Servicing Aluminum Doors

Dec. 2, 2019
How to tap into profitable aluminum door repair and upgrade business

The professional lockshop is well positioned to dominate the profitable aluminum door repair and upgrade business.  These office and storefront doors are typically installed by glass companies, but maintenance and repair is a major locksmith opportunity, and….there are millions of them.

You’ll find a well-written article on the nuts and bolts of storefront doors in an article by Tom Gillespie in the November 2008 Locksmith Ledger, available online at  Gillespie condenses many years of valuable door experience into an excellent tutorial on how to find and fix aluminum door problems.  This one is a must read.

A number of repair and upgrade options are available, but a few companies have focused heavily on servicing the ubiquitous aluminum storefront door. Here, we’ll discuss some of the primary sources.

Popular aluminum storefront doors you may encounter in North America are: Kawneer, Arcadia, Armalite, Aldora, EFCO, Old Castle, Pittco, TruLIte, Tubelite, and CRL-US Aluminum.  A wide variety of pivots, hinges, closers and exit devices are found. 

Adams Rite MS Deadbolt

The Adams Rite MS deadbolt, however, is the aluminum door lock standard.  The company’s extensive storefront lock products dominate North American and UK markets, and are sold world-wide. 

In 1935, Douglas Aircraft asked George Adams, owner of the small Pacific Brass Mfg. company, to build aluminum cabin door locks for their new twin engine DC-3 Dakota.   More than 10,000 of the famous Douglas cargo and passenger planes were built, with hundreds still in use today. 

The renamed Rite Hardware Company learned a lot about aluminum fabrication as they continued their hardware business.  In the post WWII era, glass and aluminum storefront doors became the dominant architectural style, but traditional mortise locks didn’t fit the narrower stile doors. 

By 1955, the enterprise was called Adams Rite. The company created a new industry when it introduced the MS1850 deadbolt. This revolutionary lock was increasingly specified for narrow stile aluminum doors in new construction, and gradually dominated commercial markets. The robust laminated deadbolt provides a deep 1 - 13/32” throw, effectively defending against spreader attacks.   

Nearly 65 years later, the pioneering deadbolt has required few modifications.   Currently, the MS® Deadlocks, including the long throw MS1850S, the X2X short throw version or the X5X hook bolt version, are the industry standard for storefront doors in North America and Europe, and well regarded world-wide.  Several details have contributed to the Adams Rite company’s market dominance, in new, retrofit and upgrade applications.  

The laminated steel bolt in the MS deadbolts is simple but effective.  The extra length of the “S” version or X5X hook style defend against spreader attacks.  A ceramic insert thwarts sawing attacks.  Vertical strength withstands guillotine impact attacks of up to 1,700 lb.  The product exceeds BHMA A156.36 narrow stile auxiliary lock Grade 1 standards, is competitively priced and built in Phoenix, Arizona.

As additional products like deadlatches and double door combinations were introduced, the company maintained consistent template locations so upgrades, building code changes, or exit device applications can be easily accommodated. 

Three generations of the Adams family kept primary focus on aluminum doors and also developed products to solve related customer needs.   

Adams Rite electric strikes were introduced in 1973 to serve the needs of emerging electronic access control systems.  By 1978 the first exit device was introduced using the unique star wheel to capture the strike, eliminating vulnerability from spreader attacks.  

Deadlatch, bottom rail, two-point, flush bolt, vertical rod, and other aluminum door applications soon followed.  Life-safety or fire-rated versions (for wood and hollow metal) are currently available as well.  Push, pull, and lever trim options also provided improved functionality to the door openings, including local or networked electronic access control systems.

Electronic Access upgrades for aluminum doors include the above mentioned electric strikes, electronic access control trim, and exit devices or locks operated by other access control systems.  The eForce® battery-operated keypad provides basic keyless entry.  The Aperio® line allows a wireless connection to the access control network.  The Aperio trim supports 125kHz prox cards or 13.56MHz iClass® and the rapidly emerging mobile credential technologies.

Exit devices and electrified latches can be ordered with signal switches, remote dogging, and electrification options for standalone access control or integration with exit device, maglocks, card readers, keypads, fire alarms, power door operators, or connected systems. 

Remote lockdown for exit devices is in urgent demand as schools, churches, or places where people congregate.  These exit devices are often being upgraded to remote lockdown for rapid security response.  We observed more than 50 exit devices upgraded at one campus recently.  Upgrading these areas-of-assembly presents a good prime or subcontract opportunity for the experienced lock shop.

The ICBO code will adopt the new ANSI/BHMA A156.41 for Door Hardware Single Motion to Egress section in 2020.  As this standard is implemented over the next several years, you can provide a cost-effective upgrade option with the Adams Rite 4550 Deadlock Lever trim. This heavy duty interior trim provides single motion operation of MS1850 deadbolts and latches, meeting the new ADA standards.  It gives you a cost-saving competitive edge over other egress solutions.   

