Rework Happens: New Construction And The Locksmith

Nov. 1, 2007
Hiring a master locksmith to inspect newly constructed commercial buildings can save the building owner thousands of dollars of rework. The value of a thorough inspection becomes evident.

When a newly constructed commercial building is for the most part finished and the builder is ready to turn it over to the owner for occupancy, the owner and builder typically “walk” the building and develop a punch list of things left to do.

Issues on this punch list must be addressed before the owner will accept the building. As motivation, a sum of money usually is withheld by the owner, payable to the builder after issues have been completed to the satisfaction of both parties.

Because the owner is not usually an expert in the construction of buildings, the owner will enlist experts to inspect the building in his behalf. In regards to Division Eight (door and locking hardware) requirements, the owner may hire a master locksmith to conduct a private inspection. Recently I accompanied a master locksmith on just such an inspection to document issue that would interest Ledger readers.

The issues that are reported here are typical of what is normally found on these types of inspections. By the nature of new construction, it is routine that many issues requiring change appear on punch lists. The general contractor has an army of sub-contractors to oversee and cannot catch everything.

Locksmiths who are involved with new construction sub-contract through the general contractor. Ideally, these sub-contractors would work towards quality results to avoid rework and call-back.

Here are some of the issues noted on the punch list:


Some labels were missing on 60 minute-rated doors. Labels are required to be affixed to fire doors. When a few door labels are missing from a group of doors that are labeled, it usually indicates that the labels were removed during the installation of the doors. Doors missing labels must be properly re-labeled by the manufacturer or replaced. Such doors were noted on the punch list.

On some installations of fire-rated hardware, the thru bolts that came with the hardware were not installed. In a rush to mount the door closers, wooden screws were used to partially fasten one side of the closer to the door, and then thru bolts were used to install the other side. (See Figure 1) The instructions from the manufacturer require the closer to be fastened to the wood door with two pair of thru-bolts.

Exit devices mounted to wooden (and fire-rated) doors require thru bolt support at the end cap side of the exit device. Many exit devices were installed without the required thru bolts. Again this is an indicator that the sub-contractor was in a rush to complete the work.

Every surface-mounted exit device in the building was missing screws that anchor the strike plate to the jamb. (See Figure 2) If the center screw isn't fastened, the strike plate will eventually move from position causing doors to be unsecured or even damaging the latches of the exit devices.

Every parallel mount closer was installed with the fifth screw missing. (See Figure 3) This screw keeps the closer arm from twisting and bending. Without it, the pivot base is likely to be pulled off the jamb or the existing screws will strip out.


Other indicators of poor workmanship relate to hardware that has been damaged in the process of installation.

Figure 4 shows an offset pivot that was installed using a non-clutched power tool. In this manner, support screws are “ torqued ” into place and each screw head is deformed, making it impossible to remove when replacement is necessary.

Several of the astragals on double doors were installed on the wrong side.

In Figure 5, the set of double doors protects the large office area from fire when closed. The astragal features smoke seal, intended to create a seal around the door if there is a fire.

Mounted incorrectly on the wrong side of the door, the operating temperature of the seal will not be achieved. Additionally, the astragal does not shield the latch when it is on the inside of the room.

Reinstalling the latch on the right side of the door will leave screw holes all along the inside edge.

Astragals cannot be installed without affecting the strike plate of the lock. In every case where an astragal was installed, the lip of the strike plate was filed down in the field. This not only leaves sharp edges that can cut a hand that slides against it, but also affects the latch in a negative manner.

The lip of the strike plate times the dead latch component of the latch assembly. When the lip is removed, latches are damaged as the dead latch component has not been properly timed and the closing force of the door forces the dead latch assembly with undue pressure.

In a short time the internal damage to the latch will keep the latch from closing smoothly, resulting in doors that are cocked open. As this occurs, the door closers will be adjusted to close faster creating more stress on the latch.

The front entry to the building is through a set of storefront doors. Each leaf is independently secured at the top and bottom by a concealed vertical rod exit device. The top latch of the exit device secures by wrapping around the post of the “top strike” assembly.

In Figure 6, it is obvious that top strikes of each exit device were installed in the wrong locations. To correct the installation, the sub-contractor mounted the top strikes to a scrap piece of aluminum and then cut away enough of the top rail so that the plate could be properly placed and then fastened to the top rail.

The exit devices are mostly secured by the top strike. This installation has the doors secured by four small sheet metal screws instead of two thick posts that are normally anchored into a steel base.

Also notice the pencil marks in Figure 6. It would have taken less than a minute to erase the pencil marks but the sub-contractor felt confident enough to not finish the job.

Another botched installation was found at the threshold plate of the same doors. The floor closers were installed and then a single-piece threshold was installed over them. There were no provisions made to service the floor closers. No holes were drilled to get to the adjustment valves. (See Figure 7)

A call for a correction was entered into the punch list. The correction will involve expensive rework as the doors and door components will have to be removed, and then the existing threshold will have to be torn out and replaced with a sectional kit designed for floor closers.

