Aluminum Door Hardware Retrofit: Locks & Tools

Oct. 2, 2018
Typical issues include adjustments, lock, hinge, and closer repair or replacement, improving defeat resistance, or adding electronic access control

The aluminum storefront door slams, rattling the frame and windows. High traffic and lack of maintenance will surely lead to catastrophic failure. By offering a free closer adjustment, you may save the owner from costly and extensive door and frame repairs and gain a loyal customer.

Since the mid 1950s, aluminum doors have been an important part of the locksmithing business. Although fast food chains and larger buildings will have their own maintenance staffs, most building owners rely on the professional locksmith.

Here, we’ll cover swinging aluminum doors, locks, parts and tools, plus emerging mechanical and electronic retrofit options. Most importantly, we’ll note problem-solving resources. Typical issues will likely include adjustments, lock, hinge, and closer repair or replacement, improving defeat resistance, or adding electronic access control.

For some important background detail, you’ll find an excellent article by Jerry Levine on aluminum doors and hinges in the December 2012 issue of Locksmith Ledger,

Sagging Doors

Sagging or improperly closing doors are likely to be your biggest repair issues. Popular solutions are to swage or replace existing butt hinges, or install continuous hinges. Most consider the geared continuous hinge to be a permanent solution whenever practical. Replacing pivot hinges tends to be more complex as there are so many brands and options.

Ordering the right pivot hinges depends on getting the correct brand and measurements. You’ll usually find the door manufacturer listed on the inside bottom stile. Many tell us that Georgia-based Kawaneer dominates the aluminum door market. Other brands you may encounter are: Arcadia, Armalite, Aldora, EFCO, Old Castle, Pittco, TruLite, Tubelite, US Aluminum, and YKK. CR Laurance, Vistawall and S.W. Aluminum were acquired by Ireland-based CRH-Old Castle. They currently operate as CRL-US Aluminum.

The large variety of aluminum door pivots makes ordering replacement parts a real challenge. Ilco has been a solid resource, providing durable locks, hinges, pivots and parts for most aluminum door brands. Detailed photographs with dimensions help identify the right parts. Allegion’s Ives catalogue has a considerable section on pivots as well.

Another popular locksmithing resource is Strybuc in Miami and Philadelphia. They have refined the ordering process to assure you get the right parts the first time. Strybuc’s Commercial Door catalogue contains pivot, butt and geared hinges, locks, trim, and exit devices and gives clear instructions on email, text, and Skype. This allows technical staff to accurately identify the correct part. See

The company’s 35,000-item main catalogue contains many more residential products including Multi-Point residential locks like the German-built Hoppe brand that have become increasingly popular.

Double swing doors will have center-mounted pivot with top or bottom concealed closers. Concealed bottom closers are less popular due to susceptibility to moisture, dirt and corrosion.   Rixon and Dorma top mounted closers appear to be most prevalent. Jerry Levine’s May 2011 article on door closers by gives an excellent review of closer technology,

Corrosion and structural misalignment can create nightmares for door and frame. A video link illustrates one of the more difficult pivot repairs. Another following video walks through a normal pivot hinge replacement. These are excellent pivot repair training videos.

Continuous hinges are an increasingly popular replacement when the door is flush mounted in the jamb. Verify this detail before planning the job. You know the full-surface hinge is going to work – even on damaged frames. Full-surface swing-clear hinges are popular for their esthetics. The standard full-surface version often works well on the narrowest jambs. Several will fit on a jamb of one inch or less.

ABH, Bommer, Hager-Roton, Ives, McKinney-Pemco, NGP, PBB, Select, and Stanley, as well as Ilco and Strybuc all now produce continuous gear hinges. In recent years, lower extrusion costs have driven prices down to very competitive levels. A really good installation video is available on the Select website,

Tools of the Trade

Tools of the Trade really can make the job easier – as does experience. On my own first installation, I spent 20-minutes trying to figure out how to get a mortise cylinder threaded into a slightly misaligned MS deadbolt. Finally, I remembered a cylinder thread tap in my kit, ran it past the door skin and got the cylinder in. Later, an experienced hand advised that the easy way was to simply loosen the lock a bit to allow cylinder threads to squarely engage. Live and learn, or as the first sergeant used to say, “learn and live.”

We’ve seen some nice tools to solve specialized aluminum door install and repair challenges. California based GKL products has developed a number of storefront door products. Aluminum door repair, conversion solutions and excellent videos are shown on their website, The Snap-in Bridge®, conversion sets, yo-yo cylinder cover disks, faceplates, mailbox slot covers, and the “door lifter” are available. A new bridge adaptor product spaces the interior of medium and wide stile doors as well.

GKL also builds the popular Hinge Doctor®, the door lifter, plus a number of other screws, parts and kits, focused on aluminum doors. Keedex builds an installation template for a number of Adams Rite locksets as well as a range of templates for Door-O-Matic exit devices plus door guards and security guide bolts.

Bill and Pam DeForrest at Anaheim-based Major Manufacturing have put together a broad range of tools for prepping and installing hardware in aluminum doors. Jigs, brackets, internal vertical rod guides, drills, door totes and internal A/R mounting bridges are available.

