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Christmas Part 2 & Garage Door Fun
The Sunday after Christmas, Jamie and I went to my brother's house where my family gathered to do Christmas together. I gave my nieces and nephews each a $25 VISA gift card. They were pretty stoked about that. We didn't leave there empty-handed either, though. We got a huge gift basket full of candies and snacks and a Christmas Comedy Collection DVD, a bunch of home-made soaps, a custom-etched glass ornament, a nice pot holder thing that matches our kitchen, a chocolate orange, some homemade grape jelly, chocolate-covered pretzels, corn salsa, a $20 Target gift card, a case of Reading Draft premium sodas, and a hand-made mug from Poland filled with biscotti from Germany. When we got there, the kids were playing on their new Wii (they opened it a week prior, on actual Christmas day). Connor throws his Wii bowling ball the exact same way as one of my coworkers to get nearly consistent strikes. I found that amusing. :)

Monday night for New Year's Eve, we were invited over to my parents for a repeat Lasagna dinner. We stuck around to play cards, eat some shrimp ball and watch the ball drop. But on our way over there, our garage door had stopped half-way up. The motor kept running but the door didn't move. I released the motor and raised the door by hand with no problem, so it seemed like something inside the motor broke, or maybe the chain slipped off. The next day we checked the chain, and it was still on, just the whole thing coming out of the motor wasn't even turning, despite it sounding normal when it tried to run. We noticed it was a Craftsman and thought it might therefore have a lifetime warranty, but no such luck. Apparently their garage door openers are crap and they know it.

So we did some more research and decided to replace the whole thing with a screw-drive Genie. At first we went to Lowe's hoping to have them install it for us, but it was Jan 1st and apparently they were low-staffed and it took two employees to figure out how to get our installation request in the system, and then they didn't even explain it to us very well. They just haded us a printed page for us to give the cashier at check-out. From reading it, it looked like we would be paying Lowe's $35 just to have them schedule a guy to come out and examine our situation, after which who knows what other charges would come up and how long we would have to wait for an appointment.

We walked out the door without "purchasing" our unhelpful sheet of paper and unsure of what to do next. Call a local garage door repair company out of the phone book and hope for the best? It's very possible there's just a simple part inside the motor that needs to be replaced or adjusted, which might take an experienced repair guy 2 minutes to diagnose and fix, cheap and easy. But it's also possible that the whole thing is shot and it was poorly installed in the first place, not to mention being a low-quality product that will just break again in a few months, so we should just replace the whole system anyway.

Then as I read up on the Genie web site, they made it sound like their Lowe's product was a do-it-yourself product. They list a bunch of tools you'll need and state that it might be a challenge for anyone not comfortable with the tools, but to us it sounded doable, especially given everything else we've already done ourselves in this house. So this past weekend we went back to Lowe's and bought the Genie DirectLift Plus and brought it home to install it ourself. It was actually amazingly easy. The only place we had to improvise was where it attached to the door. There was already a reinforcing bracket there, but the holes in it were slightly smaller than the pin we had to put through it to attach the opener's arm. So we made a trip to Lowe's to get a metal drill bit to widen one of the holes. That worked, but then we found that there was way too much play in it because the pin was about an inch long while the thickness of the arm and bracket were only about a quarter inch. So we made another trip to Lowe's to pick up some washers. That did the trick. Another problem was that, despite measuring twice and even with the extra inch they had us add on, the track ended up being mounted just a hair too low, so that the door itself was hitting the close limit switch (which should be tripped by the carriage that runs along the track) as the top panel swung up just before closing. We fixed that by clipping the end off of the switch so it's short enough to let the tip of the door pass by but the carriage still catches it.

So now we're do-it-yourself garage door opener kit experts. We were amused by the shoddiness with which the old opener system was installed. The track wasn't even centered on the door, nor was it perpendicular. The safety beam emitter and sensor units were mounted over a foot off the ground, despite (at least our new opener's) directions requiring them to be less than 6 inches. Their wiring was stapled so tightly into wood beams that we couldn't even get the staples out. We just cut the wire and pulled it out, leaving the staples. And in some places the wire wasn't even stapled - it was just wrapped around beams in the unfinished ceiling. We couldn't re-use their wire for the safety beam stuff because it wasn't long enough to reach down to the proper height. And as with everything else in this house, the hardware used to mount things was wildly inconsistent, using 2 sizes of hex bolts and phillips-head screws to mount the motor housing to the ceiling, and 2 sizes of hex bolts to mount the sensor and emitter to the walls. The only part of the old system we kept was the wire for the wall-mounted switch.

Happy New Year!

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Where did you get your VISA gift cards? Did they charge a fee? (Like did the $25 card cost you $30?) I've been looking for ones for my brothers and sisters.

I got them from Wegmans and there was a $4.somethingnearadollar fee. I was sort of put off by that, but not enough to put more thought into my Christmas shopping. :)

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