Figure 8 reveals a typical installation of a delayed-egress door found on each floor of the building. Note the extra screws mounted onto the jamb under the closer arm and note that the closer is mounted on the wrong side of this door.

Figure 9 is the other side of the door. Note the extra screw holes under the door closer.

By re-examining both Figure 8 and Figure 9, it becomes obvious that there was a push or parallel closer originally mounted on the door. That accounts for the extra screws on the jamb where a pivot base originally was mounted and the extra set of thru bolts that are mounted under the door closer.

The extra set of thru bolts are installed so that the fact that extra holes in the rated door are not easily discovered.

So what happened? The “giveaway” is in Figure 8, the installation of the extra long magnetic lock that facilitates the delayed-action.

Originally each door on each floor featured a parallel-mounted closer. When it was time to install the first delayed-action magnetic lock, it was discovered there was not enough space to accommodate both the closer and the magnetic lock. Instead of doing the job right, possibly re-rating the door or installing new doors (these doors are required 60-minute labeled fire doors), the sub-contractor “finessed” the installation by re-mounting the closer on the corridor side; filling in the extra holes in the door with thru bolts and then leaving the screws to the pivot base mounted on the jamb.

Additionally, the sub-contractor installed the closer with only one pair of functional thru bolts and then substituted a pair of wood screws as a third pair of thru bolts would give away the botched job.

As the locksmith adds this to the punch list, the customer will save thousands of dollars of rework. The value of a thorough inspection becomes evident.


Some installations were installed correctly but cannot satisfy the intended function.

An example is a group of electronic access doors that rely on concealed door closers to pull the doors shut. The purpose of the doors is to allow persons to quickly gain access by waving a proximity card in front of a reader, and the door securely latching behind them.

However, the under-powered door closers cannot overcome the constant changes in air pressure throughout the building. (See Figure 10) If the closers are adjusted at times of neutral air pressure, the doors will never latch. If the closers are adjusted at times of positive air pressure, the doors will slam hard during times of no pressure. This is a design flaw and will appear on the punch list.

The correction is to mount heavy-duty surface-mounted door closers that can pull the doors closed every time while monitoring the sweep of the doors to prevent slamming.

Another wrong call out involves the delayed egress doors that were previously mentioned. Delayed-egress doors must be approved by the local ordinance (or Authority Having Jurisdiction).

To comply with the AHJ, a motion detector monitors activity on the corridor side of the door. When a person is detected, the door becomes immediately unlocked. Where this facilitates safe egress on the corridor side, it completely thwarts the original intention of keeping unwanted persons from entering into the protected areas from the other side of the door. (See Figure 11)

The intention is that a person must keep pushing on the exit device for 15 seconds while an alarm blazes. As it stands, a person only has to wait for someone to pass near the door on the other side and the door is immediately accessible. To make matters worse the magnetic lock works in conjunction with an electric-retraction exit device which gives away the unlocked condition of the door with a loud “ thunk .”

This again is a design flaw that needs to be reworked. It won't be cheap or easy as the delayed-egress hardware is expensive and the door serves two purposes: as required egress from both sides of the door; and as a security door.


The intention was to install a custom secured gate to keep the public from entering into the perimeter of the facility while allowing employees to enter by waving their badges in front of the proximity reader.

Figure 12 shows the egress side of the gate. When the exit button is pressed, the magnetic lock on the other side of the door is released.

Unfortunately as seen in Figure 13, the gap between the door and jamb is sufficient so an average woman's hand can reach in and hit the exit button.

In Figure 13, the pudgy hand of the locksmith could not reach the button but a plastic coat hanger easily reached it.

It is especially necessary to apply craftsmanship when performing custom work.

In Figure 14, the magnetic lock that secures the gate is very heavy and is poorly secured to the jamb. If this were to fall, it would seriously injure someone. Whenever magnetic locks are installed, the manufacturer's instructions should always be followed.

The piece of angle iron that is used for a door stop (Figure 15) is not adequate and will soon fail. This is especially true considering the missing screws. Ironically, the installation of adequate door stop around the door would have also solved the problem with reaching for the exit device.

The original mounting of the door closer on the gate (Figure 16) was too high. Again scrap aluminum was installed as make-shift shim stock. This installation appeared on the punch list for rework.

Many other issues appeared on the punch list but were not mentioned in this article. Those noted stress the need for sub-contractors and locksmiths to apply quality and forethought to all their installations.

A successful approach to performing any task is to develop a personal level of criteria that is more demanding than what is expected from the customer.

Before completion, the master locksmith will evaluate the quality of the task at hand and equate it not on what the customer expects, but rather on what he the locksmith expects from himself.

This guarantees that the he will not be called back and that he will be called out again as his work speaks for itself .