Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Door Closers by Vince Butler

This article appears in the January issue of the DHI Security + Safety Magazine and is reprinted here with their permission.

Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Door Closers by Vince Butler

Door closers – if you’ll pardon the pun – literally go over most people’s heads. They are usually installed at the top of doors and door frames, out of the line of sight, unnoticed. Most door closers are purposely designed to match the door and frame so they don’t attract attention.

These modern designs are a relatively recent innovation. Once upon a time, closers performed a solely functional duty through their potbelly design. These old-style closers bear a striking resemblance to an old pot belly stove and look nearly as incongruous when attached to a door. Sturdy and reliable, these closers are frequently spotted in older buildings, still functioning decades after installation.

Tradition says that the door closer was invented in 1877 when the rector of Boston’s Trinity Church lost patience with a slamming door interrupting services. A parishioner repurposed an old water pump to control the door, and the rest is closer history.

Currently, door closers are required not for silence, but by fire code. NFPA 80 – Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives requires that fire doors be self-closing and self-latching to contain and control flames and smoke. Because fire and water from sprinkler or fire hoses tend to ruin electronic equipment, positive closing and latching must be accomplished by mechanical means, i.e., a door closer.

Positive latching is a fire code requirement for commercial buildings, but residences have one area where it is required as well – the door between a house and an attached garage. Because few people relish the thought of a closer in their home, positive latching is typically accomplished with the use of spring hinges. These hinges have a spring installed in them that will swing a door shut and allow positive latching.

Spring hinges can be tricky to adjust, though, with a tendency to break if over-tightened. Nor do they truly control a door through the entire opening and closing cycle, so they are not generally encouraged in commercial applications.

Another situation in which a door closer could be required is an installation in a very windy area. High-speed wind can grab a door and wrench it open, destroying the hinges, the door, the door frame, even the wall behind the door. A strong door closer with a built-in stop in the closer arm or a separate overhead stop can resist the wind and protect the hinges, frame, and surrounding surfaces. Many closer manufacturers provide installation plates and templates that allow concurrent installation of an overhead stop with a door closer. These are recommended in high wind or high traffic openings.

Today’s door closers are not only functional but add aesthetic value to myriad commercial applications. Closer bodies have been redesigned to be sleeker and take up less space on the surface of the door or frame. They are meant to be inconspicuous, matching the style of their wood or metal environment. Covers are available in a variety of painted and plated finishes to meet decors ranging from rustic to modern. Modern closers also have several more features than the original pot-belly closers. These options provide more control over the entire opening and closing cycle, for example – delayed action, latching speed control and backcheck control.

There is no longer a “one size fits all” philosophy to closer function, either. Heavy duty doors or high traffic openings will require heavy duty closers. Heavy duty surface mount closers made of cast iron or aluminum alloy are ideal for any high foot traffic door application over a wide range of temperatures. This includes entry doors, bathroom doors, or almost any door in commercial applications, including schools, medical facilities, office buildings, and hospitality.

Concealed closers are also available, which allow almost “invisible” control over the door; special templates are cut into the door and frame where the closer body will be installed, and only the arm of the closer is visible extending from the door to the frame. Concealed closers have similar features as standard closers and are an excellent choice for some projects.

It can also be important to provide adjustability in closers. This might feel counterintuitive – the door hasn’t changed, why would the closer need to change? The main reason may sound a little obvious – the closer has stopped closing the door. This typically isn’t a situation where closer settings have changed over time, but rather that the building environment has changed.

The primary culprit when a closer suddenly stops swinging and latching a door is the HVAC system in the building. For example, winter has arrived, the heat is running almost constantly, and now there is higher pressure in the building that the door closer can no longer overcome. Adjustments to the spring power and hydraulics in the closer will allow it to perform its function properly again.

