There is no universal door configuration, and no one surface-mounted door closer will fit every door configuration without modification. For this reason, most manufacturers of surface-mounted door closers offer a number of models that can be ordered with different options and accessories.
Note: Door closer manufacturers use some of their own spellings and words for component terminology. For this reason, I will attempt to use the most common terminology where possible.
Although I would not consider the spring power an accessory or option, the first consideration when ordering a door closer, surface-mounted or not, is to know the door size, approximate weight or application and the features required for the installation. Door closer features can include delayed action and adjustable spring power.
Few modern surface-mounted door closers are handed. An example of a handed surface mounted door closer is a “pot” style of door closer which was invented more than 100 years ago.
Double Lever & Single Lever Arms
There are two basic arms for most surface-mounted door closers: the double lever arm and the single lever arm. The double lever two-part arm is installed onto stop side (Push Side) of the door in either top jamb or parallel arm mountings. It is installed onto the hinge side (Pull Side) of the door using the regular arm mounting. The Regular Arm and Top Jamb applications allow the door to open to about 180 degrees, depending upon the configuration of the opening. Standard Parallel Arm applications allow the door to open to about 110 degrees. The geometry of the double lever arm provides greater mechanical advantage to the closer.
The double lever arm is made up of the main arm and the fore arm hinged at the elbow. The main arm attaches the closer spindle to the fore arm. The fore arm connects the main arm to the attachment point on the door or the jamb. Depending upon the mounting, the fore arm can be attached to a shoe (foot), soffit, soffit plate or soffit shoe.
Some shoes/feet have a second or third connecting (pivot) point for the fore arm. These additional connecting points can increase or decrease the closer power by altering the shoe (foot) pivot angle. A tighter angle increases the spring closing power.
The single lever arm is the track style arm, which is a combination of a main arm and a rectangular box. The arm slides from end towards end as the door closes. Track arm closers are normally used on interior or sheltered exterior doors. This application allows the door to open to about 110 degrees on either the pull or push side, depending upon the configuration of the opening.
Types of Arms
Probably the widest array of choices for a surface-mounted door closer option is the type of arm. Most of these door closers come with a standard duty double lever arm and shoe (soffit) that will accommodate regular arm, top jamb and parallel arm mountings.
The most common arm option is probably the Hold Open Arm, which enables the door to be swung open to a point in the swing of the door and to remain open in that position until the door is physically released. Usually the purpose of the hold open arm is to permit access and egress without having to open the door.
The holding open is achieved by means of friction, a series of set positions that hold the door open at specific degrees of opening or a control handle mechanism. A friction hold open can have an open range of less than 90 degrees to more than 180 degrees depending upon the installation. For example, the Norton ball and detent or roller hold open arm has an effective range of 85 to 110 degrees.
IMPORTANT: Hold open arm equipped door closers are not permitted to be used on fire door openings.
Then, there are a variety of arms including heavy duty, spring arms, positive stop arms, cushioning arms, extended arm rod, fusible link arms, offset brackets, etc.
The heavy duty arm is designed to provide additional strength and mass, ensuring a more solid connection between the door and the jamb or wall.
A spring, cushioning equipped or positive stop arms are designed to help prevent the closer opening beyond its pre-adjusted limits and possible causing damage to the closer, the arm or door by over opening the door.
An extended arm rod has a longer than normal rod that permits the door closer to installed in a different location, such as on the wall adjacent to the door closer (pocket doors), a deep reveal or to provide greater opening capability. An extended arm rod probably should be used if the reveal is about four inches or more, a door that is equipped with swing clear hinges or butt hinges in excess of six inches.
A fusible link arm is a specialized hold-open arm designed to release the hold-open function when exposed to high temperatures. For example, the LCN fusible link arm is available with release temperatures of 135 or 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Note: A fusible link hold-open arm is not a life safety product. Always check codes before installing a door closer with a fusible link hold-open arm.
Fire Rated Openings
Fire rated openings require the door to close and latch automatically when released. If the door needs to be held open, there are several methods to achieve fire and building code compliance without interfering with normal building operation. Electromagnetic holders are hardwired for power and into the fire alarm relay that will interrupt power if the fire alarm sounds.
The self-contained choice is an electromechanical closer-holder release device. These battery powered devices are designed to hold open a fire and smoke rated door for use in existing facilities lacking a fire/smoke detection system. The electromechanical closer-holder release devices are equipped with an integrated fire/smoke detector. When smoke or fire is detected, the closer-holder releases the door closer arm, permitting the door to close. Before installing any products onto a fire rated opening, contact your local authority having jurisdiction.
