6 Steps to Keeping a Building Secure

Nov. 22, 2021
Performing some simple maintenance ensures that a facility’s doors continue to work as intended.
Damage to doors and frames can jeopardize security, fire protection or life safety of facilities.
Damage to doors and frames can jeopardize security, fire protection or life safety of facilities.

Doors that are in good working order often are ignored simply because they operate smoothly. We don’t think about doors being a problem until they present a problem. After doors become difficult to open or close, users start to abuse them by forcing them to perform as expected by giving them a slam or a shove. This causes further damage to the external and internal structure and mechanics.

Through regular inspections and maintenance, doors will continue to perform as intended and provide security, life safety and fire protection. Here are six simple maintenance steps that will keep your doors operating efficiently and your building secure.

1. Inspect Hinges Regularly

Hinges are the backbone of a door. They typically are the least expensive hardware item, and they also are ignored the most often. If one hinge fails, the support requirements for the opening are redistributed across the hinges that remain functional, which causes stress to the mechanics.

Too often a door closer is adjusted to overcome performance changes caused by a poor hinge, but this adjustment or change can’t sustain optimal efficiency. No life-cycle estimates can predict performance over time accurately. However, through regular inspection, the door itself will provide clues that signal the necessity for repair or replacement. These include:

  • Squeaks upon open or close
  • Failure to close
  • Doors rubbing the frame
  • Excessive force required to open
  • Worn metal surfacing on the barrel of the hinge

So, inspect all hinges regularly and repair or replace them at the first sign of distress.

When you replace, consider continuous hinges. Continuous hinges are emerging as a viable option for most doors. They’re more expensive and require additional training to install, but they last longer and support the door itself better than traditional hinges. Either way, replace those worn-out hinges.

2. Adjust Door Closers Periodically

When doors require more power to close and latch, locksmiths default to adjusting the hydraulics. This seems to be the universal antidote, because that’s how most in our industry were taught in early training. There’s a more reliable solution, and it’s one I teach in my classes.

Two simple adjustments will improve most door closer applications in the field:

  • Increase the spring power
  • Reduce the latch speed

Hydraulics can’t overcome all issues. Slamming the door by increasing the speed might cause the door to latch or secure, but it isn’t the answer and could cause other life-safety concerns. Door closer power comes from the spring. Increasing spring power can overcome perceived issues to close and latch the door. On doors that aim to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which must meet specific speed requirements as well as opening forces, adjusting the hydraulics to close the door faster rather than adjusting the spring can make the door noncompliant.

When door closers fail to close and latch the door, consider a spring adjustment first. In many cases, the problem is outside the door closer’s responsibility, and that nuance should become the focus.

3. Tighten All Hardware

Loose locks or hardware are detrimental to doors and their operational duty. When door hardware becomes loose, the hardware rattles and wears out unexpectedly, which makes it difficult to maintain a tight fit to the door. This also presents a security problem, particularly in repetitive-use doors.

The first step is to tighten up hardware regularly. The second step is to make sure that the screws perform properly. All hardware components are manufactured to fit securely thanks to a seizing element provided on the screws. When installed properly, this thread-locking material allows each screw to hold itself in place and resist excessive force and vibration, which could cause loosening or damage. Unfortunately, these thread-securing materials aren’t designed to be a continuous-use or reusable product.

In cases where an installed lock has been forgotten, not maintained or must be disassembled and reinstalled, take the extra step to reapply thread-locking solutions. Materials such as Loctite or Vibra-tite can reinforce a secure fit.

Read all labels carefully. Don’t use permanent solutions — ones that require heat and torque to remove — because the screws might have to be removed at some point. Use versions that require only moderate torque to remove.

4. Fix Doors and Frames

The first job of a door is to provide a way for people to get in or out or a room, building, etc. Doors and frames endure extreme conditions while doing their job. The potential for damage is perpetual: Equipment moving in and out causes dents and damage; doors hit the frames rather than fit into them; and doors are wedged open for convenience. Misaligned doors and frames cause strike and latch issues.

The reality is that the correction is with the door, frame or hinge and not the strike or latch. Some professionals will modify door-latching components, including filing strikes, in an attempt to fix the issues. Don’t do this. Not only does it NOT provide a permanent fix, but it also can invalidate most warranties.

Instead, make it a priority to replace damaged doors and frames with appropriate products to provide egress. Life safety within a facility depends on properly aligned and functioning doors, frames and hardware.

5. Apply Proper Lubrication

Anything mechanical is subject to the negative effects of dust and moisture in open environments. Lubricating door hardware products helps to keep out dust, dirt and water and can add years of service life. In addition, maintaining a thin layer of lubrication prevents the fatigue associated with metal on metal.

Add lube to your door’s mechanical components every few years. Choose the lube specific to the installation and environment of your door hardware. Wet environments require a wet lubricant, such as grease, silicone, Teflon or similar products. Most come in a spray form, which is extremely useful for difficult-to-reach areas.

Dry environments can benefit from a wet or dry lubricant. Dry lubricants include graphite and white lithium. Don’t combine wet and dry lubricants. They can become gummy or cake up, which causes mechanical problems. Also, make sure to choose a lubricant that states “lubricating” on the label. Don’t use degreasers, cleaners or water-displacement products.

6. Stay Up on Industry Knowledge

Professional locksmiths are problem-solvers who rely on detective skills and a vast encyclopedia of personal knowledge. Their job is to keep doors in working order.

As with many skilled trades, veterans are retiring at a rapid pace, and tricks of the trade that used to be shared person-to-person in the lockshop now are shared digitally through multimedia formats and by manufacturer-led training. Often, I find many new people in my classes who didn’t grow up with any firsthand knowledge of this industry.

There’s no substitute for sharing lessons passed on from one generation to another. However, an increased focus on holistic training opportunities by manufacturers and professional associations is filling some of the gaps. Many of these are offered for free or on scholarship. Invest in personalized training to maximize expertise and advance career opportunities.

My dad used to say, “You’ve got to always know the way to get out of a building, and sometimes it’s not the same way you came in.” That can be applied to mechanical door hardware maintenance. Sometimes the presenting problem is a symptom rather than the real issue. Proper maintenance and repair are the alternate paths that can increase door performance.

Bob Karrer is a Learning Leader at dormakaba Americas. He has more than 30 years of experience in door hardware product development, marketing and training.