While most building owners and managers recognize that interior doors are vital to the appearance and performance of a facility, the challenge is to find a superior door product that won’t add to overall project costs.
Historically, commercial doors were designed to secure people and property, provide passive fire protection, allow a safe means of egress, and reduce sound transmission - yet be aesthetically pleasing. But today’s discriminating building owner is likely to insist on interior products that:
- Have longer life-cycle projections.
- Are produced from environmentally friendly, green materials.
- Offer superior mechanical and physical properties.
- Are economically efficient to operate.
- Are easy to install.
- Have fewer maintenance requirements.
In response to these stringent demands, the door industry has developed a new generation of performance-based, thermal-fused flush doors (also known as low-pressure decorative laminate doors) that are generally 5- to 10-percent less expensive than either pre-finished red oak or a comparable high-pressure laminate door.
Wood Door Evolution
When they were originally introduced in the early 1900s, wood flush doors consisted of a wood block (stave) core with low-density wood blocks and strips randomly arranged. A higher-density perimeter system (stiles and rails) was added that held the blocks in place and provided screw-holding power from the edge. A plywood face was then placed over the entire core and edge to create an engineered door.
The next significant development was the replacement of the stave core with an ultra-low density particle board core. While it was more reliable and stable, it lacked the ability to hold wood screws from the face. Soon afterwards, the door industry ushered in high-pressure decorative laminates - the same material used in kitchen and bath countertops - as an alternative to the thin, wood veneer face. Laminates provided consistent color throughout a project and a more cleanable surface than wood. But laminates looked like plastic and, worse yet, scratched and chipped easily.
The Green Factor
The newer wood flush doors are fashioned around a core that is 67-percent denser than older varieties, resulting in less sound transmission and improved overall mechanical and physical properties. Featuring recycled and recovered material, the core is environmentally friendly but adds no additional cost to door construction. Moreover, these doors project a desired look without the need to harvest even a single cherry, mahogany, oak, or maple tree.
Lower Installation Costs
Unlike other door systems, low-pressure laminate wood flush doors arrive at the jobsite ready to hang. Moreover, they never require priming, painting, or staining, further adding to the cost savings. They even come with pilot holes pre-drilled at the factory that accept hinge and lock screws.
What makes the low-pressure flush doors so durable is that the face and finish are fused to the door at the factory under high heat and pressure, thereby ensuring that the face will never delaminate. During the fusion process, manufacturers add a resin that allows low-pressure flush doors to be 50-percent more scratch resistant than units with wood or high-pressure laminate finishes. In addition, a 1-millimeter-thick, impact-resistant polymer band that matches the color and grain of the face is glued to the vertical edges and along the top and bottom of the doors. This banding prevents the doors from warping and allows them to latch each time they close.
David San Paolo is technical director at The Maiman Co. (www.maiman.com), an architectural door manufacturer located in Springfield, MO.