I want as much stuff off the floor of my garage as possible. To do that, the stuff has only one place to go: Up.
The problem is, my garage door rails are in the way.
So I started researching a way to get some more headroom. That’s when I found out about high-lift garage door kits.
A high lift garage door extends your garage door’s track so that the door hugs the wall and goes up higher before the horizontal curve. It makes better use of the vertical space in your garage and gives you at least 12″-15″ more headroom in your garage by moving the garage door track closer to the ceiling.
There’s more to it than splicing in an extra piece of track to your existing setup.
I mean…that would be too easy, right? So let’s talk about what you need to know.
What is Included in a High Lift Garage Door Kit?
A high lift garage door changes how your garage door travels along the track. If you think about it, you’re making the door travel up farther before it travels back.
That puts a different kind of stress on the components. That means a few parts need to change too.
The garage track: Each installation is going to be different, depending on your garage. In my case, I’ve got 10 foot ceilings in my garage but my garage door track is right around 7 1/2 feet high. I’m hoping to get another 24″ in headroom by installing the high-lift kit.
That means that I’m going to need an additional two feet of track more than I have now.
If you look at the pictures, you’ll notice that part of that will be a straight track and part will usually be angled slightly away from the wall. The less straight-up-and-down the track is, the less strain it puts on the garage door opener and the torsion spring. As a general rule, if you’re adding more than 12-15 inches of extra vertical track, you’re going to need a new garage door opener.
Torsion spring: Unless your builder seriously over-estimated the weight of your garage door, the torsion spring has to be swapped out for a heavier duty spring. The torsion spring is what does the heavy lifting (pun intended). It has to be balanced correctly so that your garage door opens smoothly.
Drums: The drums are the part of the garage door that the cable winds around as the door opens and closes.
Without getting too technical (physics was one of my worst subjects), the door is spending more of it’s travel time moving up-and-down instead of forward-and-back. Because of that, the cable needs to wind around the drum differently in order to keep a consistent tension on the wire. This means they need to be replaced as well.
Miscellaneous parts: As part of the process, you’ll also get new cables, spring bars and bear plates. These are just general hardware that is better off replacing than using your old stuff.
Why Do You Need a High-Lift Garage Door?
There are a couple of obvious use-cases for a high lift garage door.
If you want to put a car-lift in your garage, you’re going to need as much clearance as possible. Most garages have 10′ ceilings, which is usually enough to accommodate two cars stacked on top of each other. Obviously you can’t do this with an SUV or pickup truck. However, you’ll be able to park a sports car and most sedans together like this.
I’m not planning on getting a lift, but I don’t want garage tracks blocking my valuable ceiling space. I want to get as much stuff off the floor as possible. The more ceiling space I have in my garage, the more overhead storage I can use.
Even if you don’t want a lift or more overhead storage, you just may want some additional headroom for a garage gym or extra lounge space for your mancave.
What Does a High Lift Garage Door Conversion Cost?
If you’re the DIY type, you might be tempted to cheap out here and just buy an extra piece of track and splice it in yourself.
It’s going to cost a bit more to do it right, but it’s going to be worth it in the end.
An extra piece of track will cost you maybe $20 total. A high lift garage door kit should cost between $300 and $500 for the parts and an additional $300-$400 for the labor to install it.
Seems like a no-brainer right? Just install the track and call it a day?
Remember earlier when I was talking about how different a high-lift garage door works than a standard garage door? If you cheap out when you’re installing it, it’s only a matter of time before something goes wrong.
Do You Need a New Garage Door or Door Opener?
Good news\bad news.
The good news is that any garage door can be converted to a high-lift garage door.
You’re changing the track and some of the mechanics and not really touching the door itself. Some doors are going to be easier to convert than others, of course.
Usually the lighter the door the better, so aluminum, fiberglass and steel doors will be fine. If you’ve got an all-wood carriage door that weighs several hundred pounds, that could cause some problems.
The bad news is that you’re probably going to need a new garage door opener.
At the very least, you’re going to want a new garage door opener.
Because garage door openers have a track running down the center of the ceiling, most garage door openers have low horsepower motors because they are pulling the door horizontally more than vertically. We’re changing that, remember?
Depending on the weight of the door and the opener itself, you may be able to use your existing garage door opener. In my case, I’m looking for more headroom for overhead storage, I want to get rid of that center rail entirely.
So I’m looking at a jackshaft garage door opener, which is common in commercial applications. The really awesome part is that the opener mounts on the wall, next to the door itself so that completely eliminates that center track.
Specifically, I’m looking at the LiftMaster 8500 Elite. It’s quieter than a normal chain-drive system, has an automatic locking mechanism for extra security and has enough horsepower for high-lift and vertical door applications.
It will be mine….oh yes. It will be mine.
The important thing to remember is that if you’re already shopping for a new garage door opener, you might want to consider a high-lift door at the same time to save some money on labor costs.