Another situation where closers need to be adjusted is for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. The ADA was written into law in 1990, prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities; the law not only covers equal employment and services but access to buildings as well. Door hardware is held to strict guidelines to ensure it doesn’t present a barrier to access. For example, thresholds must be less than a one-half inch tall, and hallways and doorways must be at least 32 inches wide to allow wheelchair access. Door closers must allow for the minimum of five pounds of force to open a door.

Adjustable closers have internal springs, modifiable via external ports that allow adjustment in the pressure required to open a door. The ADA also requires the closing speed of a door to be adjusted so that from a 90-degree open position, the time required for the door to close to a 12-degree open position be no less than five seconds to give individuals with mobility issues time to make their way through the door. Latching and sweep speed ports are typically standard on door closers; backcheck and delayed action options are often available, too.

Door closers need to walk a fine line between ADA requirements and fire codes. NFPA 80 does not address the amount of force required to open a door, but it does require positive latching and specifics the sizes of closers appropriate for different size openings. In general, accomplishing positive latching takes precedence over the “five pounds of force” rule, although it can seem like every installation is different. For final authority on openings, it may be necessary to seek out the local authority having jurisdiction over the project.

Closer adjustments are accomplished through the passage of fluid through various chambers of the piston, and as such, great care must be taken to measure the fluid to exacting standards while staking the external ports to limit their movement and ensure leak-free performance. If the closer is going to be installed in extreme heat or cold, it is also important to consider that its hydraulic fluid is rated for the anticipated ambient temperature.

The basic commercial grade closer has a standard arm that can be mounted in either a regular or parallel fashion. The difference between the arms is determined by the mounting position of the closer on the door. If the closer is on the push side of a door, it requires the parallel arm mounting. Regular arm mounting is used on the pull side of a door. It is also possible to install the closer as a “top jamb mount” – the closer body is attached to the frame of the door, and the regular arm mount is attached to the push side of the door. Closer arms can be specified with varying characteristics such as heavy-duty, hold-open, cushion stop, etc., available to prolong the life of the closer and enhance the user experience based on the environment and application specifics.

Depending on tastes and installation needs, an alternate method of door control is an overhead holder/stop. These devices are fluid-free, and while not offering the adjust backcheck of a closer, they typically provide varying degrees of compression before dead stop. They can be surface or concealed mounted and may offer stop or stop and hold open functions.

It is important to note that an overhead stop with a hold-open function is not appropriate for a fire door, as it would interfere with positive latching in case of emergency. Electromagnetic door holders are available, which can be tied to the fire alarm system and will release the door if the alarm goes off. As specified by the architect or preferred by the end user, overhead holders and stops may also be used in conjunction with a closer – such as in high wind areas, as we mentioned earlier.

Door closers and overhead holder/stops are two options that provide cost-effective methods of commercial door control. The primary purpose for closers is quite straightforward – to close the door, whether required by building code, aesthetics, or user preference. However, the means by which this is accomplished can be as varied and diverse as there are types of buildings. We hope that the often-concealed world of door closers has been made a little clearer through this article.

To download a PDF of this article please click here.

Vince Butler is a Project Manager for Hager Companies. He can be reached at [email protected].

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Team Member Profile – Sheryl Simon, CSI, CDT – Manager, Architectural Specification Consultants

Sheryl Simon has been with Hager Companies for 13 years and was recently promoted to Manager, Architectural Specifications Consultants. We sat down with Sheryl to ask her a few questions.

Sheryl Simon at one of the many CSI STL events she volunteers for. Sheryl currently is 2nd VP for the chapter. Photo credit: George Everding

Childhood AmbitionI was always interested in design. (I’m not sure if it’s an ambition or an obsession.) Even as a young child I was always re-arranging the furniture. My parents never knew what to expect when they came home. 

First JobWorking at a very busy ice cream stand. The lines seemed to never end but it was fun interacting with all the customers. 

What led you to the hardware industry: I married into it and very quickly became a hardware geek. 

