Commercial Security Hardware: It All Starts With The Door

Sept. 1, 2009
Doors can be equipped with push / pull hardware, door viewers, sweeps, plates, flush bolts, center pivots, offset pivots, butt hinges, concealed over-head hinges, floor closers, or over-head surface / concealed closers.

Commercial security hardware is a wide ranging topic. Non-electrified security hardware includes Grade 1 level doors and mechanical hardware. Commercial grade door hardware includes locks, exit devices, closers, thresholds, coordinators, mullions, plates, pulls, and hinges.

Before we begin with the hardware attached to the door and jamb, any good discussion should begin with the door itself. In addition to the standard hollow metal doors, solid wood doors and aluminum stile doors, there are customized doors designed to provide different levels of security. These include fire labeled doors (20 minutes to 3 hours), bullet resistant doors, corrosive materials doors, sound deadening doors, lead lined doors and “Student Proof Doors.”

Doors and jambs come in a variety of styles, materials and strengths. Stamped metal doors appear to be wood, having a higher fire rating than a comparable solid wood doors. Metal doors can be ordered with a facesheet of 20, 18, 16, 14 and 12 gauge thickness. The thicker the gauge, the heavier the door. The core material can be honeycomb, polystyrene, polyurethane or mineral fiber to name a few. Depending upon hardware to be installed onto the door, reinforcement will usually be added to provide additional support for hardware such as a door closer.

Commercial wood doors are becoming available using veneer facings. Algoma Hardwoods Inc. doors can be equipped with solid lumber outer stiles, along with Structural Composite Lumber (SCLC) rails and inner stiles that are securely bonded to the core under side pressure. The doors are finished with hardwood face veneer or medium density overlays. These doors can be ordered with fire labeling up to 1-1/2 hours. For information, contact Algoma Hardwoods Inc., 1001 Perry Street, Algoma, Wisc., 54201. Telephone 920-487-5221 Web Site

Also common in commercial applications are the extruded aluminum doors. Aluminum stile doors with a center tempered glass panels are very popular in strip malls. These aluminum-glass doors are available with narrow to wide stiles (vertical edges) and can be installed as single or double-door configurations.


All doors are installed into jambs. Jambs can be wood, metal and aluminum jambs. Wood jambs are usually attached to the wood (extruded metal) framing. Hollow metal jambs can be installed in just about any configuration - wood framing, block, and poured concrete.

Depending upon the opening configuration and the degree of opening required, doors can be equipped with continuous hinges, butt hinges, center pivots or offset pivots.

Continuous hinges are designed to support the door from almost the top of the hinge edge to the bottom, spreading the weight over the entire hinge. Continuous hinges are a long-term solution for high-traffic commercial door openings. They are available in different configurations including pin and barrel continuous hinges and geared continuous hinges.

The choice of hardware for some products is a choice by the owner. For others, it is determined by the architect or the hardware specifier.

The mechanical door locking products probably are the most variable, including cylindrical locks, mortise locks, rim locks and exit devices. Styles of cylindrical locks include knob and lever locks as well as deadbolts. Mortise locks are available with latch, with latch and deadbolt and deadbolt. Exit (panic) devices include rim, mortise, surface vertical rod and concealed vertical rod. All of these come in various styles, finishes and levels of security depending upon the manufacturer.

Note: One area that needs to be considered is retrofitting an existing building. The new hardware should be able to match existing hardware unless all of the hardware is being replaced.

Ok, so what's on a commercial door? Doors can be equipped with push / pull hardware, door viewers, sweeps, plates, flush bolts, center pivots, offset pivots, butt hinges, concealed over-head hinge, floor closer, or over-head surface / concealed closer. To ensure the door provides a sufficient seal against nature, there are thresholds installed into the floor and seals mounted onto the stop face of the jamb.

