Lock It Up: Choosing and Installing Heavy-Duty Doors

April 16, 2021
For maximum security for applications such as safe rooms, make sure you get the right equipment.
Fortified Estate
Residential entry is another application for heavy-duty doors.
Residential entry is another application for heavy-duty doors.

Heavy-duty doors and safe rooms go together like ... well, locks and keys! Safe rooms are designed to protect inhabitants from potentially dangerous situations and phenomena, including home invasions, natural disasters and fires. It stands to reason that a heavy-duty door can improve protection, not only for safe rooms but any room where security requirements are higher than normal.

People who live in areas prone to devastating weather events or break-ins are adapting to their situations. They’re fitting their homes with safe rooms, safe-door systems and other security technologies that help to keep them safe. Take the time to assess your client’s desires and the threats they’re most likely to face. If they’re a high burglary risk, choose doors that open quickly and provide protection against intruders. If natural disasters are a bigger threat, thicker steel or a door that has air vents is best.

A locksmith or security pro should stay ahead of this trend if they plan on meeting the growing demand for these systems. Here’s how to choose and install heavy-duty doors to match the demands of your security-conscious clients.

Considering Materials

The materials used on the construction of heavy-duty doors should be the first factor you consider when choosing one. Stainless steel is the most widespread and popular material for this purpose. It often is combined with other strong and durable metals, such as iron and aluminum, during the manufacturing process.

Stainless steel is preferred by industry experts because of its impressive mechanical strength. This strength allows the material to withstand the force of heavy projectiles and strong impacts at high speeds.

Thinking About Design

When it comes to the design of heavy-duty doors, your best choice is always to opt for doors that have been made according to strict industry standards.

Security pros should recommend doors that adhere to industry standards by organizations, such as ANSI and UL.

Consider different types of danger or threats when choosing and installing heavy-duty doors. Each type of danger or threat has a heavy-duty door designed specifically to guard against it. For example, restricted-access heavy-duty doors often come pre-installed with self-latching tool keys and key-operated cylinder cam latches. Meanwhile, heavy-duty sliding doors are made to meet specific criteria for high wind and deflection requirements. Hollow metal doors provide superior strength, durability and resilience where it’s most necessary.

Heavy-duty doors are tested by manufacturers to gauge their protection capabilities. Manufacturers that are certified by Steel Door Institute (SDI) test their products according to the following protocols:

  • A burglary test measures the amount of time it takes to break through the door’s multiple locking points. Heavy-duty doors must meet a number of specifications during testing — ASTM F1233, ASTM F3038 and SD-STD-01.01 — for the door to be installed at a government facility.
  • A fire-resistance test is performed by connecting the door to yards of wire that measure the temperature of the fire and the door’s weaker points. After the door is set on fire, the time it takes to burn and the heat it releases into the room also are recorded. This test determines the fire-resistance class of the product.
  • A sound-resistance test is conducted using specialized equipment that’s placed on one side of the door. The sound in decibels then is measured on the other side. A lower number is better.
  • A use test assesses the door’s opening and closing mechanisms and how many cycles it can withstand. Other special features also are assessed by using specialized equipment designed to gauge those functions.
  • If a bullet-resistant door is required, it will be tested in accordance with UL752 and assigned a level between 1 and 10 that describes how resistant the door is to gunfire. Steel doors tend to be available up to level 8. A security consultant should analyze the conditions of the building in which the door will be installed to gauge the correct bullet resistance level needed.
  • Tornado-resistant doors are tested using FEMA P-361 and ICC 500 specifications to ensure that the doors can withstand wind speeds of up to 250 mph.
  • Hurricane-resistant doors are tested to meet the requirements of ANSI A250.13, which ensures they can stand up against wind speeds of between 110 and 170 mph. They doors are tested by using positive and negative pressures similar to those that occur during a hurricane. The doors then are given a “design pressure” rating — a figure that depends on the door’s height above ground, the opening’s location in the building and other key factors.
  • Temperature-rise doors have to meet the requirements of SDI 118 to ensure that they can minimize the transfer of heat to the nonfire-exposed side of the door. Temperature-rise ratings at 250 degrees Fahrenheit, 450 degrees F and 650 degrees F specify that the nonfire side of the door can withstand those temperatures for 30 minutes.

