Living Smart: Who to hire to repair or install a garage door?

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

When itís time to buy and install a new garage door or if your door needs a few repairs, itís important to hire an established, dependable company for the task. A shoddy installation or incomplete repairs can lead to an unsafe environment. To make sure you work with the best, review these tips to hiring a garage door professional.

LICENSING MAY OR MAY NOT BE REQUIRED

Unfortunately, trade licensing isnít required across the board in the garage door industry. Itís important to research whatís required in your state or municipality.

"Be careful," says Frank Arrigoni, president of Elite Garage Door Service in Charlotte, North Carolina. "Since itís an unlicensed trade (in North Carolina), anyone with a pair of winding bars and a pickup truck thinks heís a door man. Educate yourself on what kind of repair you need, and ask a lot of questions."

And make sure your search is thorough, because the license thatís required might not have anything overtly to do with garage doors.

"You need to check to make sure they have the proper license," says Peter Giglio, owner of Gaithersburg Garage Door in Gaithersburg, Maryland. "Maryland requires a home improvement commission license and Virginia requires a state contractorís license."

However, regardless of what licensing is required, companies should be bonded and insured. Be sure to verify a companyís policy.

WHERE IS THE COMPANY LOCATED?

How long has the company been in business and do they have a brick-and-mortar building from which they work? Oftentimes, less reputable (temporary?) companies will swoop into an area and offer dirt-cheap prices for repairs or new products, but the quality of the items and services isnít up to par.

"Look for someone who has been around for a while," says Joe Gamez, service manager at Overhead Door Company of San Antonio. "Check to see if they have a physical address, because a lot of people donít show addresses and you donít know if youíll be able to find them tomorrow (should the door malfunction)."

Visiting a garage door dealerís showroom is also very helpful in determining exactly what you want.

"Look at a complete door installed in the showroom, and look at the dealerís photo album of completed projects," says Kevin Cunningham, managing partner of Cunningham Door & Window in Louisville, Kentucky. "Bring photos of your house, or of a neighborís house (for inspiration). Let the creative ideas flow. We love it when a customer requests a unique design or a special wood species."

READ THE REVIEWS

Since the garage door industry is spotty on licensing throughout the country, reading reviews is critical to hiring the best.

"The first thing to do is check Angieís List," says Allen Evans, owner of Garage Door Guys in Kannapolis, North Carolina. "As a member myself, it has been a valuable tool when hiring trades with which I am unfamiliar. Also, as with any other type of service, call and ask questions."

In addition, look for a company whoís a member of the International Door Association, which requires certain industry guidelines to be followed. Homeowners should also expect a company to be responsive, and able to tend to your request within a short amount of time.

"Look for good customer service," says Stacy Willis of Andrewís Garage Door Repair in Centreville, Virginia. "We try to get our technicians out there as soon as possible and have people who can answer your questions."

And if a company representative is giving you an in-home presentation on the benefits of a new garage door, pay particular attention.

"If what you see is someone who arrives late for an appointment, who promises to get back to you but doesnít, and who you catch telling a lie; believe me, thereís a whole lot worse going on that you canít see," Cunningham says. "Your home is a very important part of your life. Donít do business with someone who does not appreciate or respect you and/or your property."