A few simple steps can help you avoid costly problems that arise when doors and door hardware aren’t carefully selected.
More than any other building component, doors and door hardware are subjected to abuse by the elements and by building occupants. As a result, most companies devote a significant portion of their maintenance effort and budget to keeping doors and hardware operating correctly. I would suggest that landlords need to take the same approach.
When a door or its hardware is damaged, you have to respond, and respond quickly. Damage can compromise building or home security and disrupt operations within the building. For all these reasons, landlords are expected to do whatever is necessary to maintain doors and door hardware.
With the exception of failed finishes, split panels and physical damage, the majority of problems involve the door hardware. Doors that are difficult to open or close, open or close too quickly and stick are the result of common door hardware problems. All can be avoided.
Despite the importance of door hardware, few people pay attention to that topic in home construction and renovation projects. Door hardware represents a small fraction of the overall project cost. Therefore, many landlords simply use what they have used in the past with no consideration of differences between the projects and uses or even how well that hardware has performed in the past.
In some cases, facility executives have been lucky. High-quality hardware was selected for the original application, and it was suited to the application. But not all landlords are so lucky. Too often, the original selection is made primarily on the basis of initial costs. Differences between uses and frequency of use are not taken into consideration. The result is that the hardware is not suited to the use, and it rapidly becomes an ongoing maintenance problem.
Landlords can avoid most door hardware pitfalls by following a few simple steps. These actions can help ensure that you select the best hardware.
Start With a door hardware plan
Start with a thorough understanding of the project and the use. Multifamily buildings will have a much different requirement than a single family house. A four-plex or above will need hardware capable of withstanding higher levels of traffic, use and abuse than most residential applications.
Another key element of the plan is standardization. In your role as the “maintenance department” you will need to stock replacement items. Having too many kinds of hardware and you would have to stock a wide range at a high cost. By standardizing with as few different types of hardware items as possible, you can reduce costs and space requirements.
Standardization also helps to improve the installation and repair functions. Whether you do the repair and installation yourself, hire a contractor or have a on call maintenance person using the same hardware over and over again makes the job more efficient. Without standardization, personnel are required to learn how to maintain and replace a much wider range of hardware components. And even once they have learned how to work with a particular model, their effectiveness will be reduced if they don’t service it on a regular basis.
Hardware planning must also include close monitoring and inspection of the installation process. Even the best door hardware will not perform well if it is not properly installed. If you use an outside contractor hardware installation must be monitored with a final inspection before the project is accepted. Remember the door is a key component in safety and security. Premises liability cases against the landlord are often built around door issues.
Evaluate your options
If the existing hardware is suitable for the use and is performing well, then chances are that the same hardware for a new installation will also perform smoothly. But if there are problems with the existing hardware, or if it is not well-suited for the level of service that it faces, then you are headed for long-term hardware problems.
While initial costs and appearance are important, many other factors must be considered. One is the exposure to the elements. Exterior door hardware will have to be corrosion-resistant and more heavy-duty than interior hardware. Stainless steel and aluminum resist corrosion better than steel or cast iron.
Which material is best suited for the application will also depend on the level of use and abuse that the hardware will be exposed to. While brass and other soft metals might be suitable for applications where appearance is paramount, they wouldn’t last very long in high-traffic areas. In high-use and high-abuse areas heavy-duty hardware will be required. This is as true for hardware as it is for how it attaches to the door and the door frame.
For a multifamily, ADA regulations will impose requirements on door hardware, but they are not the only code or regulatory issues to consider. UL fire-rating requirements will affect hardware selection, so will local building code requirements.
Climate can be a factor
Even factors such as the climate influence hardware selection. The hardware selected in humid climates must be made from materials that resist corrosion. In climates where freezing conditions occur regularly, door hardware must resist moisture penetration. For example, floor-mounted hinges are prone to icing in colder climates. The closer that landlords can match the hardware selection to their property needs, the greater the long-term benefits will be.
Planning the installation and carefully evaluating options will help to ensure that the installation is well-suited for the use. However, no door hardware, no matter what its quality or how well it is installed, will meet performance expectations unless it is properly maintained. All hardware should be inspected at least twice each year, typically in the spring and fall. Hardware that is exposed to high levels of use or abuse may require monthly inspections. Manufacturers’ requirements for adjustment and lubrication should be followed closely. These maintenance procedures can help maximize the investment made in door hardware.
Door hardware selection benefits from life-cycle cost analysis
One of the most important factors to be considered when evaluating hardware options is the life-cycle cost of each option. Consider that for most hardware applications, maintenance costs over the life of the installation exceed purchase costs on the average by about a factor of 10. That means small savings in initial costs can result in large increases in the total cost of ownership if the lower-cost item is less durable or requires more frequent maintenance. Look closely at the preventive maintenance requirements for each option being considered. Maintenance requirements will vary widely depending on the materials used, the durability of the item and its design.
The ease with which maintenance can be performed also varies widely. Some hardware items are designed for easy maintenance, while other designs seem to have ignored maintenance entirely. During the life of the installation, these maintenance cost differences will be significant. In general, the most economical long-term performance will result from selecting heavy-duty components. Even medium-duty hardware will be hard pressed to withstand the punishment of all but the lowest level usage.