Exit Device Conversion

July 6, 2010
A lever lock-equipped fire door and jamb is converted to a rim exit device, while maintaining the fire rating.

Locksmiths are called out on a regular basis to retrofit lock hardware. In most instances, the hardware should retrofit with minimal or no modification to the door. Some of the reasons to retrofit lock hardware can include replacing a worn lockset or upgrading to a new lockset or one with additional features. Good examples of upgrades are a Schlage ND-Series Lever Lock with Vandlgard clutching action and a Sargent Classroom Security Lever Lock that inserting the key in either the exterior or interior lock cylinder locks or unlocks the outside lever. With this type of lever lock, a schoolteacher can lock the exterior lever from within the classroom.

Retrofitting lock hardware becomes more specific when it is mounted onto a fire rated door or jambs. Fire rated openings, the rated doors and jambs were created to ensure occupant safety within a building.

Standards (rules) identify fire rated doors and the door hardware they can support. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) produces the NFPA 80, Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives, which is continuously modified and updated. The information covered is widely accepted by local authorities having jurisdiction (LAHJ) and often becomes incorporated into local building codes.

Fire rated doors and jambs are ordered and manufactured to accommodate not only a specific lock type (mortise, cylindrical, exit device), but also are built to accept a specific lock manufacturer’s model product. For fire rated doors, any surface applied hardware modification is restricted to drilling holes that are 3/4” or smaller in diameter with the exception of mortise or rim lock cylinders. Any previous opening must be sealed in a manner acceptable to the LAHJ. Acceptability can vary from one LAHJ to another.

Once the door and jamb has been built, the fire label is attached. This label will usually be UL (Underwriter’s Laboratories) or Warnock Hersey, a brand name of Intertek. The label will usually be located on the hinge edge of the door. On newer fire rated door labels, the label will indicate the rating of the door that determines the length of time the door has been fire tested under a standard fire exposure. Doors are fire rated from 20 minutes up to three hours. Most wood doors have a fire rating of up to one and a half hours. Hollow metal doors can have a fire rating of up to three hours. Labels may also contain important information on the latch throw and installation information based on the listing of the door.

Important: To lower the cost of manufacturing, some door companies only manufacture fire rated doors and sell fire rated doors for non-fire rated openings. Doors that are sold for non-fire rated openings can have a label. However, only a labeled door and jamb can be installed into a fire rated opening.

Fire rated doors are installed in specific areas within a building. The occupancy load (number of people permitted at a given time) usually determines the number and locations of fire rated doors. The size of the building or room and the type of occupancy determines the number of people. Examples of occupancy include theatres, restaurants, banquet rooms and hotels.

A fire rating is normally required on doors that provide a means of egress from a room that borders on a corridor or hallway that leads to an exit. Most exterior doors are not fire rated. However, examples of fire rated exit doors are doors leading to an alley, stairwell doors and generally any door located in a fire rated corridor that provides a pathway to exit the building.

Sometimes fire rated doors are difficult to identify as the label is occasionally removed or painted over. Some labels are metal and riveted onto the door edge or top or bottom. Some labels appear to be decals, with very little thickness. When in doubt, contact the LAHJ.

Any door labeled as fire rated requires special knowledge and careful consideration before any “in the field” modification begins. Some examples of acceptable modifications are drilling thru-bolt holes for a lever lock or drilling round holes to accommodate lock cylinders, spindles and similar operational elements. An example of an unacceptable modification is removing a mortise lock from a fire rated door and installing a cylindrical lock using a wrap to cover the door face and door edge openings.

When modifications go beyond what is specified in the NFPA 80 for field modifications, they may void the fire rating. However, a certified door shop can remove the door, transport the door to their facility, make modifications at their business, recertify the door and jamb in accordance with the specifications established with the listing and labeling agency servicing their business and return the door to the building and install it. It is recommended that the building owner and LAHJ be contacted if a fire door will be removed from the opening and the building is occupied.

We will discuss different options for converting a 161 prepped door for commercial cylindrical locks to an exit device application while maintaining the fire rating on the door.

A 161 door prep is a standard door preparation using a 2-1/8” diameter cross bore opening on each face of the door at a 2-3/4” backset. There is a 1” diameter edge bore for the latch that has a standard 1-1/8” wide by 2-1/4” tall faceplate. Depending upon the lock, the strike plate opening into the jamb can accommodate a 4-7/8” ANSI Strike or a standard 2-3/4” strike.

Exit devices, like cylindrical locks and mortise locks, can be ordered to function in a specific operation. The functionality is determined by the trim, as Life Safety Codes require free egress from the interior. The three most common functions are no locking trim (no outside operation), night latch key retracts Pullman bolt and key unlocks or locks trim. Some exit device manufacturers offer clutch or freewheeling trim to resist vandalism.

For the conversion to satisfy the inspection and certification agencies (i.e. Warnock Hersey) and maintain the fire door rating, the wide stile center case of the push (flat) bar type of fire rated exit device or the wide stile active head assembly of the crossbar fire rated exit device must be larger than 2-1/8” diameter to fully cover the cross bore opening on the interior side of the door. Consider using a wide stile exit device such as the Corbin Russwin ED8000 Series, Sargent 8888 Series, the Von Duprin 22 Series or the Yale 2100 Series. The above listed exit devices are available with three hour fire ratings on single doors up to a 4’0” by 8’0” opening.

