Ins and Outs of Entry Door Specification

June 30, 2011
Current and future needs should be incorporated into entry door specifications

Your entry door stands up to daily repetitive use by everyone entering and exiting your building, making it an important investment.

And like all other investments, you want your entry door to reach its maximum life before having to invest in a new system, making specifications an important aspect in door selection.

Select by Situation
To ensure your entry door is long-lasting, you first have to select the right door for your situation.

"How long an average entry door lasts depends upon location, usage, and whether the doors are properly maintained," explains Mark Graves, president of Ellison Bronze, Inc. "For an average storefront door, you might get 5-10 years, if it's not in an extremely windy condition and if it's not extreme high use."

Basic aluminum storefront doors are often used in light commercial and light use retail. But if your doors are in high traffic, high abuse settings – like school and university, public transportation, or a main entrance to a busy corporate building – you'll want to invest in more durable products with a higher upfront cost.

"A product that is going to have a long lifecycle is going to carry an initial cost to go with it – that's the trade-off," Graves explains. "A bigger up-front cost for a door system will then translate into a longer lifecycle and therefore you can amortize that cost over many years. But you have to make that conscious decision that you're willing to spend that money up front to get a product that will last many years."

Hardware also impacts the longevity of your door system. "For instance, if the doors are not reinforced properly with heavy steel for the hardware, then they might last just a very short period of time," says Joe Calvert of Calvert Independent Hardware Specifications, LLC. "They may start experiencing problems even before the building is opened up – I've seen that."

Forecast Your Future
When selecting a new entry door system for current use, you also need to consider the future needs and qualities of the system.

For example, you may not have an electronic access control security system integrated into the door system now, but will you want to before the door needs to be replaced?

"You need to decide what are the security and electronic access control requirements that you want to achieve on your building for the level of security, or the type of hardware you already have or want to have on your building," says Graves. "That could really dictate what door type you select."

You can't simply get the door first and involve your security personnel later. If you do, you run the risk of selecting a door, getting it installed, and then finding out that the door type selected is incompatible with your future security needs.

To avoid this, bring all involved parties together early in the process. Incorporate feedback from the building owners and managers, security consultants, architects, electrical contractors, door manufacturers, and glazing consultants.

This advice is also true when it comes to other technology upgrades, like automatic door systems.

If you make known your intent to install electronic systems in the future, your architect, electrical engineer, and hardware consultant can ensure that the wiring, cabling, and hardware will be integrated into the framework and system so that you're left with a clean, finished look from beginning to end – instead of being left with surface conduit and exposed wires after system installation. "When you retrofit without prior planning, you have to make compromises that can look junky and are expensive," says Calvert.

Doors are no longer strictly manual – they're integrated with electronic functions that you may desire now or in the future. "Doors aren't just a door frame, a closer, and a manual lock," Graves says. "Doors are truly becoming a system, where they're integrating electronic access control, electronic security systems, and power operation."

Kylie Wroblaski ([email protected]) is associate editor of BUILDINGS.

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