Door Hardware: Specifying for Security

Advances in new-generation locks, handles, hinges and operators help managers enhance the security and safety of occupants and operations

By Thomas A. Westerkamp  

Facilities continue to shore up their security measures in order to provide greater protection for both occupants and operations. As central components of these efforts, door locks, handles, hinges and operators are under increasing pressure to perform reliably in the most demanding conditions.

Maintenance departments in K-12 schools, universities, hospitals, and government and commercial buildings face the task of specifying, installing and maintaining these components to ensure they deliver the intended benefits over the long term.

Among the key features managers must look for in specifying door hardware include: an aesthetically pleasing look; durability consistent with the level and severity of use; robust designs that require minimal maintenance; support for building safety and security; and ease of use.

Besides these demands, door hardware must meet important regulations and standards. These include access guidelines set forth by Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), green-building guidelines, fire-safety codes, and state and local building codes and standards, which match doors and hardware for proper fit in various applications.

With all these competing demands, the challenge of getting specifications right can be a complex task. A closer look at these key door hardware components can help managers specify products that meet facilities’ increasingly stringent requirements for reliability, durability and reasonable cost.


Cylindrical bored locks are installed through a hole bored through the face of the door. This lock hole intersects with a hole drilled into the edge of the door for the deadbolt. Recent improvements in the design of this T formed by the handle and deadbolt have resulted in a much more durable, secure and tamper-proof product.

Mortise locks are popular options for heavy-duty applications, such as entrance doors, where security is a major concern. Mortise lock components typically are housed in a totally enclosed, rectangular, wrought-iron case that fits in a routed opening in the edge of the door. A hole bored through the door’s face accommodates the handle shaft, which is inserted through the door face into a square hole in the lock lever and out the other side of the door.

A recent variation of the single-lock point mortise lock is the three-point mortise lock. This lock has the same mortise lock and deadbolt in the center case, but it also includes two hook bolts — one above and one below connected by a bar to the center case — that provide more rigid locking and added security for doors in remote locations, including strip malls, hospitals, warehouses, schools and apartment buildings.

Roses — also called rosettes — are installed on both cylindrical and mortise lock handles on the faces of doors and covering the face holes. Modern roses are a bit smaller, and their shapes include round, square, rectangular and scalloped, as well as many custom designs. Managers also can specify heavy-duty metal escutcheons in place of the rose where added security is needed.


Lever and push/pull handles generally meet ADA guidelines for access, but knob handles require gripping action greater than allowed under ADA. Newly built or retrofitted educational, health care and other public buildings are more likely to specify lever or push/pull handles for easier access and regulatory compliance.

In educational and health care settings, managers can specify silver-based anti-microbial agents in the hardware finish coating. This coating guards against algae, bacteria, fungus, mildew and mold, and it can remain active for the life of the hardware.


Proper hinge size, location and installation methods play an important role in security. Factors managers must consider for these products are door height, weight, thickness and trim dimension. For example, a hinge height of 3-1/2 inches is standard for doors 1-3/8 inches thick and up to 32 inches wide. For 2-, 2-1/4- and 2-1/2-inch doors more than 42 inches wide, a 6-inch, heavy-duty hinge is standard.

The standard hinge location is 5 inches from the top door jamb rabbet to the top of the hinge barrel, and 10 inches from the bottom edge of the bottom hinge barrel to the finished floor surface. Additional hinges are evenly spaced between the two. One hinge every 30 inches is standard. Doors up to 60 inches high would require two hinges, those 60 to 90 inches high require three hinges, and those 90 to 120 inches high require four hinges.

A new generation of improved electric-powered hinges link power from the in-house distribution system through the hinge to electrified door hardware. Power remains available regardless of door position, and the position is monitored from remote locations.

These locks provide important security benefits, as well as essential data for an creating an audit trail, including name, identification number, date and time of all people who enter and leave a building. Selectable activation options include keypad, proximity sensor and radio frequency identification.


Door and gate operators offer managers the ability to operate, monitor and control all outside building-access points. Operators are used for: standard lift sectional overhead doors that are light, medium and industrial duty; rolling grills; shutter and door applications; and industrial sectional doors with high vertical lift. Types of gate operators include swing, slide, wing, and underground.

Low-energy swinging door operators are well-suited for: executive offices; accessible dorm rooms; corridor and entrance doors in hospitals and assisted-living facilities; and office and warehouse corridor doors. Operators feature an AC motor and hydraulic pump that activates a heavy-duty hydraulic closer with range of motion that is controlled by an electronic limit switch.

Security and Durability

Managers expect long performance life from door hardware, even though some components in high-traffic areas are subject to probably the most repetitious cycling of any components in buildings. Specifiers demand that manufacturers design durability into each application following rigid architectural standards that should be included in specifications to ensure a proper balance between function and cost. For a sample specification, see the article below.

Use can vary from a few cycles a day for hotel and dorm rooms to many thousands for airport entrances, large office buildings and department stores. The operating grade — grade 1 being the most robust — tells a specifier the level of service to expect.

The grade must be appropriate for the operating cycles per day and yearly average for the application. For example, a large department store entrance can experience 1.5 million cycles per year.

Less robust grades might cost less, but they will not be the lowest-cost solution in the long run and certainly will result in more maintenance time and user inconvenience.

Additional specifications for typical mortise locksets include information such as quantity, size, and description of standard features and additional options. These options include lock function, trim design, material for rose and lever or knob, finishes, and hand of door. Important key set information includes master configuration, grandmaster, and construction master requirements.

Managers who can combine updated information on these key components can help their organizations realize the full range of benefits these products have to offer, as well as enhance the security and safety of facilities.

Spotlight on Locks: Sample Specification

This sample specification for a heavy-duty mortise lock shows the typical and essential items a specifier can include to ensure performance and success:

  • High-security mortise locks shall be manufactured by XYZ Company.
  • Locks shall meet or exceed the requirements of ANSI/BHMA A156.13 Series 1234, grade 1, with all standard trims.
  • Locks shall meet or exceed impact ASTM F1577-95b detention locks for swinging doors.
  • Locks shall comply with UL10C and UBC 7-2 positive pressure requirements for fire safety.
  • Lock functions shall be manufactured in a single-size case formed from 12-gauge, heavy-duty wrought steel.
  • The case shall be closed on all sides and back.
  • The lock shall be field adjustable, beveled, with an armor front and 0.125-inch minimum thickness.
  • The latch bolt shall be one-piece, stainless steel 3/4-inch throw anti-friction.
  • Deadbolts shall be 1-inch throw and made of hardened stainless steel.
  • Locks shall have a standard 2-3/4-inch backset.
  • Strikes are to be non-handed with curved lip.
  • Knobs or levers shall be through-bolted and fully interchangeable.
  • Locks shall have standard brass six-pin cylinder.
  • Locks shall have a 10-year limited warranty.

Standards such as ANSI, ASTM, UL, and BHMA should be stated throughout the specifications to provide well-documented standards references for durability and security protection. This step will ensure that components and sets meet stringent rules of design and testing that result in security, ease of operation, and long life.

— Thomas Westerkamp

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  posted on 11/1/2005   Article Use Policy

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