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Q MY HUSBAND AND I are building a new home -- a split, tri-level with four bedrooms above the two-car garage.

We hired professional contractor to install the 7-foot garage door. After the door was hung, we had dry wall hung in the house and now the garage door will only open up approximately 18 inches and the bottom rubber seal is ripped and doesn't seal to the garage floor.

I called the contractor on Oct. 16 and left a message but he didn't return that call so my husband called again on Oct. 22. He explained the problem to them and they told him to go to their place to pick up a $20 part to fix the door.

The part was supposed to be for low-clearance doors. My husband wasn't happy with that response but said he'd try to stop by.

I was disappointed with their refusal to accept any responsibility so I called the contractor myself and told him so. He insisted that the whole thing was our fault for putting five-eighths dry wall on the ceiling of the garage. He also said he didn't think dry wall went on the ceiling. Even if that were the case, there would not be enough room to install a door opener.

His whole attitude was that he had no responsibility for this problem and also told me that if he had known there wasn't enough clearance he would have added a $48 charge to our additional bill, for low-clearance hardware. I had to pay them in full before they even installed the door, which I now regret doing.

Paying in full in advance is their policy and now I know why. We have received one estimate of $180 (from a firm that doesn't want to get involved) to make the proper repairs to this door and I'm in the process of getting another one.

Your help would be appreciated because we'd like to rectify this situation and avoid a trip to Small Claims Court.

-- Y.B., Buffalo
A SMALL CLAIMS COURT is not the answer because, as we see it, you haven't exhausted alternative solutions to this problem, including continued communication with the contractor.

The president of the company explains: "This company will and always has stood behind any defects in our product. We pride ourselves on timely response to any reasonable request for service. When a customer attempts to make us responsible for conditions which we have not created, we further extend ourselves, by offering a cost-effective solution. In this case, we did just that, but this was not accepted by the letter writer.

"An order was placed, a contract was drawn up, a job was checked and a door was installed. The door was working fine and the customer was happy, until dry wall was installed -- some time after our installation.

"When the husband called me and I explained what could be done to rectify this problem, he seemed to understand, but his wife cannot, nor will she even try to at least see our side of this story.

"If this company had flatly refused to listen to their problem, than she might be justified in her complaint. However, through many years of business and with many satisfied customers we have suddenly become the 'bad guys' because of one person. We frankly cannot understand why she is trying to diminish our credibility.

"If the customer wants to come to my office and see me personally, I will be glad to discuss, in a normal, calm and professional manner, what might be worked out."

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