An Overview of Surface-Mounted Door Closers

March 1, 2006
For any door closer to be effective, the door and frame must be fully functional.

Door closers come in a variety of types: in-floor closers, overhead concealed closers, surface mount, power operators, etc. This article will focus on the most common; the surface-mounted door closer.

Door closers perform an important function in the scheme of door operations. The proper opening and closing of doors is related to safety, security and economy. If a door closer is too difficult to push open or slams into a person coming through the door, that person’s safety may be in jeopardy. Also a marked fire exit that has a poorly adjusted closer can cause fire to spread more rapidly or to other areas of a building.

When a door does not fully close and latch after each use, the security of a building can be compromised, allowing unauthorized entry. Finally, if a door stands fully or partially open the heating, ventilation or air conditioning costs will rise.

For any door closer to be effective, the door and frame must be fully functional and in proper operating condition. If the door sags, drags or binds, the closer will not operate properly. Adjustment or replacement of hinges, pivots, lock latches and thresholds must be considered before installing or adjusting a door closer. Only when the door opens and closes smoothly and effortlessly will the closer be able to do its job.


Door closers are rated in sizes from 1 through 6. This rating relates to the spring size, resulting in the power produced by the closer. The type and size of the door and the swing mechanism determine the size of the door closer. A hollow core 32” door will usually require a light duty closer. As another consideration, an interior door will usually require a smaller size door closer than a comparable size exterior door.

Lighter duty closers work in the 1 and 2 range; medium range is 3 and 4, while heavy duty is 5 and 6. Some closers are designed with a fixed rating and can only be used for the purpose at which they are rated. Other closers feature an adjustable rating. These can be set at the closer power required for any given application.

Suggestion: Keep an adjustable size door closer in your service vehicle. This provides the opportunity to make a sale and installation without requiring a second visit or having to take the time to obtain a closer.


Door closer bodies may be of cast or machined aluminum or cast iron construction. Aluminum bodies offer a cost effective closer with normal operation in the light to medium duty applications. Cast iron is generally considered to be more compatible with steel components and resistant to wear over repeated cycling in heavy duty use.

Many units use a rack and pinion operation to provide a smooth operation through the opening and closing cycle. Heat-treated steel pinions create increased strength of the shaft.

Door closer covers may be made from molded plastic painted to complement standard hardware finishes or may be made of metal and powder-coated or plated in standard architectural finishes.


Closers have a rating that determines how far they will open in normal operation. Door opening degrees range from 85 degrees to a full 180 degrees. The specific type of door, frame and application will determine the proper closer.

On doors that need to close every time the door is opened, a Non Hold-Open closer can be used. Hold-Open units will use a friction or detent to hold the door in the open position when the door is fully opened. Hold Open arms are not permitted on fire door openings.

ADA listings for barrier free applications require that a maximum force of 5 pounds of pressure be exerted to open a non-fire-rated interior hinged door. Hand held measuring tools are available that will track the force exerted during installation and adjustment.


The majority of surface-mounted door closers are non-handed and can be installed on either right or left swing doors. The design of the closer permits the arm to be attached to either side of the pinion shaft.

The closer body is normally mounted on the door itself while the mounting shoe is attached to the doorframe. Two options are top jamb mounting where the closer body is attached to the frame and corner bracket mounting where top jamb and door mounting are not feasible.

Regular arm mounting lets the arm project out away from the door face when the door is closed. Parallel arm mounting positions the arm parallel to the door face when the door is closed. Parallel arm is preferable when abuse is likely from someone hanging or pulling on the arm assembly.

Placement of the closer is determined by the application. Proper positioning is essential. If the closer is mounted too close to the frame, a loss of power and leverage will occur. If positioned too far away from the frame, the door may not open fully.


The door closer has controls that allow you to adjust how fast the door opens, closes and latches. Backcheck is an adjustment that cushions or slows the door movement when it is forced open beyond its normal limit. After the door is opened, the sweep valve can be adjusted to speed or slow the movement from fully open to about 10 degrees from closing. The latch speed relates to the final range (about 10 degrees) of closing.

A third range of closing is the delayed range. Offered as an optional feature on some closers, this becomes activated when the door is opened and released at a point beyond 70 degrees. This adjustment may be set to extend the delay cycle from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. This option can be utilized in hospitals, nursing homes or other applications where wheel chairs, people on crutches and others need sufficient time to pass through an opening.


After the initial installation, the maintenance usually involves minor adjustment of the latch speed or sweep speed. Remember that door alignment, hinge wear and weather can affect how the door operates in the frame. A poorly operating door can cause a closer to go out of adjustment or prematurely fail.

One of the biggest hazards is a leaking door closer. In high traffic and heavy-use conditions, a leaking closer can spell disaster. Oil dripping from the closer can cause slippery floors, falls and liabilities. In addition the closer will lose its ability to function, resulting in a free-swinging door. Personal injury aside, damage to the door and frame is likely.


The following is a list of door closer manufacturers that can be found in the Locksmith Ledger Security Register. There maybe other door closer manufacturers that are not listed. To be listed in a future article, please contact the Locksmith Ledger.

