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Doors: Rolling, Bifold and Walkthrough

Make the Best First Impression: Bringing Cost Effectiveness to Hollow Metal Doors

In competitive bid or design-build situations, builders are always searching for "best cost" materials. However, certain cost-protective measures- such as hollow metal doors-can provide users with their first impression of the overall quality of the building, and that perception may not be favorable.

There is risk in taking the least expensive door path or using whatever the building supplier has in stock, as these doors may not be the right or correct choice for each individual opening or may not match quality expectations. On the other hand, higher quality products can eliminate common door problems, but the higher initial purchase costs could put the builder at a competitive disadvantage.

What solution, then, could place the builder in the best situation for cost competitiveness while ensuring recommended quality is retained?


Decision Time

First, develop a "door specification." Basic door and frame specifications should follow West lake, Ohio-based Steel Door Institute's basic recommended minimum requirements. For instance, exterior doors should have 16-gauge skins, while 18-gauge skins are recommended for interior doors.

Other important items to consider within the specifications are whether or not galvanized steel is required (exterior doors), and what types of door cores are needed (insulated). Second, each project should have a "door schedule," whereby each door opening is reviewed individually. This is critical as it provides the opportunity for cost effectiveness: spending money where it's necessary and important, but reducing costs where it's not. For instance, a heavily used entrance door might require heavier gauge doors and frames and Grade 1 "heavy duty" hardware, while a little-used door might only require lesser gauge materials and standard Grade 2 "standard duty" hardware.

Finally, the hardware schedule must be completed. The specification will dictate the grade, types, functions and finishes, while the hardware schedule itself creates "hardware sets." This determines, by each opening, what hardware items are to be used. As mentioned earlier, these decisions have inherent cost considerations, but by looking at each opening individually, money can be applied in the most efficient way.


Looking Ahead

In making these choices though, keep in mind that one should consider the long-term costs versus the initial acquisition prices. Although each hardware item will have passed various performance tests that provide the foundation for its grade, not all products within the same grade are created equally.

For a cylindrical lock to meet a Grade 1, or highest, performance level, it must pass a minimum 800,000 cycle test, which is the base some manufacturers use to engineer and build the lock. However, some manufacturers use higher standards: Schlage's D series cylindrical lever locks are tested to exceed 3 million cycles, indicating that the engineering, expectations and long-term results exceed those of other locks with the same Grade 1 rating.

The same is true on the doors and frames. Some manufacturers, such as Cincinnati based Steelcraft, extensively test its products to exceed various performance criteria, while others may not fully test their doors or frames. Higher engineering standards and tested products probably have a higher acquisition price, but the long-term benefits exceed the initial cost difference.

This is where your door supplier can be helpful. Because each project carries different requirements, take the time to work with a supplier that has the range of products, technical expertise and appropriate documentation to make the process work smoothly and cost effectively.


Choose the Best

Take these points into consideration when looking at doors for any project:

  • Understand the importance of looking at each door opening individually.
  • Develop a door and hardware schedule, no matter how small the project.
  • Develop a set of door and hardware specifications, and create a template.
  • Develop hardware sets, allowing for differences and cost determinants.
  • Create cost effectiveness by using appropriate gauges, grades, and types of doors and hardware for each opening based on usage and location.
  • Be sure your door, frame and hardware have been fully tested to meet specific performance data for the grades required (or building codes).
  • Use your supplier to provide you information to help base your decisions.

Hollow metal doors are a vital part of the overall building. They are among the most-used components, and could be the feature people use as the visual determinant of the building quality. Take the time to make good, long-term decisions about your doors. You and the building owners' satisfaction depends on it.


Tom Granitz is the general manager of EXPIDOOR Systems Inc., Green Bay, Wis. More information can be found at