The jamb is the frame surrounding the two sides and top of the door. The threshold is located below the bottom of a door mounted into the finished floor. Between the bottom of the door and the threshold is the sweep or door bottom. The sweep is mounted onto the bottom of the door. Sweeps and door bottoms can come preinstalled onto the door or can be added later.

The door, jamb and the threshold work in conjunction with the weather stripping. Weather stripping is a seal that surrounds a door to keep out the elements. A properly sealed door helps with heating and cooling costs.

Weather stripping can be as simple as rubber, foam, vinyl or plastic. There are also smoke seals, designed to keep the smoke and fire from traveling.

If there is a pair of doors, additional hardware can include a door coordinator or a mullion (vertical support). Door coordinators are designed for pairs of doors to have the inactive door close first, then the active door when both doors are opened. Coordinators are designed for high traffic commercial projects.

Pairs of doors that swing in the same direction may have either an automatic flush bolt or a manual flush bolt to lock the inactive leaf (door) in place, so it will not open before the active leaf has been opened. The automatic flush bolt locks the inactive leaf when the active leaf is closed; unlocking when the active leaf begins to swing open. Manual flush bolts must be physically locked and unlocked. Flush bolts are available for the top and the bottom of the door.

Depending upon the swing of the pair of doors, an astragal may be installed. A vertical molding attaches to the swing edge of active leaf of a pair of doors. The astragal can provide security protection as well as protection against weather and to minimize the transmission of smoke, light, etc., between the doors.

The method of mounting the door onto the jamb can be accomplished using a continuous hinge, butt hinge, or a pivot. Butt hinges are the most common method of mounting a wood or hollow metal door onto the jamb. Butt hinges are available in steel, brass and stainless steel. They can be ordered with decorative tips, non-removable pins, ball-bearings, etc. The hinges are measured by the height and the open size. Door height and weight determine the size and number of butt hinges mounted onto a door.


Door closers are mechanical devices that close doors. The standard door closer stores the energy used in the opening of the door and releases it to close and latch the door. Common closers are equipped with hydraulic dampers that control the speed at which the door closes.

An important consideration when installing a door closer is to install the same closer that was removed or a closer with the same mounting hole pattern. This is because if the door closer is installed using sex nuts, having two sets of holes (eight) on the opposite side of the door is not very appealing. An alternative is to order a retrofit plate. The retrofit plate is mounted onto the door using the existing holes and the closer is mounted onto the retrofit plate using the new hole pattern. This eliminates excess holes.

Important: Before installing any additional hardware onto fire labeled doors, be sure to contact the Local Authority Having Jurisdiction.


Finally the most important piece of hardware mounted onto a door is the lock.

A mortise lock requires a pocket, either precut by the door manufacturer or cut into a wood door. Installing a mortise lock into a blank wood door requires woodworking skills as well as tools such as a mortise jig or auger (wood) drilling bits. Mortise locks consist of a lock body (inside the door), the lock trim and usually one keyed mortise cylinder.

The advantage of a mortise lock is the wider range of other manufacturer's lock cylinders.

Cylindrical locks have advantages also. In most instances, different brands of cylindrical locks can be installed into the same door prep without having any modifications. The only issue that can occur is if the replacement cylindrical lock's rose is a smaller diameter than the existing lock. If the door has been painted with the previous lock mounted, there will be a ring of the previous color surrounding the rose of the new lock.

Most commercial lock hardware is equipped with conventional lock cylinders. As an alternative, most locks are available with Interchangeable Cores (IC) or Removable Cores (RC). IC or RC equipped locks provide a significant increase in the number of change key in a masterkey system. RC is specific to the lock manufacturer that makes them and cannot normally be used on other manufacturers lock hardware.

Aluminum doors are often sold with pull or push handles or bars. When in the unlocked position, a pull or push handle/bar can be used to operate an aluminum door equipped with a deadbolt or hook bolt style lock.

Once the door has all the proper hardware installed, other than being inspected once a year, the hardware should last a very long time.