Although not for aluminum doors, the easily-installed Adams Rite G100 Digital Glass Door Lock with wireless Aperio technology was developed to secure a single all-glass door, or the active leaf of a pair.  The battery-operated deadbolt supports 13.56 MHz credentials including all iCLASS formats, MIFARE, DESFire®, NFC enabled mobile credentials and others. 

After three generations of family management, the Adams Rite company was purchased by ASSA ABLOY in 2006, and moved in 2012 to the Electromechanical Solutions  Group in the new Phoenix facility.  Adams Rite, Alarm Controls, HES and Securitron  share research, production, marketing and administrative facilities at the modern plant. 

A number of interesting innovations are in evidence in Adams Rite production, including; robotic shop parts delivery, rapid prototyping, and semi-automated packaging that enhances employee safety.  Securitron magnetic locks and power supplies, HES electric strikes and cabinet locks, and Alarm Controls products are produced on adjacent assembly lines.

Specialty Niches

Servicing the aluminum door industry includes several other specialty niches.   We’ll not discuss closers, as they are too important and complex to cover here.

Mechanical keypads for narrow stile aluminum doors are available from Codelocks, Lockey, and Simplex.  Electronic narrow stile locks are also available from Alarm Lock and dormakaba’s Best Access Systems.  There are some very sophisticated narrow stile biometric readers like the Invixium Touch 2 with HID’s extremely reliable Lumidigm® multi-spectral fingerprint imaging technology.  This Canadian- built product absolutely wows the customer.

Industry rumors suggest that mobile credentials (smart phones) communicating with Bluetooth® Low Energy readers may become a dominant access control technology in the very near future.  The biggest challenge (as always) is long-term credential security.  The major players in the access control industry are developing extensive encryption protocols to protect this new technology.

Pivots tend to be a specialty niche requiring extensive skills to identify the correct parts as well as handling and adjusting the doors.  Ilco division of dormakaba shows a broad selection of pivots.  Search: Ilco Cylinders Storefront Door Hardware Exit Devices.  Pages 42-50 of the catalogue provide excellent illustrations and dimensions of popular pivots.

CRL has consolidated Jackson and US Aluminum doors.  Search: CRL Pivots to get pivot and continuous hinge catalogue pages.  Philadelphia based Strybuc Industries carries a comprehensive selection of pivots.  The company’s online video service allows lock technicians to measure and show installations live to company staff for correct pivot identification.   Search:  The 490 page catalogue does take a few minutes to download.

Continuous Hinges are often considered the gold standard to upgrade sagging doors.  Every technician we’ve ever talked with tells us that quality continuous hinges just don’t get call-backs.  ABH, Select, and Hager’s Roton brands are highly regarded in the lock industry. 

Most builder’s hardware companies offer similar continuous hinge products.  Hinge and closer adjustment and repair for high-frequency storefront doors presents daily opportunities. 

I seldom see a fast food front door or rest room that doesn’t have ongoing hinge and closer issues.  No wonder.  Jerry Levine’s article on “Solving Commercial Door Problems” in the June 2013 Locksmith Ledger,, discusses high frequency door issues.  Levine quotes Rixson as suggesting up to 5,000 openings per day for a total of 1.5 million per year for very high frequency doors.  No wonder hinges and pivots wear out.

In a 4-year-long test, Select Hinges ran a continuous geared hinge more than 25-million cycles, wearing out two closers, with no measurable change to the hinge or door alignment.  Search:

“Geared Continuous Hinge Cycle Test.”  Building owners might welcome hinges that last for years rather than months.  This writer specified continuous hinges for all exterior doors in his own commercial building.  No regrets. 

Upgrades to exit devices, electronic options, or door replacements often require some additional door prep.  The highly regarded GKL bridge adaptors provide internal support when doing vertical rod or other revisions to aluminum doors.

Major Manufacturing has a complete line of specialized aluminum door template kits.  These robust metal templates and kits with hardened steel inserts, are well-respected in the industry. 

Yes, it’s hard to be an expert in every field.  However, there are a whole lot of storefront doors (millions), many of which need adjustment.  I believe that if you do develop some expertise in this area, it is worth promoting in your advertising.  It is tempting to list everything in your ads or website, but being really good at two or three things is sure to pay off in the long run.

Cameron Sharpe, CPP wrote for Caterpillar and Honeywell before working 25-years in hardware and electronic access distribution. [email protected]  

About the Author

Cameron Sharpe

Cameron Sharpe, CPP, worked 30 years in the commercial lock and electronic access industry. Contact him at [email protected].