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Facility Maintenance Decisions

Durable Door Hardware



Solutions for managers seeking hardware that enhances access, protects operations and occupants, and stands up to use and abuse


By Terry E. Walton   Doors & Hardware

Maintenance and engineering managers face some of their biggest challenges ever when it comes to specifying door hardware. Security in all types of institutional and commercial facilities in the United States is on the rise, and finding the most appropriate products and technology to meet these changes is high on every manager’s priority list.

At the same time, specifying and buying doors and door hardware as a way of ensuring accessibility for all facility users remains a top priority in construction and remodeling projects. Also, front-line maintenance technicians must keep doors and door hardware functioning properly as barriers against the weather and intruders, and they must do so cost-effectively.

Perhaps most importantly, however, today’s door hardware products must be durable enough to withstand the punishment that building occupants and visitors deliver daily.

Technology Advances

Door hardware has reached new technological levels in recent years as facility access systems expand in scope and complexity. Electronic door hardware, for example, enables doors to be locked and unlocked with the use of a peripheral device — a simple electric push button, a motion sensor, or even an elaborate access control device, such as a card reader or digital keypad.

The door hardware industry also has expanded its offerings to help managers address facility requirements. Interior and exterior door sets include various types doorknobs and plates that are designed to add durability and value, and a variety of doorknob spindles, surface-door bolts, door strikes, and door closers increase both function and style.

Closer Considerations

The closer controls the door throughout its opening and closing swing. The closer has three components: a power source; a checking source that controls the rate at which it moves; and a connector arm that links the door to the frame. Closers can be concealed in the door, frame, or floor, or they may be surfaced mounted.

Some door closers are available with the hold-open-arm feature. When the door is open to a certain point, the closer automatically will let the door stay open, and all the users has to do is pull the door to make it close normally. When the door is opened to less than the hold-open point, it will close if it did not have a hold open arm. Managers must be aware that the hold-open arm cannot be used on a fire-rated opening.

The two most popular ways to mount a door closer on wood doors and hollow metal doors are either standard — regular — arm or a parallel arm. The standard arm door closer mounts on the pull side of the door. So it will never be used on exterior out-swing doors.

Standard closers tend to offer a better power efficiency than parallel-arm closers, but its arm projects out from the door. Since the parallel arm door closer mounts on the push side of the door, it will not be as strong as the standard arm mount, it will still be good enough for almost all applications, and it will offer aesthetic appeal as the arm lays parallel with the door when closed.

In hospital corridors, managers specifying closers for fire doors or electromagnetic or pneumatic door closers should consider special applications that combine with smoke detectors. These doors shut automatically if the smoke detector is triggered. These closers provide a legal means of holding open doors that would otherwise have to be closed for fire protection.

Hinge Considerations

Door hinges settle into niches between the door and jamb yielding to the swing of the door every time it open or closes. They come in many configurations, depending on the operation of the door, but they must be consistent with the door’s weight and frequency of use.

There are four basic types of hinges — full mortise, half mortise, full surface, and half surface. The hinge used also depends on the door mount and functions. For example, spring hinges use the springs contained in them as automatic closers and are best for doors that don’t receive heavy traffic. The hinges must be closed each time they are used.

Swing-clear hinges are bent so that a door can open fully, providing a clear opening. Most door hinges are made from a variety of materials and in numerous sizes to address the proper function of the swing in custom doors, light or heavy weight doors, and wide doors.

Architectural type hinges, often used in institutional and commercial facility applications, are made of heavier grade material and offer specifiers a wider choice of finishes.

The various types of hinges such as plain bearing hinges, ball bearing hinges, spring hinges, and even invisible hinges are made to coordinate with many door types. To increase the lifespan and minimize the creaking sound, managers should consider using ball bearings. For smooth operation, managers should specify ball-bearing, oil-impregnated, or antifriction-bearing hinges for doors that are equipped with closers.

Looking at Locks

Door locks and latches provide specifiers with many security and privacy options. These essential components serve a variety of related functions in facilities, including these:

    Passage. In these applications, both sides of the lock are always unlocked. The unit consists of two blank handles and has no key or push button on either side. This function is used on stairwell doors or any other doors on which the only requirement is to have the door close and latch behind the user but not lock so that it can be opened at all times.

    Storeroom. This lock remains locked all the time and requires a key to open it every time. This type of lock is used mainly on storage doors, utility rooms and janitor closets. It requires a key on one side and a blank handle on the other side, with no key or button.

    Entry. This lock features a key on one side and a push button on the other. Turning the handle on the inside will make the button pop out, which unlocks the door until either the door is locked again from the outside with a key or the button is depressed again.

    Privacy. This type of lock is used primarily on restroom doors. It features a push button on one side and an emergency release on the other side. The lock is made so that it can be locked from the inside but can be opened from the outside with a special tool, a coin or a screwdriver in case of an emergency.

Electromagnetic locks are easy to install and are the most popular locks in use today. They are available to hold forces of 600-1,650 pounds. With the exception of the shear lock, these locks have no moving parts, making them virtually maintenance free. The shear lock can be fully concealed in the header or frame, and it typically offers a holding force of about 2,700 pounds. Managers must remember that the installation of all electromagnetic locks must meet the exacting requirements of NFPA Life Safety Code 101.

Among the many types of lock devices are stair-tower locks, which are designed for use in high-rise buildings. Laws require that electronic controls enable building occupants to unlock the stairwell side of a door without unlatching it to prevent people from becoming trapped in the event of a fire or evacuation. Specifiers can consider this locking system in both new-construction and retrofit projects on older, multi-story buildings.

Finally, electric strikes enable specifiers to provide remote release of a locked door. This system allows the door to be opened without retracting the latch-bolt. A knob or handle that is fixed on both sides of the door provides egress by either a sensor or a wall switch. The door can be unlocked with a key if the lockset is equipped with a lock cylinder.

The challenge for managers specifying the latest generation of door hardware is finding the technology that delivers enhanced access and security while standing up to the punishment these products must withstand.

Hardware: Facility Specifics

General considerations regarding doors and door hardware often must take a back seat to facility-specific considerations, especially in health care and education facilities.

Doors and hardware for many hospitals and health care facilities include products that generally are not be found in any other type of building. These items must meet all requirements of safety, security and protection and yet be operable with minimum effort.

For example, health care facilities must be secure while still allowing patients and visitors freedom of movement. Fire doors and their exit devices must allow visitors and occupants to leave the facility, while containing smoke and fire.

Educational facilities give doors, door hardware and other access-control devices their toughest daily tests. Students of all ages will test doors and hardware by stressing hinges, closer, locks and push bars

These demands affect both specification and installation. For example, if a school allows preschool and kindergarten children to leave classrooms on their own, door knobs need be installed 6 inches lower than the standard height.

—Terry E. Walton


Terry E. Walton is president of Facility Management Consulting Services in Canby, Ore.




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  posted on 4/1/2005   Article Use Policy

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