Servicing Door Hardware: Preventative Maintenance

Feb. 1, 2006
A discussion on basic door maintenance.

The condition of the door and jamb greatly affects the opening and closing, as well as the operation of a door closer and lock(s). Preventative maintenance can keep the door and door hardware operating for many years. Preventative maintenance is also a way for locksmiths to offer customers a service program that not only helps to ensure a proper operating door(s), but also can increase the locksmith’s bottom line.

To make a preventative maintenance service program much less expensive for your customer and yourself, it can be written in such a way that the service calls will be scheduled around other service calls in the customer’s area. This avoids the necessity of a dedicated service call, making the call much less time expensive.

The time between service calls is determined by amount of traffic through the door(s).

For this article, we will discuss basic door maintenance, including the door, the hinges/pivots, closer, and lock(s).

The first step is to observe the door hardware and the door. Is the door scratched or damaged? Is the hardware worn, loose, corroded or damaged? Is the lock(s) proper for the door’s application? Can the door swing too far and contact the wall? Is the door in the public area? A door whose hardware is scratched or rusted can be an eyesore in public, but not a big deal in a warehouse or employee only area. Consider installing a suitable doorstop. Remember a conventional door stop mounted into the floor can be a trip hazard.

Observe the door when closed. Is there any bow in the door? Does the door fit flush within the jamb? If not, the door may need an intermediate hinge/pivot or to be replaced depending upon the degree of the problem. If there is no warpage problem, does the door fit evenly into the opening? Is there an even gap at the sides? If not, check the hinges or pivots. Tighten all screws including those securing the lock and/or latch into the door and the strike plate into the jamb. Will the screws tighten into the door or the jamb? If not, and the screw is mounting into wood, add material such as a wood toothpick or matchstick to the hole and the screw should tighten. Before inserting the material, use a small amount of white/carpenter's glue to ensure a secure fit. If the screw mounts into metal, a Nutcert may be needed in order to tighten the screw.

For both aluminum and steel frame doors and jambs, hinge mounting plates can become unusable. One solution is to replace the hinges with a continuous hinge. Different types of continuous hinges will accommodate the different jamb types, door weights and opening requirements.

How large is the gap between the lock side of the door and the jamb? If the opening is large enough and the door swings out, it may be a good idea to install a guard plate to protect the latch.

Look at the threshold and the header. Are there any wear marks caused either by the dragging of the door, a loose component or screws? A pivot-equipped center-hung door will have to be lowered in order to examine and tighten the screws.

Try opening and closing the door. Does the door swing smoothly? If the door does not close smoothly, try lubricating the hinges/pivots. Also lubricate the lock, latch and other door hardware. When lubricating the lock, use a lubricant recommended by the manufacturer. Check the operation of the lock using the available keys. See how an original key operates the lock cylinder when the door is closed and when the door is open. If the key is hard to operate when the door is open, the problem is either the lock cylinder or the key. Remember: Duplication of a problem key seldom solves the problem.

If the key is hard to operate when the door is closed but easy to operate when the door is open, there probably is a problem with the latch/strike alignment. If the door is equipped with pivots, check to see if the pivots are worn by opening the door and pushing in and up on the door. If there is movement, try adjusting the pivots. A worn pivot will probably require replacement.

Does the door closer close and latch the door? If the pivots/hinges are properly attached and in operating condition, the door closer may require adjustment or replacement. First, check the amount of force the door closer is exerting when closing the door. Scales are available to determine the amount of force. In most areas, an exterior door can exert approximately 8.5 pounds of closing force. An interior door closer can exert approximately 5.5 pounds. In California for example, both interior and exterior door closers are limited to 5.5 pounds closing force. Determine the amount of closing force a closer can apply in your area. To purchase a door closer pressure gauge, call HMC International at 800-848-4912 ext. 4452

To adjust a door closer, the sweep speed should be approximately five to nine seconds. The sweep is from the open position to about 20 degrees from latching. The closing speed should be about the same time. The closing speed is from about 20 degrees to door closed and latched. When adjusting a door closer, make sure the door does not slam shut. A child, elderly or handicapped person could be seriously hurt if the door slams shut or closes too fast.

Note: Not all door closers have adjustments. Most manufacturers offer adjustment instructions for each closer model on their websites. If not, most door closer manufacturers offer tech support.

If the door closer cannot be adjusted, it may need replacement. Is the door equipped with a surface mount or a concealed closer, either in the floor or overhead? A surface mount closer can more easily be adjusted than a concealed closer.

If a surface mount or overhead concealed closer is worn, it will probably leak down along the hinge edge of the door. A floor closer will probably have oil leaking out of the case.

If the closer closes the door, but the door will not latch, there could be several problems causing this situation. First, the building may have settled. Depending upon how the building has settled, there are different fixes. Repairs could require as much as door frame replacement or as little as the door being trimmed.

The second problem is that the strike plate is either not the correct strike plate for the lock, or as a result of building settling, the strike opening is not in alignment with the latch and/or dead bolt. Many times a door and/or lock is replaced; however the installer does not replace the strike plate.

Strike plate misalignment is an additional potential problem. Does the dead latch align properly with the strike plate? A properly positioned dead latch retracts when the door is closed, and the latch is fully extended. The retracted dead latch is designed to stop the latch from retracting.

Another problem is worn weather stripping that no longer stops the door at the proper position. When the weather stripping is this worn, the dead latch can slide into the latch opening in the strike plate, defeating its purpose. In some case, it can cause difficulty opening the door or unlocking using the key. To solve this problem, replace the weather stripping, adjust the door, or install hard rubber stops.

Look at the door lock. Does the lock operate properly? Do the latch and/or dead bolt extend fully? Do the latch and/or dead bolt retract fully? If not, repair or replace the lock. If the lock is lever operated, do the levers return to the horizontal position? If they are drooping, consider replacing the necessary components (springs, spring cartridges, etc.) to return them to the horizontal position.

NOTE: For some locks, the levers can be upgraded to paddles. The push-and-pull paddle mechanisms can be a good, profitable alternative to solve lever handle problems.

If the door locks are electrified, there are a number of considerations beyond the mechanical operation. The most important is to determine the amount of current required to power the lock. Use a meter to determine the output of the power supply/transformer at the lock. Some electric locks are not designed to accept more than the rated value, such as 12 or 24 volts. Some locks can accommodate up to 10 percent above their rating in order to accommodate backup batteries. Remember: For a power supply to charge backup batteries, it must output 10 percent more than the rated voltage. Output of most power supplies can be adjusted to accommodate the lock(s).

Check the wiring at the transfer hinges/door cords for locks that are installed into the door. Check the wiring at remote locations including momentary buttons, alarm panels, etc. Make sure the electrical components are in adjustment and operating properly.

Many state and local codes now require not only signage, but luminescent signage. Contact your local locksmith wholesaler or signage manufacturers to find out the requirements for you locale, city or state.

Develop your own preventative maintenance check list so you and/or your employees do not overlook any opportunity to maintain, and also improve your customer’s safety and security.

Note: Prior to doing your preventative maintenance survey, ask your customer if anyone is having problems operating one or more doors.