Single Storefront Doors and Profits

Nov. 1, 2008
The lock stile is where the majority of day-to-day lock service is performed. From keyed cylinders and thumb-turns to latches deadbolts and hook bolts, this is where the action is.

Aluminum-framed storefront doors are everywhere. From single businesses to strip malls to large office buildings, aluminum-framed storefront doors present excellent opportunities for the security professional to provide higher levels of protection.

There are single and double aluminum-framed storefront doors. These doors can be equipped with hinges or pivots, or are designed to slide open and closed. Aluminum-framed doors can be equipped with a closer concealed above or below, or closed using a surface-mounted unit. These doors can be equipped with power-operators; high speed or low. These doors can be equipped with just about any type of door locking hardware; mechanical or electro-mechanical. Single and dual point locking mechanisms, concealed and surface mounted vertical rods, combined with rim devices and electromagnetic locks, secure this multiple option selection of openings. The door can come from their factory with integrated push bar components and more.

Given the wide variety of door potential setups, this article will concentrate on the basic mechanically operated, single storefront aluminum door and its potential. In a single-door setup, you are dealing with a door and frame with four specific quadrants of components and adjustments. The top rail, bottom rail, hinge stile and lock stile are each unique in the function and need for security-related devices. The stiles normally run the full height of the door. The rails top and bottom are positioned within the hinge stile and the lock stile. The frame itself is separate but is in direct relationship with various lock functions.

By looking at each area individually, we can identify a specific pattern that can be used to evaluate every storefront door you touch. When you are called for a simple rekey, do a quick survey to examine other potential service needs. If you do a quick rekey and present the bill, you may be shortchanging your customer as well as yourself.

The top rail gives us a first look at the door condition. In many installations the frame (jamb) above the top rail will contain a concealed overhead door closer. This serves not only as a door closer but also as a top pivot point for the door.

If the concealed door closer is leaking, there may be visible oil on the top rail, hinge or door stile. Leaking oil usually gathers dirt as well. This can be a safety liability and should be brought to the attention of the customer.

The door closer may also require alignment or adjustment. Although similar, they are two completely different steps. Adjustment is assuring that the door closer closes the door smoothly, fully and completely. Simple adjustment of the back check, closing and latching speeds should accomplish this quickly and easily. If the door slams or doesn’t close correctly, the closer may require replacement if adjustment is not successful.

Alignment is the relationship between the door and frame. In the case of a single-acting door (out-swinging or in-swinging only), this may simply be aligning the door to fully close within the frame. A single acting door usually is offset in the frame with the door and frame coming even when the door is fully closed. On an out-swinging door the even edge is outside, just the reverse on an in-swinging door. Either door may have some type of stop trim that the door rests against.

A double-acting door (swings in and out) at rest should be centered within the frame. The overhead or floor mounted door closer arm usually has adjustable components in order to align the door within the frame. An example is two hex-headed bolts that are mounted onto opposite sides of the arm used to align the door position at rest. If the door sets too far into the frame at rest, adjust the arm toward the inside, setting the door outward. Work in small increments until you get the door adjusted at approximately the center of the frame.

If the lock stile is rubbing against the frame, loosen both hex bolts and draw the door rearward with the small adjustment screw on the back side of the pivot point on the closer arm bracket.

The final point of interest in the top rail is the lock stile adjustment screw. There is often a large Phillips screw in the front corner of the top stile. This screw adjusts the lock stile up or down. If the top corner of the door is scraping on the top frame, loosen the adjustment screw slightly and push down on the lock stile or use a rubber hammer to reset the lock stile downward.

The bottom rail of a storefront door is subject to kicking, getting beat up with pushcarts etc. When a door is offset in one direction, it is usually giving warning signs. When the door scrapes or rubs, it may need multiple adjustments and alignments to achieve the final desired result.

If the bottom corner of the door is dragging on the threshold, tighten the adjustment screw in the top rail by one-quarter or one-half turn and recheck the alignment.

Likewise if the door is rubbing on the hinge stile, adjustment of the bottom pivot or floor closer may be required. Although not as common as overhead closers, some storefront doors will use a concealed floor closer underneath the threshold. Again, leaking closers may leave an oil mark or may permit the door to slam. If replacement is warranted, replace the closer with another floor closer. If the replacement closer is no longer available, consider using an adapter bearing that converts the floor closer to a bottom pivot. This action will require installing a new closer in the overhead frame or as a surface mount.

The threshold acts as a bottom framework and often gets a lot of wear and tear. As heavy carts or hand trucks roll continuously over an aluminum threshold, it may deform or collapse entirely. When a threshold deforms, it may curl upward and interfere with the smooth swing or closing of the door. Replacement of the threshold usually solves the problem, but it may require some small wood support strips to prevent future deform or collapse.