These exit devices are normally installed at a 2-3/4” centered backset, ensuring the center case or active head can be positioned over the 2-1/8” diameter cross bore opening.

Another choice is the Detex Advantex 10 Series Rim Fire Exit Device. Its wide stile center case is approximately 2-1/2” wide by 8” tall. Be certain the rim exit device center case is mounted in the position to completely cover the opening. Many rim exit devices are designed for installation at a 2-3/4” backset.

To cover the latch opening in the door edge and the strike opening in the jamb, a ferrous metal fill plate must be installed in place of the latch bolt and should cover the strike opening in the jamb. Some lock manufacturers including Falcon and Monarch offer these accessories as well as Don-Jo Mfg., M.A.G. Eng. & Mfg. and ENTRY ARMOR by PRO-LOK.

To return the door as close to the originally designed configuration, remove the faceplate from the latch bolt and remove the rear portion of the mechanism. Place this modified latch into the edge bore opening and install the filler plate over it. This will fill the void left when the latch bolt was removed.

By installing the modified portion of the latch bolt into the door edge, you are showing the LAHJ that you understand the importance of maintaining the fire rating.

Each lock manufacturer offers a variety of exterior trim for their exit devices, such as thumb piece handlesets, pulls, key-in-lever rose trim, escutcheon trim and trim plates with or without a lock cylinder opening. The type of trim installed should be consistent with code requirements, access needs and aesthetics.

To maintain consistency with existing product, several lock manufacturers offer lever rose trim that is the modified exterior assembly of a specific cylindrical lock. This means that converting to an exit device can appear seamless from the exterior if the lever trim has similar or identical roses and lever styles. These lever lock rose trims include the Sargent 10 Line, Monarch 814KIL, and Yale 440F. Cal-Royal non-handed lever lock rose trim is available with their patented freewheeling clutch. The rose diameter is 3-1/3”.

These lever trims are available having different functions including Nightlatch/Storeroom, Entrance, Classroom, Dummy and Passage. Most lock manufacturers offer varying keying options including conventional, removable core and interchangeable core in a variety of keyways and high security.

Trimco sells different styles of trim handles manufactured of different metals including stainless steel. They include Anti Vandal Handle Trims with and without an astragal. The astragal covers the opening between the door and the jamb providing latch protection.

As an alternative to a standard rim exit device, Ervos® Exit Technologies has developed an exit device that requires no modifications. The Ervos® X61S Exit Device Series is designed to be installed into a standard 161 door prep using a standard strike plate for the latching mechanism. Unlike the rim exit device surface mounted bolt, the X61 has a custom designed door edge mounted latch with dead latch. The X61 15/16” long latch bolt is incorporated into the standard 1-1/8” wide by 2-1/4” faceplate.

On the interior side of the door, the X61S bar extends 2-27/32” from the face of the door. When depressed, the bar extends 2-3/16”. On the exterior side of the door, a forged trim cover with pull handle retracts the latch bolt. In the center of the trim cover is a lock cylinder that can retract the latch or lock/unlock the locking mechanism depending upon the function.

The three hour fire rated Ervos X61S-F Exit Device will accommodate up to a 4’0” by 8’0” opening. The exit device has a three-year warranty.

There are many different choices when it comes to modifying a cylindrical equipped fire door or non-fire door to accommodate an exit device.

Before making any modification to a fire rated door, contact the LAHJ and discuss the installation. Prior to writing this article, I did research and was told that there should not be a problem. However, from past experience, it is always a good idea to make certain that the changes you want to make are acceptable to the authorities.

For more information on the discussed manufacturers’ and products, contact your local distributor or:

Cal-Royal Products, Inc.. Telephone: 323-888-6601. Web Site: www.cal-royal.com.

Corbin Russwin Architectural Hardware. Telephone: 800-543-3658. Web Site: www.corbinrusswin.com.

Detex Corporation. Telephone: 800-729-3839. Web Site: www.detex.com.

Don-Jo Mfg. Inc. Telephone: 978-422-3377. Web Site: www.don-jo.com.

Ervos Incorporated. Telephone: 412-221-3400. Web Site: www.ervostech.com.

Monarch Exit Devices & Panic Hardware. Telephone: 800-266-4456. Web Site: www.monarchhardware.com.

M.A.G. Eng. & Mfg. Co., Inc. Telephone: 800-624-9942. Web Site: www.magmfg.com.

Pro-Lok. Telephone: 714-633-0681. Web Site: www.pro-lok.com. Web Site: www.pro-lok.com

SARGENT Manufacturing. Telephone: 800-727-5477. Web Site: www.sargentlock.com.

Trimco. Telephone: 323-262-4191. Web Site: www.trimcobbw.com.

Von Duprin. Telephone: 800-999-0408. Web Site: www.vonduprin.com.

For more on standards, inspections and testing information contact:

National Fire Protection Association: www.nfpa.org.

Underwriters Laboratories: www.ul.com.

Intertek: www.intertek.com. www.intertek.com

To read additional Locksmith Ledger articles on exit devices, visit Web Site: www. tinyurl.com/exit0710.