CORBIN RUSSWIN offers closers including the DC2000 Series for use in high-use, high-abuse environments and all draft conditions. The DC2000 offers positive latching for access control, fire and barrier-free code compliance and has a 10-year limited warranty. The DC3000 Series is a mid-priced, cost-effective choice for meeting fire and barrier-free compliance and offers a five-year limited warranty.

DORMA offers a selection that includes the 8600 and 8900 Series closers. Both are barrier-free for interior and exterior doors and are adjustable in size from 1 through 6. Features include narrow projection, adjustable backcheck, optional delayed action and a temperature compensating system to minimize changes in closing speed during temperature changes. The 7200, 7300 and 7400 Series offer additional choices. Dorma offers a 25-year warranty.

DOR-O-MATIC closers range from the SC70 Series for heavy duty commercial applications to the SC R85 Series for residential and light commercial use on interior doors up to 85 pounds and 36 inches wide. They carry a five-year warranty. The SC70 is a Grade 1, ADA compliant closer with a one and one-half inch piston. It’s adjustable in size from 1-6, is non-handed and carries a 10-year warranty. The SC80 medium duty, SC60 light-medium and SC90 light duty closers round out the offering.

INTERNATIONAL offers a wide range of door closer products from the 650/680 to the 9000 Series. The popular 5000/5050 Series surface-mounted door closers are patterned after the Norton 8000 and Yale 3000 Series of door closers and can be ordered with or without the Dress Cover. They are commercial grade, adjustable spring door closers that comply with both ANSI standards for Handicap Accessibility (ADA). The dual valve door closer can be ordered as a base closer unit, or with either an adjustable backcheck feature or a delayed action closing feature, controlled by a separate regulating valve. The International Limited Warranty varies by specific product offering.

JACKSON offers a line of overhead concealed and floor door closers with a 10-year warranty. The Adjustable Spring Power Series replaces the standard 20-330 Series and is a non-handed, single- or double-acting closer for center-hung or offset applications. It adjusts from sizes 2 through 4 and meets ADA requirements of interior doors at five pounds or exterior doors at 8.5 pounds. The new 400 Series floor closer features interchangeable spindles to allow one closer to accommodate a variety of floor coverings and applications. The 900 Series floor closer is fully adjustable to handle doors up to 1000 pounds.

LCN makes a wide range of door closers. The LCN Quest is designed for use on aluminum, hollow metal or wood doors and frames and can be used with hinge or pivot mounted doors. Adjustable in size from 1-5, its cast iron construction uses forged steel components and meets ADA requirements. The peel-and-stick mounting template combines with the Rapidor bracket to reduce installation time. Other closers include the 4000 series featuring adjustable backcheck cushion, separate closing and latching regulation and a reversible shoe to boost latching power. They are available in a wide range of standard or optional powder coated finishes as well as plated finishes to match architectural hardware requirements. LCN 4000 and 1000 Series door closers feature a 10-year warranty.

NORTON 1601 Series closers are adjustable from sizes 3 through 6. 1700BC adjust from sizes 1 through 4. The 7500 Series is adjustable from sizes 1-6, available in hold-open and non-hold-open styles and offers regular, parallel and top jamb mounting options. Other series include the 7570 Series, 7700 Series, 8100 Series, 8300 Series and 8500 Series among others. A full complement of accessories and security options are also offered. Norton closers are covered by a 10-year limited warranty.

RIXSON has a large selection of commercial grade door closers that include overhead concealed closers, heavy duty floor closers, shallow depth floor closers and specialty closers. The Model 25 is a standard depth floor closer with adjustable closing speed and built in backcheck cushions opening from 140 degrees to 180 degrees. This single-acting closer is designed for doors up to 350 pounds and is available with a variety of options. The basic Model 27 handles doors up to 450 pounds and has a built-in positive dead stop that prevents the door from swinging beyond the specified/desired opening degree. Separate and independent valves are provided for closing speed, latch speed and backcheck. Rixson offers a 10-year warranty for the 25/26, 27/28 and 30/40 Series.

SARGENT door closers include the 281 Series Powerglide, a Grade 1 unit that meets ADA requirements and is adjustable from sizes 1 through 6. The cast iron body provides strength and wear resistance and the closer carries a 10-year warranty. A wide selection of arms and accessories is available. Other closers include the cast aluminum 351 Series, 1430 Series, 1130 Series and 1331 Series. The cast aluminum closers offer a variety of mounting options, cover choices and accessories.

YALE 3000 Architectural door closers feature staked valves, self-drilling/self-tapping mounting screws, rack and pinion design and a complete range of arm and cover options. The Grade 1 closers are ADA compliant and come with a 10-year warranty. Adjustment is achieved through separate latch, sweep and backcheck valves. Delayed action is an available option. The 400/4400 Series is designed for commercial applications. They are non-handed, Grade 1 and are adjustable from sizes 1 through 6. All standard arm applications allow doors to swing to 180 degrees, conditions permitting.

For more information on door closers and their specific applications contact your favorite locksmith distributor, factory representative or manufacturer.