Are You a Hingesmith? Door Hardware Beyond The Lock

Oct. 15, 2004
A locksmith is more than just a key cutter.

Most people outside of our industry think of locksmiths as key cutters. "Is that all you do all day is cut keys?" You've probably been asked this question dozens of times. Of course, we know that locksmiths do far more than cut keys. We educate customers as to the best products for their property. In addition to that, we sell, install, repair, rekey and adjust locks.

There are dozens of opportunities for a locksmith on almost every service call. Every door opening has the potential for additional or replacement non-lock hardware. If a storefront door has a threshold damaged by delivery hand trucks, offer to replace it. If a polished brass threshold is dull, scratched and bent, a shiny new one will make the customers' entryway more inviting. Our job description includes sales and service.

Let's break the door opening down into its three primary components and then look at the related hardware and the opportunities for the locksmith.

The Connection
Butt Hinges - The most common connection between the door and frame is the hinge. Each hinge is made up of two leafs, with each leaf having a plate and series of knuckles that allow the hinge to open and close. A pin is used to connect the two leafs together. There may be two, three, four or five hinges on a door, depending on the size, weight, type, material, usage and degree of abuse for the door. Most residential doors have two hinges on each inner door and usually three hinges on the heavier exterior entry doors. Standard butt hinges are the most common. Hinges come in various sizes and styles including: full mortise, half mortise, offset, swing clear, ball bearing, etc. Commercial doors will generally utilize three or four hinges per door, with five on doors receiving a great deal of use or abuse. The designation NRP indicates that the hinge pin is fixed or non-removable. This is a security feature that prevents exposed pins being removed to gain entry, bypassing the lock. Removable pins can be a significant problem for out swinging doors on building exteriors.

Potential Opportunities – Heavy pedestrian traffic will result in hinges wearing out or working loose. Hinge problems can result in doors dragging on the floor, rubbing against the frame and ultimately will affect the proper operation of the locking mechanism. Squeaky hinges should be lubricated. Loose hinges should be tightened, possibly using longer screws or repairing the screw holes. Damaged hinges should be repaired or replaced. On an access control job, an electrified hinge may be used to replace a standard hinge. Note: There are specialty tools for the locksmith industry to repair bent or damaged hinges without removing them from the door. Another alternative for hinge problems is to replace the butt hinges with continuous hinges.

Continuous Hinges – Commonly used in commercial applications, a continuous hinge is a single hinge assembly that runs from the top of the door to the bottom. Unlike a butt hinge, there are no knuckles. A series of extruded channels along the edge merges together to act as a gear as the hinge rotates. Available in a variety of styles including full surface and half-mortise, these hinges distribute the load of the door along the entire back side of the frame.

Potential Opportunities – Because of their strength and durability, continuous or gear hinges cost more than butt hinges but usually eliminate door sagging problems. After the initial sale and installation, these hinges require very limited maintenance.

Pivots – Another way to make the connection between a door and frame is with pivots. Aluminum-framed glass doors used on storefronts will usually contain a pair of pivots at the top and bottom of the door. These pivots can be offset where the pivots stick out from the face of the door or can be concealed. When concealed, the bottom rail may contain a pivot only while the top rail contains an arm connected to a concealed overhead hydraulic door closer. The door closer is mounted in the hollow aluminum header frame above the door. Only the shaft of the closer is visible. Since the operating shaft is in direct alignment with the lower pivot, the door closer itself acts as a top pivot. In other cases the situation is reversed. When a closer is concealed in the floor (under the door threshold) the bottom shaft acts as a pivot while a standard offset or concealed pivot is in place at the top of the door.

Potential Opportunities – In addition to the wear on the pivots themselves, concealed door closers require adjustment in the closing and latching speeds, have door closer arms that wear out or require adjustment and may start leaking. Always look for evidence of oil leaking at the top or bottom of the door or frame, indicating a closer that needs replacement. Depending on the door and frame style, another alternative for pivot problems may be to replace the pivots with continuous hinges.

The Frame
Wood Frames – Wood doorframes are affected by use, abuse, weather, and by the door itself. If the door is rubbing or hitting the frame, it may cause excessive wear or damage. If the strike side of the frame becomes loose, the door may not lock properly. If the frame has been damaged by a kick-in attempt, the wood may be cracked or damaged beyond repair.