Aside from the top closer/pivot point and the bottom closer/pivot point, the hinge stile usually doesn’t require much activity. Both contact points described above relate to concealed pivot points.

Surface-mounted hinge pivots can be added as replacement or for additional support to an opening with heavy use.
The ultimate solution for a single acting door is a continuous or geared hinge. This device is used to provide full support and alignment capability of the door and usually prevents further problems related to closing or sagging.

The lock stile is most familiar to most locksmiths because that is where the majority of day-to-day lock service is performed. From keyed cylinders and thumb-turns to latches deadbolts and hook bolts, this is where the action is.
Since we’re concentrating on basics we’ll stick with mechanical components and leave the stand-alone push button access controls, electromagnets, card readers, proximity devices, etc. for another article.

A storefront deadbolt is usually one of three designs. A laminated swing-bolt flips up from the unlocked position and rotates into the slot cut into the frame. Both a short and long version swing bolt are used and the limitation may be the protrusion of the glass on the adjacent panel into the doorframe. If the glass is deep set, there may not be enough room to use the longer bolt.

A hook bolt is the same dimension as the laminated deadbolt but has a cutout. In a proper installation the hook is captured in the strike on the frame side. This prevents using a pry bar or crowbar to spread the door and frame apart enough to get the door to pop open. On a long storefront there is a series of glass panels and aluminum frames with rubber weather-stripping. By prying with leverage, you can create an opening wide enough to open a door with a fully projected bolt. When a hook bolt is used with a steel strike plate, it renders this type of attack ineffective.

The third design may use a projecting deadbolt that is designed like an antenna. A three-stage bolt is projected to lock the door and reaches out further as each section extends. Also available is a dead-latching lock in various designs.
When a deadbolt is used, a single keyed cylinder is outside and a thumb-turn is usually present on the inside. A latching lock replaces the thumb-turn with a lever or paddle unit to provide exit when the latch is projected.
Depending on the local codes, an interior sign stating “This door to remain unlocked during business hours” or something similar may be required. Also common is the use of a small window that indicates from the inside whether the door is in a locked or unlocked state. A red ‘Locked’ or green ‘Open’ message is visible through the small window and changes messages as the locks changes states.

In the cylinder area, the potential to upgrade to a restricted, patented or high-security cylinder and keys is always an option. One of the simplest up-sell options is to suggest the addition of a hardened cylinder collar. This solid trim ring is free spinning to prevent wrenching a cylinder from the lock body. The simplest kind just goes into place on the mortise cylinder while other styles may include some minor drilling or installation.

Another mechanical device commonly used on storefront doors is an exit device. Conversion of a door from hook bolt to a rim device is simple. Some brands will utilize the latching bolt lock in conjunction with an exit push bar. Another design will utilize a small strike plate on the inner doorframe to accept the latch or ratchet wheel device that locks the door.

Like the door and frame, the exit device, deadbolt or latching lock may require alignment, service or repair in the course of a simple rekey. There are a multitude of products that will increase the security of a single storefront door.
Latch guard plates provide a solid steel secure plate preventing the use of a knife blade or pry bar to gain access to the lock bolt or other part of the locking mechanism.

As mentioned earlier, life is a series of opportunities. Turn that simple rekey into a site survey. Observe the operating condition of the door, frame and threshold before you service the door.

Servicing a storefront door may require some special tools or equipment. Because aluminum is a soft metal, the use of pop rivets, riv-nuts, sex bolts and nut-serts and other hardened threaded inserts may make the job easier and result in a longer lasting installation.

Weather stripping may come into play in the adjustment and alignment of a door. Proper stripping will help keep the customer's heated or cooled air inside and reduce his HVAC expenses. If you remove a piece of weather strip to service a lock or door, replace it properly. If it is damaged, offer the service of installing new weather stripping.
Advise the customer of any service needed and briefly explain what it entails. Be ready with an estimated cost of repair or replacement time, labor and components and explain the potential liability of a customer getting injured by a slamming door, tripping on a deformed threshold or slipping on an oily spot.

By carrying a specific selection of repair and replacement units on your service truck, you can do a complete professional job, realize extra profit potential from the added services performed and ultimately do your customer a favor by leaving their premises in a more secure and safer state than it was in before you arrive.

For more information on storefront door hardware,  service equipment, specialty installation tools and more contact one or more of the following companies:

Adams Rite       

Brookfield Industries

General Lock Products

GKL Products              


International Door Closers

Jackson Corporation

Keedex Inc.

Major Manufacturing

National Door Controls

National Guard Products

Pemko Inc.

Trimco Manufacturing