All of these tests are crucial in assessing the quality and resilience of a heavy-duty door. The quality of the heavy-duty door also is certified before it’s sold. In the United States, such doors are certified by the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) and the Window & Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA).

Reputable Vendors

Your priority as a security pro should be to uphold your client’s security and your reputation. So, you should choose and install only heavy-duty doors from a reputable and trusted vendor. Door installers can purchase heavy-duty doors through accredited distributors, such as those recommended by the Steel Door Institute, www.steeldoor.org.

Well-known manufacturers, such as Apex Industries, Ceco Door, Curries, Fort Security Doors, Mesker, MPI, Pioneer and Shield Security Doors, use only top-quality materials and proven methods to make their doors. This ensures that their products are consistently durable and strong.

Manufacturers should back their designs with appropriate research and clearly explain the features and their uses in their designs. Beware of any manufacturers that can’t back up claims or that make promises that sound unlikely or unrealistic. A prime example would be a manufacturer that claims that its grade-304 alloy steel doors can withstand temperatures of up to 2,000 degrees F for extended periods, when this material can’t stand up to temperatures of more than 1,697 degrees F.

Heavy-Duty Hinges

Heavy-duty doors require — you guessed it — heavy-duty hinges. Such doors typically are remarkably weighty, which means the hinges you use have to work extra hard to support the door’s weight. Many heavy-duty doors exceed a weight of 330 pounds. Standard doors weigh anywhere between 40 and 200 pounds, depending on the materials.

Heavy-duty hinges typically are made of thicker steel for indoor use or stainless steel if they will be on the exterior of a building. They also are larger in size and have been designed specifically for use with bulkier and heavier high-security doors. Prices differ, but because they’re designed for more specialized use, heavy-duty hinges tend to be more expensive on average than standard hinges.

Heavy-duty hinges on the market include invisible hinges, ball bearing butts, springs, straps, piano hinges, T hinges, weld-ons and wide-throw hinges.

Classic heavy-duty hinges are intended for use on high-frequency doors up to 200 pounds or medium-frequency doors up to 400 pounds, with or without frame reinforcements. They also can also be used on low-frequency doors of up to 600 pounds, as long as Rivnuts are installed in the door and in the frame. Heavy-duty LL hinges are best-suited to low-frequency doors that weigh up to 1,000 pounds and tend to have additional fastener holes.

It’s recommended that Rivnuts are installed in the frame and on the door if the door being used is particularly wide, tall or heavy.

Remember to do your research beforehand to ensure that you install the hinges that have the right range of functions for the door and for your client’s security purposes.

Turning to Technology

Consider choosing heavy-duty doors that incorporate secure technologies into their functionality. It can benefit you greatly to be able to offer your clients doors that have automatic danger-sensing locking systems, biometric scanning and intuitive systems that will provide owners with access to their premises if they’re locked out by automated doors.

Automated danger-sensing locking systems automatically lock a heavy-duty door when threats, such as fire, extreme weather or forced entry are detected. Biometric scanning allows customers to restrict access only to themselves and select personnel by scanning their unique fingerprints, eyes or face. Such systems also can prevent owners from becoming locked out of their properties accidentally.

It’s a good idea to pair heavy-duty doors with security cameras that link back to a security app or digital interface. This better enables the system to assess and detect threats and allows inhabitants to scan the outside to ensure that threats have dissipated.

Heavy-duty doors can keep inhabitants protected from all kinds of dangers and threats. However, it’s up to you as a security pro to choose doors made from the right materials carefully and offer the right features to provide impenetrable security for your clients.

Karen Bradford is a custom home-security expert at Fortified Estate.