Potential Opportunities – Not all locksmiths do door frame repair. If the frame has minimal damage, a heavy duty, an oversized or security strike plate may be installed. If the damage is severe, replacement of part of the wood may be needed. If you don't do that, develop a working relationship with a reputable carpenter.

Steel Frames – Steel frames are usually hollow unless they are used on an exterior door. These frames are normally concrete filled. Heavier gauge steel is used on commercial and exterior doorframes, while lighter gauge steel is used for interior doors. Not much that can go wrong with a steel frame other than rust or damage from being struck by a forklift or other vehicle.

Potential Opportunities – If a steel doorframe is heavily rusted, it should be replaced. In most cases if the frame is rusted, the door is also rusted. A complete door and frame replacement is needed. Likewise, if a steel frame is bent out of shape, it may require replacement. Some frames are welded together at the factory and arrive for installation in one piece. Other frames are fit together on the job, meaning it may be possible to replace a single component to solve the problem.

Aluminum Frames – Aluminum frames are generally found on storefronts. The framework may be part of a glass window arrangement or attached to brick or mortar. Like other metal frames, little can go wrong with an aluminum frame other than intentional damage.

Potential Opportunities – If an aluminum frame is damaged in a burglary attack, steel flat or wrap-around plates can be pop riveted or screwed into place. Covering the aluminum strike area with steel substantially strengthens the opening.

The Door
Upper Portion – Non-lock hardware related to the upper portion of the door includes door closers, top flush bolts, magnetic sensors, door cords, annunciators and door chimes, door signs, door knockers, door coordinators and door viewers.

Potential Opportunities – Door closers need occasional adjustment. When working on any door, check the closer operation. The door should close smoothly and latch completely. If it closes too fast, slams or doesn't pull the door fully closed, inform the owner and charge for the service provided. Top flush bolts should align and fully project on the secondary leaf of a pair of doors. Some flush bolt tips are made of nylon; some are metal. It is usually more cost-effective to suggest replacing the entire assembly.

Magnetic sensors and door cords are used on alarms and access control systems. If a magnet is misaligned, it won't perform its intended function. Door cords can become damaged, requiring replacement. If a coiled cord was used originally, replace it with an armored loop.

Door annunciators and chimes might be an easy upsell. Battery-operated units require only a simple mounting bracket to install. Door viewers have always been a quick add-on and there are dozens to choose from. Door knockers fall into the same category. On a pair of doors, door coordinators can solve the problem of the secondary leaf closing before the primary leaf. Most locksmith distributors carry a large variety of signage. Simply offering or suggesting a restroom, exit or ADA sign to your customer can result in a sale.

Middle Portion – Non-lock hardware related to the middle portion of the door includes cylinder collars, push plates, pull handles, trim plates, scar plates, wrap-around plates, filler plates, door bumpers, lock guards, strike guards, door status indicators, exit alarms, and even electric strikes.

Potential Opportunities – During a simple storefront rekey, one of the easiest sales is to suggest a hardened cylinder collar. This solid anti-wrench collar replaces the original with no installation. Push and pull plates are easy to install, cover up unsightly worn areas and can be quickly replaced if the finish wears down. Trim plates, scar plates and wrap-around plates can solve the problem of a damaged door or cover holes left exposed from an older piece of hardware. Filler plates on the door or frame can cover the location of a missing lock. Door bumpers can prevent damage to lock hardware or adjoining walls. Lock guards can be installed to prevent carts and equipment from knocking locks off in an industrial setting. Strike guards come in a variety of sizes and shapes to protect the latch from attack. Most are installed without removing the lock. Door status indicators tell at a glance if a door is locked or open. Battery-operated exit alarms are mounted just above the door center to sound an alarm when an unauthorized exit is made. Electric strikes are actually mounted in the frame but relate to the door lock.

Lower Portion - Non-lock hardware related to the lower portion of the door includes bottom flush bolts, kick plates, mop plates, door sweeps and doorstops.

Potential Opportunities – Bottom flush bolts may need adjustment, alignment or replacement. Check the door for proper operation. Kick plates are a good way to cover a damaged door bottom or they can be replaced when they are dented, damaged or the finish is in poor shape. Door sweeps can be installed to provide a better seal at the bottom of an exterior door. Some door sweeps interlock into the threshold.

Check your favorite locksmith distributor's catalog for a wide variety of manufacturers that offer these products. There are literally dozens of manufacturers for almost any type of non-lock hardware. Don't miss those opportunities.