Double lever arms are available with an offset bracket in order to lower the door closer for installations when there is a surface-mounted overhead stop, holder or in installations where the ceiling interferes with the movement of the arm.
Depending upon the installation, a specialized arm, shoe or soffit can be required to properly close the door. For example, there are Sargent flush frame arms designed to be used on openings when the door and frame are flush.
The door closer arm determines the degree of opening. Most door closer arms are not designed to provide a stop mechanism. Most openings should have a positive stop, which is a physical limit to opening of a door. Depending upon the application, a floor or wall mounted stop is optimal. The stop itself can be equipped with a resilient bumper. This positive stop stops the door swing before the swing limit imposed by the arm of the door closer.
Pairs of Doors
There are different considerations when installing door closers onto a pair of doors. Depending upon the application, if both doors require opening and there is no mullion, a door coordinator is required to make sure the inactive door closes first in order that the active door aligns and the lock mechanism secures the opening.
There are several types of door coordinators, including the gravity type and the soffit applied door coordinator. The gravity type door coordinator has two arms, one for the active door and one for the inactive door. If both doors are open, the gravity coordinator keeps the active door open. When the inactive door closes, the arms are raised allowing the active door to swing closed beneath the arm that had kept it partially open to a point that would allow the inactive door to swing shut. DORMA Architectural Hardware and Door Controls International (DCI) offer door coordinators.
Drop Plates & Corner Brackets
Installing the closer body onto the door can sometimes require a mounting (Drop) plate because the surface area for mounting the closer may not be tall enough. A good example is using a mounting plate to install a surface mounted door closer onto a narrow stile aluminum glass door. The International Door Closer Drop Plates allows for mounting their door closer onto a door having a minimum top rail. The Drop Plates are available in different sizes and different finishes.
A Corner Bracket is a mounting plate that is installed onto the upper hinge corner of the jamb. A Corner Bracket can be used where top jamb and parallel arm application will not accommodate the door and frame conditions. There are several different configurations of corner brackets. Each configuration allows a specific degree of opening. They vary from 110 to 180 degrees.
IMPORTANT: A Corner Bracket requires minimal header height and door top rail in order to operate. However, make sure the vertical clearance from the bottom of the Corner Bracket to the finished floor within the door opening is tall enough to ensure code compliance.
Another important consideration is the geometry of a corner bracket mounted door closer. According to information I have received, the surface -mounted door closer’s power efficiency is reduced significantly (around 20 percent) when compared to a regular arm installed door closer.
Retrofit plates are designed to use a different manufacturer’s model of door closer than the one installed without having to drill new mounting holes through the door. The retrofit plate mounts onto the door with existing door closer mounting holes. The new closer mounts onto the retrofit plate.
Retrofit plates eliminate the extra four through-bolt mounting hole sex bolts that can be seen on the opposite face of a door where the surface-mounted door closer has been replaced.
Spacers are available for the door closer and the arm assembly to compensate for variations including a rabbited frame, frames with ½” blade stops or to lower the door closer arm in order to provide unobstructed operation. Spacers are available from most door closer manufacturers.
Optional Closer Covers
Another option for door closers are different covers for the closer. Those door closers that have available covers can usually be order to a specific finish to be compatible with the arm and the shoe/soffit. However, there are plastic, snap-on plastic, metal, lead lined and security covers.
The optional covers either simplify the installation adding a level of protection or security against vandalism and theft. The lead lined covers are designed to provide protection against radiation entering through the door closer mounting holes.
The Norton drawn steel security cover is fastened to the closer body at four points of attachment. The steel security cover is available in sprayed or architectural plated finishes.
Door closer installations have become more than just slapping the universal door closer onto the door, adjusting a few screws, getting paid and driving off into the sunset. Finding out exactly what the end-user wants and installing the best door closer with the appropriate arm and options will give your customer many years of trouble free operation.
For the optimum installation, follow the door closer manufacturer’s instructions.
For More Information
The following is a partial list of lock manufacturers that offer surface mounted door closers, optional components and accessories, along with their web sites. Also, check with your local locksmith distributor.
Arrow Lock: www.arrowlock.com.
Corbin Russwin: www.corbinrusswin.com.
Dorma Architectural Hardware: www.dorma-usa.com.
Door Controls International: www.doorcontrols.com.
International Door Closer: www.intldoorclosers.com .
LCN: www.lcnclosers.com .
Norton: www.nortondoorcontrols.com .
PDQ Manufacturing: www.pdqlocks.com .
Trans Atlantic Co. : www.transatlanticco.com .
Trimco: www.trimcobbw.com .
Yale Commercial Lock and Hardware: www.yalecommercial.com.