A series of well thought-out installation kits allow the professional to complete the job on the first trip. Major Manufacturing’s website has a first-rate detailed manual for prepping and installing aluminum door hardware.

An inexpensive and less precise hinge swage product called the Knuckle Bender from FastCap is also available from hardware stores. A short video shows the wrench in operation:

Service Issues

Aluminum doors generally have one of three stile widths. These are (roughly) 2” for narrow stile, 3 ½” medium, and 5” wide stile. Depth is generally 1 ¾.” Assume nothing. Verify that the door is flush-mounted on the jamb, recessed, or centered in a deeper frame.

An important observation from Jerry Levine’s May 2011 article was that closer problems can often be attributed to hinge or wind resistance simply being too much for the closer. He noted that “if the door is not operating properly, no door closer will be able to solve the problems.”

Butt hinges are easily swaged or replaced. Pivots can usually be replaced, and, if the door is flush with the jamb, it may be a good candidate for a geared continuous hinge conversion. In some cases, a wide gap may allow conversion to a half-surface continuous hinge.

Door closing problems are often caused by air pressure variations from HVAC operation, external wind, or temporary warping from solar heat load. In cases where an exit device is dogged open during business hours, reduced latching speed might prevent excessive impact in windy conditions.

We are sometimes called on to add electronic access to double swinging doors. Magnetic shear locks are one way to skin the cat, although reliably centering the door in variable wind conditions is often a problem. Another effective option is to use standard magnetic locks as stops, allowing the door only to swing out. Sweep is adjusted to allow quiet closure to the magnet faces, or capture when the magnets are powered up. External hardware is converted to pulls.

In one case, a sliding door assembly with break-away side panels was scheduled for electronic access. The fire marshal pre-approved adding a single narrow-stile glass door a few feet away, labeling it as the fire exit. Mechanical hardware secured the sliding door assemblies, and the single door was equipped with electrified exit device, saving the client several thousand dollars.

The training videos on YouTube and supplier PDF documentation available today are a wonderful benefit that can save countless hours of frustration and help you get it done right and on budget.

Locking Hardware & Replacement Parts

Locking hardware and Replacement Parts are the other part of the equation. The popular Adams Rite Maximum Security (MS) Lock® was launched in 1955. Since that time extensive lines of electric strikes, exit devices, and narrow-stile mechanical and electronic access products have been developed.

Adams Rite recently introduced the XL88 series with heavier duty starwheel, pullman rim exit and concealed vertical rod versions. The updated product has a universal install kit for doors of any thickness, wood, HM or aluminum. The XL88 now also has ultra-quiet operation. The 179-page A/R online catalogue covers deadbolts, deadlatches, multiple exit devices, multi-point locks, double door applications, specialty devices and electronics to solve most aluminum door issues.

Several physical security enhancements are available. Latchguards and cylinder guards are popular, and the Montreal based Capitol Industries offers some unique solutions. The M-7000 cylinder shield makes the cylinder and latch or deadbolt assembly disappear under the magnetically-locked sliding cover.

Exposed cylinders in narrow-stile doors can also be hardened with steel slip rings like the Best 1E7C4 to prevent wrenching.

Narrow Stile

Narrow stile access control products for aluminum doors are becoming more prevalent. Code Locks, Simplex, and Lockey all offer narrow stile mechanical pushbutton locks for aluminum door hardware.

On the battery-powered electronic side, Alarm Lock’s Trilogy® Networx® narrow stile wireless keypad/prox system provides considerable flexibility and utility. Dormakaba’s narrow stile E-Plex® system with keypad, DESFire, MIFARE, or HID’s iCLASS® card is available from KABA and Best through your lock supply wholesalers.

Of course, Adams Rite provides several narrow stile options. The 3080 entry trim, is operated by customer’s external access control device. The Steel Hawk® electrified latch retraction functions with only an outside pull. The eForce® keyless entry trim provides for 150 users in a narrow stile configuration. The Dual Force® 2190 provides latch and deadbolt functions, along with exterior electronic unlocking.

Power Transfer Cords

Power Transfer cords have been a popular and inexpensive wiring solution. Transfer through pivot, butt, or continuous geared hinges has considerably better esthetics, often worth discussing with the customer. The other interesting development has been the Securitron® PowerJump inductive coupling power transfer device. The contactless coupling provides a really slick continuous duty .5A @ 12VDC and .25A @ 24VDC from frame to the door.

Select Hinges and Securitech have developed the labor-saving power transfer mini-hinges and cutouts for continuous geared hinges, allowing easy installation or repair without removing the door assembly.

A word about other electronic locking hardware is in order. The subjects of electric strikes and magnetic locks each require complete articles, and are the right solutions in many cases. But, here is where you – the door professional – have a major competitive edge. You understand doors, frames, hinges, exit devices locking hardware – and building codes. Know this. Understanding the existing hardware and the underlying reason it’s there is important to providing the customer with the best solution. That’s your advantage.

Cameron Sharpe, CPP wrote for Caterpillar and Honeywell before working 25-years in hardware and electronic access distribution. [email protected]   Copyright © 2018

About the Author

Cameron Sharpe

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