had exterior skins of hardboard or thin plywood that was glued to internal rails. The surface was kept uniformly flat with styrofoam strips.

 

Fully insulated flush sections were also made, but the temperature difference between outside and outside often caused the sections to bow.

Masonite Panel Sections

These sections consisted of horizontal rails and vertical stiles that were pinned, glued and nailed together. Inside these components were grooves that held the hardboard or plywood panels.

Wood Panel Sections

These were designed like the hardboard panel sections, but the panels were made of redwood or fur. As the redwood trees in California diminished the cost of panels increased and soon were no longer available.

Cladwood Sections

These sections were developed in the 80’s to replace the wood sections that rot and delaminate. Cladwood doors were made of a resilient wood chip product that could be molded to imitate the raised panel design. The material would not rot. These panels were held in place by metal rails on top and bottom. Vertical stiles helped tie the sections together as well as providing material for installing the hinges.

Steel Sections

There are two basic types of steel sections. Pan doors were made of rolled steel with the skins secured to stiles which allowed for installing hinges.

Garage door buckes can be corrected

The more popular sandwich doors like the one pictured below have higher insulating R-values.

A third type of section is found when a surface is added to the exterior of the door. This is the construction of the popular carriage house doors. This exterior surface is glued and screwed to wood or steel sections.

How to Make Wood Replacement Sections

Manufacturers stopped making wood sections about 10 years ago. The only option for replacing a section is to replace the entire door with a steel door.

There are, however, those experienced carpenters who are perfectly capable of making sections.

Many years ago one of my customer needed sections for a type of door that was no longer made, and which had to match the adjacent door.

Here’s how I made the door.

First I made an inside frame out of 1 X 3 lumber. To the frame I glued and screwed outer skins of 1/8″ lauan plywood. Then I routed the edges for the meeting rails. Adding styrofoam will help with insulation as well keeping the section skins smooth.

Here is a picture of a similar door that Andy Hodenius made a number of years ago.

More information is on our garage door sections page.

 

How to Install Garage Door Locks

Friday, September 22nd, 2017 at 5:12 pm by Dan Musick

Garage door locks are normally installed in the center of the section just above the bottom section. Here are instructions on how to install the two most common lock assemblies we sell.

The more common lock assembly uses a cable to connect the outside lock keyed T-handle to the spring latches. The cable runs from the spring latch on one side through the center inside release handle and on the other side where a track bolt and nut secure the cable to the spring latch. On single car doors there is often only one latch.

The other system uses two sash chains and small S-hooks to link the inside handles and spring latches.

 

If you have a foam-filled door with steel on both sides the metal on each side will compress when you tighten the screws that secure the outside handle to the inside handle. To prevent this from happening you will use the two red spacers above.

The order of installation is as follows.

I. Install the outside keyed handle and the inside release handle. 

Drilling for the lock will be a two-step process. First, three holes will be drilled with 3/16″ bits. This is key to a properly aligned and functioning lock.

After drilling these holes, larger 5/16″ holes and a 3/8″ hole will need to be drilled on the outside skin of the section only, but not on the inside. Sometime the 3/8″ hole needs to be enlarged slightly.

Most steel doors are either pan doors with stiles joining the edges of the sections, or sandwich doors with steel on both sides bonded to the insulation.

Instructions for Installing Locks on Pan Doors

1. If you have a pan door, locate the center stile and the holes punched for the lock. These may be centered, as you see in this insulated pan door . . .

or slightly below center, as you see in this hollow, or non-insulated door. Notice how the lock lines with the holes.

2. Drill three 3/16″ holes from the inside using the holes in the stiles as a guide. The drill bit must be centered in the holes and perpendicular to the section and stile. Check the outside of the section to make sure the holes are evenly spaced.

3. Drill the three larger holes in the outside skin only of the door. Faster speeds are better because slower speeds tend to rip the thin sheet metal.

3. Insert outside lock T-handle.

4. Install the inside release handle.

5. Install the two long screws that connect the inside and outside handles.

Instructions for Installing Locks on Sandwich Doors

Locate the outside stile where you want to install the lock. This would normally be in the center of the section. On odd-size doors it will be off centered. The outside T-Handle can be installed vertically or horizontally as shown below.

2. Drill three 3/16″ holes from the outside and into the inside skin of the section. The drill bit must be perpendicular to the outside of the section. After drilling, check the inside of the section to make sure the holes are evenly spaced.

3. Drill the three larger holes in the outside skin only of the door. Faster speeds are better because slower speeds tend to rip the thin sheet metal.

4. Cut the red spacers so they are flush with the outside skin of the door section and install them over the two posts that go into the 5/16″ holes. Insert outside lock t-handle.

5. Install the inside release handle.

6. Install the two long screws that connect the inside and outside handles.

II. Install the spring latches in the center at each end of the lock section.

1. Screw the the latches to ends of the sections.

2. Connect the latches and center release handle with the cable or sash chains. Pull them to tighten them. The lock will not work if the chain or cable is loose.

3. Test the outside lock handle.  If the latches don’t pull when the handle is  turned, remove the inside handle and turn the outside T-handle 90 degrees.

III. Install the lock strikers.

1. With the door closed align the striker with the spring latch and secure the striker with two track bolts and flange nuts.

2. Drill additional holes as needed.

3. Test the lock to assure it works.

4. Lubricate the latch and inside release handle.

Here’s how the striker and latch align. Some installers bend the latch to get better traction.

 

 

Garage Door Training

Friday, September 15th, 2017 at 5:40 pm by Dan Musick

“We help people fix their garage doors.”

That was written on the first flier I printed back in 1980.

My plan was to provide training for maintenance personnel to repair their commercial and industrial overhead type doors. This was for the bigger companies in Chicago such as Honeywell and Wrigley, the chewing gum company, but I also did some quite effective training for a smaller company, Volvo / Honda of Lisle, IL.

That part of the company did not grow as quickly as I had hoped, but I did discover that many of the companies needed parts, and even more would prefer to have an outside contractor service and install doors. From there I built a catalog business along with a service and installation company that later became Dortrak which I sold around 1990. Later I started what became DDM Garage Door & Dock Services which was sold and became Matt’s Garage Doors. The overhead door training part of the business has always been part time.

This is one part of our business that I will never sell.  I can train men to fix garage doors, but I can’t train someone to train others. It carries the highest risk and liability. It’s our most challenging service and, because of that, it’s also the most expensive. There are men who are qualified to train, but they’re tied up with the more profitable task of running the larger traditional service and installation companies. It’s hard for me to justify the time away from our bread and butter business, but my greatest incentive is the transition I normally see in the trainees from fear and trepidation to a genuine sense of accomplishment.

Next week I’ll provide training for USPS workers in Stamford, CT. A few years ago I trained for the second time the postal workers at the Wallingford, CT facility. The first time I was there I made the mistake of promising to make a manual for the men at no additional cost, and I held off on invoicing them until the notebook was finished. Duplicating the notebook would have cost many times the price they paid for the training.

I guess we all live and learn.