Garage overhead doors are likely the single biggest, heaviest moving component of your home. From a very low 130 lbs to upwards of 350 lbs. You would not want one falling on your head.
In one way or another, most home inspector standards of practice exclude the testing of these doors from the inspection. What you can expect from your home inspector in terms of how they inspect them or not is all over the place.
The “Not-at-all” camp is straightforward. If something goes wrong, making them responsible is likely going to be expensive and not going to go very far. It probably is not going to be worth it, even if someone dies. Even then the inspector would not likely be held accountable unless they told you they tested them and did not actually do it. However, “do not test” does not mean “do not look it over,” the inspector could still miss things visually that could result in injury to persons. In these situations it can certainly get ugly for the inspector.
The land of make believe
Then there is the “Make-up-their-own-protocol” camp. This testing will range from a simple hand resistance, putting blocks of wood on the ground under the door, a visual once-over etc. If something goes wrong, inspectors often end up paying for damages. Or, at the very least have angry sellers to contend with.
The third option is to test per the door manufacturer’s association’s published protocols: DASMA 167.
These protocols have been well established for a long time. If the inspector follows these protocols, most of the kinds of issues that result in damage to the door or opener would get discovered in the required inspection of the door prior to any testing being done and the testing would go no further. For example, visual damage to the door where the opener arm attaches would stop the testing. Hinges with missing bolts/nuts would stop the testing. Damaged springs would stop the testing. Badly damaged panels would stop the testing. Further evaluation/repairs would be indicated, and damage would be avoided yet the client would still be informed the door was not behaving itself. Isn’t this the goal?
If you have followed the protocols to the letter, and something still goes wrong, you can, with authority, state the door failed under test and should be evaluated and repaired. You can then be grateful you have saved someone from possibly serious injury. While the seller still might not be too happy about the damage, at least the inspector has a recognized defense. Sometimes it is simply worth it having someone mad at us.
Because of the safety concerns related to overhead doors, and the number of things that can go wrong with them, I think it is a REALLY good idea for inspectors to inspect these doors as much as possible regardless of SOP’s. Perhaps one day, the SOP’s will become relevant. Are we not there to find safety issues?
Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle