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Door Sag

Which door is sagging?

Which door is sagging?

I have mentioned this before, but it bears revisiting.  Lock problems and door problems are often related.  If the door is does not swing or is not hung properly the lock may not work properly either.

I bring this up now because I was recently called upon to go out and do actual work. I am no longer used to this and will usually refuse these opportunities, but my daughter called to say that the restaurant where she is working was having problems with their walk-in wine cooler. This small, chilled room is unfortunately located near the entrance of the restaurant, around the corner from virtually all activity except exiting and entering. Should an unscrupulous patron give the grade one cylindrical storeroom function lock a tug on their way out, the door would swing open, inviting pilferage of some very expensive vintages ranging in the hundreds of dollars. Some might even qualify as grand theft. So she asked if I would come out and have a look, and being the wonderful dad I am I grabbed my toolbox and cordless drill and headed out.

I managed not to hurt myself, so I am grateful.

When I arrived on the scene, I noticed immediately that the door was sagging – that is to say, it was no longer square within the door frame.  I could tell because – as in the handy picture I provided above – I could see that the gap between the header and the door was noticeably larger on the lock side than on the hinge side of the door.  I checked the top hinge screws – often the culprit in these situations – but all was well up there and all the screws were tight.   This could mean only one thing:  the door frame had settled with the building and was no longer square.  As a result the latch no longer lined up with the electric strike and the lock would no longer latch.

saghingeSince the door was wood I could have pulled the door, removed the hinges, planed the hinge edge and re-cut the top and middle hinge mortises to bring the lock edge up and back in line with the frame; or I could broken into the walls on both sides and adjusted the door frame so it would be square again.  But because I am old, tired, and was not getting paid I decided to take the easy way out:  I shimmed the bottom hinge, forcing the lock side of the door slightly up so that the lock would once again align with the electric strike.

To shim the bottom hinge I simply put a washer behind the hinge at the location shown in the picture  at right.  Then I explained to the restaurant manager that this was a temporary fix and that later on the door would most likely need attention again because the problem would probably recur.

So I left everyone happy and with a working door, but also with a warning.  Since the door frame is no longer square it is likely to continue in the same direction and someone (not me) will have to address it in the future.

 





And once again I looked like a … Hardware Genius.

Door Hardware Triage

The Medical Metaphor

medicalAs previously published in Doors and Hardware Magazine, Feb. 2016

As in the medical profession, correct diagnosis of door hardware problems is wholly dependent upon the knowledge, skill and powers of observation of the person whose job it is to correct the problem.  “The devil is in the details,” they say, and it is never truer than when said in reference to doors and hardware.

Another old saying, “ignorance is bliss,” can be liberally applied to who those innocent building occupants and visitors who think that the answer to a lock that is not latching is to slam it until it does – or until the hardware falls off, whichever comes first.  Yet by the same token, door hardware technicians who fail to look at door hardware problems holistically are equally blissful.  If you have ever seen the latch hole in an ANSI strike enlarged to include half the head of the bottom mounting screw in order to remedy what is clearly a hinge problem you will understand what I am talking about.

The above occurs because the technician sent to solve the problem is guilty of treating the symptoms while failing to diagnose the disease.  He or she observes that the latch is making contact with the strike too low to drop into the strike hole as it should, but does not question why this is happening.  This example is a simple one, but the principle applies to more complex problems as well.

Method

A great way to make sure you correctly identify a door hardware problem on the first visit is to have a consistent method of examining the total opening.   An example follows:

  1. If possible, speak with the person who has reported the problem, or better yet, meet with them at the opening so that they can show you what the problem is.
  2. As you approach the door, visually check the gap around the edges of the door on the top and both sides.  (The gap should be one-eighth inch.)  If the gap is greater in one place and less in another, the problem may be a bent hinge or misaligned frame.
    Open the door.  How does it feel?  Does the door itself stick?  If it has a latch, is there resistance when you turn the lever to retract it?  Do the hinges groan or squeak?
  3. Inspect the door for dents and abrasions.  For example, scratches at the top of the lock-side edge may indicate bent or loose hinges.   Dents may indicate attempted forced entry:  check for damage to internal lock parts.  A dent in the gap between the door and frame above the top hinge may mean an object was placed there.  The frame may be damaged and/or the top hinge may be bent.
  4. Inspect the hardware for damage, missing parts and/or wear.   If it is a hollow metal frame, are the silencers installed?  If there are no silencers the door will not align properly and the lock will not latch correctly.  Is the door closer leaking?  Does the door closer arm move smoothly?  Are the hinge screws all present and accounted for, and are they tight?  If there is a latch, there probably is a drag mark on the strike.  Does the drag mark reflect correct alignment?

In other words, look at the door, the frame and the hardware thoroughly and completely, and always do it the same way.  That way you won’t fix one problem just to return the following week to fix another problem that you missed.strike

Tools May Be Required

To identify a door hardware problem you may find it helpful to use instruments or tools.   For example, a carpenter’s level can help you determine whether a door or frame is level or plumb quickly and accurately, and a carpenter’s square can show immediately if the frame is true or sprung.   A tape measure may be helpful to check if hardware is correctly located, whether or not the gap between door and frame is consistently one-eighth inch, and if one leg of the door frame seems to be longer than the other.

One problem most swiftly identified using a carpenter’s level is positive pressure.   If you detach the closer arm and tape back the latch on a door that is level, and it swings open seemingly of its own accord, chances are it’s a positive pressure issue.  Positive pressure occurs when the air pressure inside the HVAC ducts is greater than the pressure outside, causing air to be constantly forced out of the structure.  Positive pressure can be powerful enough to prevent a door closer from closing the door, and sometimes the only cure is when the HVAC technician changes the settings on the air circulation system.

The positive pressure issue is one of those door hardware issues that may require someone besides a door hardware technician to fix.

Waiting For The Electrician

Problems with electro-mechanical and electronic locking systems, like positive pressure issues, may require a low voltage or electronics specialist to solve in addition to a door hardware technician.  For liability reasons it is important to use technicians who are appropriately licensed as required in your locality.

Often these problems are due to mechanical as well as – or even instead of – electrical or electronic issues.  Therefore the best situation for electronic or electrical door hardware triage is when the technician called upon to fix a problem is skilled in all three disciplines. Out in the world we are finding locksmiths that have their low voltage electrical technician license and a working knowledge of how to troubleshoot or program an access control system, systems integrators who can disassemble and repair a mortise lock, and even electricians who can adjust a door closer or repair an exit device.

This is a phenomenon driven by a market that desires to have one technician who can do everything, both for convenience and economics.  In any event, a technician equally skilled in these areas solves the problem of cross discipline communication.  If you’ve ever had to explain the difference between fail safe and continuous duty electrified door hardware to someone who just does not get these concepts you will understand what I’m talking about.

For this reason alone it behooves one in the door hardware repair and installation business to learn as much as they can and get all the credentials they need to be able to service all the door hardware out there in today’s electric and electronic world.

Closure

The age of door hardware in which we work today is the age of the renaissance woman or  man, student of many skills.  However, diagnosing the often complex ailments of doors and door hardware takes more than skill and knowledge:  it requires mindfulness, openness, resourcefulness and humility.  It is not only necessary to know what could go wrong (and doubtless will, according to Murphy’s Law); it is necessary to be aware enough to observe all the symptoms, to be open to all possibilities and to be imaginative in creating solutions.  One must also have the humility to realize that it is not possible for anyone to know absolutely everything.  Sometimes the most useful tool at your disposal is your mobile phone.  A call to factory tech support can often save hours of fruitless aggravation.

 





No man is an island – but some men belong on one. 

The Pressure’s On

balloonPositive Pressure Issues

Sometimes doors are required to perform conflicting functions simultaneously.  For example, in order to comply with the American Disabilities Act a particular door may be restricted to a door closer that requires as little as five pounds of opening force.  This same door may be required to lock automatically without fail.

One solution could be to use a non-hydraulic, motorized power operator (automatic door opener) instead of a standard hydraulic closer.  Since many non-hydraulic power operators do not depend on a spring for closing force it is possible for them to have an ADA compliant opening force and also exert a closing adequate to close and latch the door.  Most power operators that fit this description must be installed by AAADM certified installers.

Without the magic fix of the non-hydraulic power operator, all a door technician can do is fine tune the door so that it swings perfectly and is perfectly balanced; fine tune the locks, hinges and door closer to peak performance under the opening force restriction; and pray there isn’t a positive pressure or wind issue.

One caveat:  deprived of electricity, a non-hydraulic power operator will neither open nor close the door.

Positive pressure HVAC operation is a prime example of how the intended function of a door can be impeded or prevented by the normal operation of building infrastructure.   Positive pressure in a building is accomplished by using the HVAC system to add air from outside the building to the air that is already in the building.  As with a balloon, the added air pushes outwards in all directions.  When an exterior door is opened, air flows out through the open portal, acting as an invisible barrier that keeps outside air out.

Unfortunately positive pressure acts like a constant wind pushing on the inside of the exterior doors.   Since almost all exterior doors swing out, the net effect of positive pressure HVAC on exterior doors is that of blowing to doors open and/or preventing them from closing.

The non-hydraulic power operator idea discussed above can usually solve the problem, but I have had some success adjusting door closers to compensate for positive pressure situations.  I have found that a slow swinging speed followed by a fast latching speed will often accomplish the mission.  This solution, however, can create other problems such as creating a wider time window for unauthorized persons to enter while the door is still shutting, for example.

I have found no reliable fix for an opening subjected to positive pressure that must comply with ADA reduced opening force requirements; however, since positive pressure on out-swinging doors inherently reduces opening force, there is some hope.

In the best of all worlds, door hardware technicians and HVAC technicians work together to coordinate positive pressure ventilation needs with security and ADA compliance requirements.

Excerpt from Tom’s article “Butcher, Baker, Door Hardware Technician… ” published in the February 2015 issue of Doors and Hardware Magazine, magazine of the Door Hardware Institute.

The Obsolete Mortise Lock

Nothing lasts forever.  Like manufacturers of other mechanical devices, lock companies periodically update their products to be consistent with current technology.  They do this to make better, safer, more reliable products, and also to remain competitive in the market place.

Sometimes these new, updated products are backwards-compatible with older models of the same brand, sometimes not.   In the case of mortise locks I can say with some confidence, mostly not.   One cannot replace a Schlage K series mortise lock body with an L series and expect the trim to work.  The same is true of the newer Sargent 8200 vs. the older 8100 and the Yale 8800 series vs. the previous 8700 series.  As these older locks age and must be replaced these differences can become a problem, since the existing trims and cylinders on site may not be usable with the new lock bodies.  And there are still plenty of these older lock bodies out there.  Case in point, although the Yale 8700 series was discontinued in 2006, one facility I know is filled to the brim with these mortise locks.

Although I foresaw that they would not be able to use the existing trims with their new locks I failed to anticipate that the existing cylinders would also be incompatible.  But they were and here is why.  On the left the cam that works with the Yale 8700 is in the process of being removed from a Medeco small format interchangeable core (SFIC) housing.  In the first picture below, the correct cam has been installed.

DSCN4430DSCN4432

 

 

 

 

 

In the second picture you can see that the new cam is not only thinner than the old cam, it’s also slightly longer.  There is no way that old cam is going to work.  Luckily, on a Medeco SFIC housing the cams are interchangeable, unlike most others on which the cams are permanently attached.


Please visit my friends’ site:

http://www.americanlocksets.com/mortise-locks-c-38_159.html


Now I’m waiting to hear about the other SFIC housings on the job that have their cams staked on. But one cluster at time, eh?

Locks and Keys Grow Old Together

oldkeynewkyI never cease to be amazed when someone tells me their car won’t start and then they say,

“Well, it started yesterday.”

What sense does that make? I ask you.  Is today yesterday?  I think not.

Yes, indeed, time wears out almost everything:  clothes, human bodies, tree limbs, stones, car batteries … and locks and keys as well.

Keys and locks are for the most part both made out of brass.  Most pin tumblers are brass and most keys are either made of brass or ‘nickel silver,’ whatever that is.  Brass is a self-lubricating metal, producing verdigris as it oxidizes.  Nevertheless, as brass slides across brass again and again, particle by particle the substance of key, pin tumbler and lock cylinder are gradually worn away.

This manifests in several ways.  I’ve made a list of the most easily observable below:

  • The keyway gets larger, and the fit that was once pleasingly tight is now loose and sloppy
  • The key gets smaller, aggravating the sloppiness
  • The peaks are worn off the blade of the key, but his only affects the appearance of the key.  It is the valleys that are important.
  • The blade loses height because the bottom of the blade is worn
  • The plug gets smaller, allowing the upper and lower pin chambers to be at unintended angles
  • The bottoms of the pin tumblers, once rather pointed, become rounded, thereby shortening the overall length of the pin
  • Grooves are worn into the plug by the top pins

Eventually the old key that works relatively well in the old lock sits at an odd slant, its tip raised and its bow drooping because of the sloppy keyway and worn bottom of the key blade.  When one turns the key it twists in the keyway because the key is thinner than it once was, allowing all the pins to drop a little in their chambers.  But since the key and lock have been used together for so long, this one key may continue to operate the lock for a long time.

However, if one cuts a new key using the old as a template, the new key will likely not work well because it will not sit or twist the same way in the keyway.  If one attempts to decode the old key, one usually finds it to be a difficult task because keys tend to wear unevenly.  But even if a key cut true to the original manufacturer’s specifications is produced it will quite likely not work well in the worn lock, because it will not put the pins in the positions the metal of the lock has become accustomed to.

This tends to confound the user because the differences between the old key and the new are measured in thousandths of an inch and are not easily discernible to the untrained eye.   Locksmiths are then asked the question,

“Why doesn’t the key you cut for me work?  The original does.”

And when the locksmith suggests it might be time to buy a new lock, s/he may hear,

“But this lock has worked fine for thirty years!  And my key works great!”

Next, of course, they are likely to call you a bad locksmith, but there is no help for it if they won’t listen to the truth that their beloved lock, their venerable old daily friend, has outlived its ability to do its job, sad, but true.

The locksmith may enjoy some (albeit perverse) solace in the fact that eventually the key will stop working in the lock altogether, or will become so thin and frail that it breaks off in the lock, and at that point the user will realize that something has indeed gone amiss.  If it happens in the middle of the night, and the locksmith is on call, s/he may get substantially more than vindication out of the deal.

Hint: Vindication is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Schlage CO and AD Series Mortise Lock Parts

Schlage AD Series

Schlage AD Series

This just goes to show that there is no substitute for field experience. In the quest to provide the best service to his customer, this locksmith went past my advice and the advice of factory tech support to find the best solution.

The locksmith inquired about a replacement latch for a Schlage CO200MS mortise lock. I called Schlage Tech Support and they said that there were no replacement parts available for that CO-200 Series mortise lock chassis; that the entire mortise chassis had to be replaced for a hefty sum and I relayed this info to the locksmith. The locksmith, however, knew that Schlage advertised that the CO series locksets incorporated the Schlage standard L-series lock chassis “for durability and dependability.” Based on this, the locsksmith took a chance, went to the parts list for the L-Series mortise lock with the same function and ordered the replacement latch. He reports that is identical and works fine.

Good to know! One can assume that many parts from the L Series mortise lock with the same function will work in all AD and CO series mortise lock bodies. Like I said, you learn something new every day.

Thanks for stopping by.

Quest for the 24-Inch Exit Device with Electric Latch Retraction

Yale7100I had a lot of fun recently trying to meet a customer’s requirement for a 4-foot by 7-foot pair of doors in a hospital that needed to be fire rated and automated.   I found that Corbin and Yale (sister companies whose exit devices are almost identical) offer fire rated surface vertical rod exit devices with electric latch retraction that meet this need.   The installer will be able to put some kind of little power operator on each 24-inch leaf of this four foot pair and cram two fire rated surface vertical rod devices onto these same narrow leaves.  Doubtless it will look odd, but it will work.

Admittedly the whole idea is a bit dubious.  True, by having both leaves opened simultaneously by power operators will provide amply more than the minimum 32-inch clearance demanded by the American Disabilities act, but if anyone manually opens either leaf it certainly will not.

Sargent and Von Duprin offer 24-inch fire rated exit devices, but neither offer them with electric latch retraction.   It is unfortunately necessary to call these companies’ tech support lines in order to verify this information, since their price lists both show 24-inch possibilities without disclaiming the electric latch retraction option.  Neither the Sargent nor the Von Duprin has a note to say the 24-inch device is not available with electric latch retraction that I could see; if that is in fact the case, the buyer is left to beware the exit device order that bounces back because it was ordered with options that are mutually incompatible.

It’s good advice anyway to always call the manufacturer’s tech support whenever there is a question.  Waiting on hold is a lot better than storing thousand-dollar exit devices that didn’t work out on the job.

Note:  A reader named Rick writes in with this about Sargent electric latch retraction:  “Tom, I just stumbled across your site this evening, while doing a search for Fail Secure mag locks of all things (IR says there is one).  But I saw your latest article on latch retraction units and had to clarify the Sargent restrictions. These can be found within the catalog pages, specifically the page showing the 56 option (toward the back). It says:

         MinimumDoorWidths:
              -Wide Stile Door 28″
              – Narrow Stile Door 26″
Thank you, Rick, for this bit of info.  I should add that it is always good to check all the literature at your disposal for any information you are looking for.  Some manufacturers have more detail in their price list than in their catalog, and others vice versa.  Thanks again.


The Double Door Rim Strike – A.K.A. “The Pocket Ripper”

pocketripperOne of the hallmarks of bad hardware choices is the “pocket ripper” strike, used on a pair of doors when there is an inactive leaf with flush bolts or a vertical rod exit device and an active leaf with a rim exit device. Whenever I see this I think, “Cheap bastard,” because the only reason for this half fast solution is money and the desire not to spend it on doing the job right.

This lovely piece of hardware earned the nickname, “pocket ripper,” but hanging into the opening at a convenient height to catch the front pocket of a pair of trousers, resulting in egregious damage to said pocket and colorful language on the part of the victim.

What is the right way to secure a pair of doors? Vertical rod exit devices are the best. My second choice would be a mortise exit device with an open back strike and a vertical rod exit device on the inactive leaf. My third choice would be a mortise exit device with flush bolts on the inactive leaf.

Below are a couple of examples of the ‘pocket ripper.’   On the left is the classic Von Duprin 1609 strike and on the right an example from Ingersoll Rand in Europe.  The European version looks like it has better manners.

In the center we have the Hager 4921 strike that really looks like it could take out more than just a pocket if you catch it the wrong way.

image001image002hager

 

 

 

In addition, I find that often the rim latch stops dead before latching on the strike.  Also, depending on how you install the rim device, the latch may drag across the edge of the other leaf, scraping an ugly divot over time.  Yes, all in all a hardware choice to be avoided if you can.

 

Avoiding Tailpiece Loss Syndrome

SFIC Tailpieces, A.K.A. Throw Members

Tailpiece Loss Syndrome is such a common occurrence in the door hardware industry that it is almost a joke.  It happens like this:

  1. The job specifies small format interchangeable core (SFIC) cylindrical locks
  2. The locks are shipped with separate tailpieces, often called ‘throw members’
  3. The installer (usually a contractor) installs the locks and throws the tailpieces away

This occurs so often that when I get a call from a customer who says, “I have a job where we installed all SFIC cylindrical locks…”  I finish the sentence for them, “… and the contractor threw the tailpieces away.”   That usually gets a chuckle, but there’s not much humor in it really, especially if the tails must be factory ordered with a lead time of several weeks and the inspection is tomorrow.

Nope, no fun.

To avoid losing the tailpieces this way, there are a couple of things you might do:

  • Get a responsible person (maybe you) to collect the tailpieces when the locks are delivered, or
  • Have the tailpieces shipped separately directly to you, or
  • Order cores with the locks and have the contractor install them and ensure they are working properly.  (They will need to have the tails to accomplish this.)

If you elect to order the cores with the locks and want to avoid the delays associated with waiting for an order of master keyed permanent cores, order construction cores.   Construction cores are temporary cores that are all keyed alike for use during the construction phase.  Typically hardware re-sellers stock construction cores or they are readily available from the factory, so they are usually deliverable fairly quickly.

 

When Your Key Won’t Turn

Someday you might come home or go to open up your business and find that your key won’t turn at all, not even a little. There are several reasons this might occur.

At right, illustrations show the operation of a standard pin tumbler lock. When you insert your key, the key raises the pins to the point where the division between the top pins and the bottom pins aligns with the division between the plug and the bible of the cylinder, allowing the plug to turn.

Sometimes dust and dirt collect inside the lock cylinder. When that happens the dirt can cause the pins to stick in a partially raised position, preventing the plug from turning. In most cases a spritz of dry lubricant will be sufficient to free up the plug and allow you to open your door. Simply spray the lubricant into the keyway and insert the key a few times to work the lubricant into the mechanism. If this method does not work you may need to use a more solvent-based lubricant like WD-40 to loosen the dirt. Locks exposed to the elements sometimes collect a lot of dirt.

If your key will only go in part way, this could still be the same problem, or there may be an obstruction in the keyway. Illumination of the keyway reveals that the bottom pins hang down into the keyway. In the event that lubricating the lock is ineffective, slide a thin piece of wire into the lock along the bottom of the keyway, avoiding the pins, and feel for an obstruction. If the piece of wire will not go in as far as the length of the blade of your key, there may be an obstruction present. At this point you might want to call a locksmith, however, you can gently work your way past the pins and try to go over the obstruction in order to try to coax it out. This process can take a lot of patience and skill, and it is possible to make the problem worse if you are heavy handed with the pins.

From Wikipedia

Should lubrication fail to free up your lock and you can find no obstruction, your lock may have a more serious malfunction, such as a pin chamber worn enough to allow a pin to get stuck at an angle, or a corroded pin that is frozen in place and will not budge no matter what. In these cases you need a professional to gain entry for you and repair your lock. If you succeed in freeing up your lock but find that the problem is reoccurring with increasing frequency, it’s probably time for you to replace your cylinder.


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