Monday, June 8, 2009

More Insufferable Than Actually Handy

We have been meaning to replace the garage door opener for some time now as it burnt out last winter, and have been looking at Sears for one since a friend told me he got his installed for $30. So when we saw one for sale at $100 off, that seemed like a pretty good deal.

Except the installation is actually $170, and they haul off the old one for $30. I am wondering now if my friend's conversation with me went:

HIM: Yeah, and not only do they install it for you, they even haul the old one away!
ME: Wow! What's that cost?
HIM: $30!

SO, yeah, the indeterminate pronoun strikes again. I suppose I should be grateful I didn't get the beak blasted off my face by Elmer Fudd.

At any rate, I was already on the hook for getting the opener, so it was time to man up and just build it, which first meant disassembling and removing the old one. Now, this particular mechanism has dwelt in our garage rafters since ca. 1979, an approximation that is substantiated by the gargantuan solid-state remote which has a footprint rendered ridiculous in age where your phone is a camera and so forth. So it was heavy and dirty and above all else, greasy, and not a lot of fun to balance while perched precariously on a stepladder. My favourite part was slowly extending my arms while climbing down, with this greasy clunky monstrosity on the wrong side of the ladder, moving further away from my chest with each step of my descent.

All in all, the removal was pretty straightforward, as it is always easier to destroy than create, and even I find it hard to damage the structural integrity of a garage by accident. On purpose is another story. You didn't pay to see those cards. I'm not the one on trial here!

Putting the new one up was a daunting prospect for me, as I am not really mechanically inclined in any way, or even very handy. Once I realized that there was very little chance of electrocution (since the opener itself just plugs into an outlet), I threw caution to the winds and had at it.

While my handyman experience is minimal (if even that), years of model-building have given me a penchant for following instructions like a lemming in the Gestapo, and a decent eye for diagrams, so I decided to treat the opener like any other kit, albeit in a somewhat larger scale. And just like a modelling project, what separates the sheep from the goats is one's ability to improvise when the instructions diverge from reality at very nearly right angles. Case in point: since the central rail was longer on the old opener than the new one, the opener was a little short of the beam I needed to attach it to. So I sawed up a 2x4, ran to Rona for some ginormous screws, tried to screw them in with my drill, removed the screws by hand, drilled out some pilot holes for them, reattached the screws with washers, and hey presto, it all fits. Now, the whole time I have been doing this, the opener has been attached to the rail, which is attached to the header bracket above the door, and the opener itself is balanced on the top of the stepladder, since the torsion spring above the door won't let me set it on the floor. But the stepladder isn't really tall enough, so I take the sturdy wooden crate our bocce set came in and put that on top of the ladder, and it still isn't tall enough. So I take a an empty tub of Costco dishwasher detergent, invert it, put it on top of the bocce box, and set the opener on top of that. When that turns out to still be a couple of inches shy, up goes the Panago box from the recycle pile, and we are at last in business, if by business you mean an enterprise designed and executed by Wile E. Coyote. So there is improvisation the first.

Improvisation the second comes when I realize that the height I have mounted the opener at does give plenty of clearance for the door, but the wee slidey bit (the trolley) is now impacting against the underside of one of the beams. Argh! So now it is time to reassemble Junkyard Towers, remove two 2" lag screws holding the opener, rebalance it while I plot two new holes, slide the entire ladder two inches to the left so I can re-drill them and them reattach the opener with the lag screws and a socket wrench while leaning against a roof beam and balancing the opener mechanism on my gut, 5 feet in the air on a stepladder. Not my best moment, no.

Surprisingly, this worked out pretty well, and it's clear sailing until I plug it in. Sensor eyes? Check! Motor? Runs like a top! Control button? Uh, no light... This is not completely unexpected, since in the spirit of recycling (or just laziness), I had attempted to recycle the existing wires from the previous opener. I mean, not only did the wires look similar, but the openers are the same brand for heaven's sake! But no dice, so those have to get yanked and new wire pulled, twined, attached with insulated staples, stripped and plugged, and eureka, it works! I attach the control button to the wall...and the light goes out. Pull off the button, light goes on. Replace it...light goes out. I pull off the plastic button and see the little nubbin that trips the switch, bring it over to the bench and work it over Marsellus Wallace style with the sanding drum on my Dremel tool. Yep, just like when dealing with an uncooperative model, the only thing missing was glue. (Remember kids, glue is like force; if it doesn't solve your problem, you just aren't using enough of it.) And thus ends improvisation the third. The garage door works, the electric eye obstruction detector thingamajig works, and it even comes with a remote we can plug in the house to confirm that the garage door is still closed.

I was pretty happy to have finished the thing in a single weekend, even knowing that the pros from Sears could have probably had it up in 2-3 hours. The time is well spent in the pursuit of smugness, and it looks like the missus was impressed, and that's worth a bundle. And hey, since we saved the $30 we thought the installation was supposed to cost, we got to have pizza Saturday night. Chalk it up as a win, I say.

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