Proudest professional momentWhen I passed my CDT. It is a very difficult exam and required a lot of studying. 

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Why is the Bottom Rod Missing?

Have you ever come across a pair of doors that have just a top vertical rod exit device and not top and bottom, and wondered why? Often an architect or specification writer will specify “less bottom rod (LBR)” on pairs of doors, especially in healthcare facilities.

This photo was taken in an assisted living facility here in St. Louis. This opening is a pair of fire rated corridor doors which means they must positively latch in case of a fire to control flames and smoke from traveling through the facility. Without latching hardware on the exit device itself, positive latching is accomplished with the surface mounted top vertical rod. As you can see from the picture, the door is being held open with a magnetic hold open tied into the fire alarm. If the fire alarm is activated the hold open will release the door. The door closer will swing the door shut and the top vertical rod will latch the door.

This leads us to the question of why the architect or specification writer specified LBR. While the top and bottom vertical rods help secure the door, the bottom vertical rod is secured to a floor strike mounted in the floor. That floor strike can become a tripping hazard to people that use mobility devices, such as canes, walkers, crutches, and wheelchairs. ADA regulation 404.2.10, Door and Gate Surfaces, states: “Swing door and gate surfaces within 10 inches (255mm) of the finish floor or ground measured vertically shall have a smooth surface on the push side extending the full width of the door or gate.” The regulation goes on to specify how thick protection plates and installation screws can be.

This installation is a textbook example of the intersection of fire code and ADA regulations. The goal is to keep people safe both from fire and tripping. When architects and door hardware professionals work together, the result can be a safe, attractive and code compliant facility.

For assistance in writing door hardware specifications please contact Brian Clarke at [email protected]. For information regarding our products please contact our customer service team at 800-255-3590 or your local sales representative.

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As we head into Thanksgiving later this week, we want to share our gratitude for the Hager family, our colleagues and leadership teams, sales and architectural representatives, our customers, architects, end-users, vendors, and suppliers, all of which are an important part of our family.

Charles Hager expanded the business based on relationships built on transparency. We continue that transparency 169 years later by providing quality products while striving to be a collaborating participant with our channel partners. We work hard to bring opportunities that turn into long-term business to our customers. We write true non-proprietary specifications while focusing on being correct, clear, concise, and complete for our architects.  Our team of experts is available at the beginning of the project to assist in the coordination of the door hardware and confirm each door opening meets building codes.

Next year we celebrate 170 years in business. To honor this tremendous achievement, we’re holding a contest through our desktop calendar to collect your favorite Hager story. Whether it’s an interaction you had with an employee, an organizational milestone, or just a fun walk down memory lane. One winner will be selected each month at random. All entries will be displayed at www/hagerco.com/contest for everyone to enjoy.

We are thankful to have such strong relationships throughout the channel and wish each one of you a wonderful Thanksgiving.


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Texas Society of Architects Show – 2018

Next week several team members will be representing Hager in booth 142 at the Texas Society of Architects Design Expo Show in Fort Worth, Texas.  The attendance at the show is excellent, and we greatly appreciate all the members that make a point of stopping by to say thank you.

This year we will be highlighting our electronic access control line, HS4 – Hager powered by Salto.

The HS4 access control system is a suite of modular products that give architects the ability to provide different levels of security and safety that fit a range of budgets to meet the owner and facility’s needs. Recognizing a one-size-fits-all solution doesn’t work in today’s designs, HS4 has the ability to diversely secure an existing or new facility and expand with future growth.

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Safe Schools Week October 21-27, 2018

Every week is safe schools week in our book, but in1984 the National School Safety Center (NSSC) designated a special week to recognize the successes of quintessential school, district, state, and national programs.

Per the NSSC website, the goal of this campaign is to “motivate key education and law enforcement policymakers, as well as students, parents and community residents, to vigorously advocate school safety. School safety includes keeping campuses free from crime and violence, improving discipline, and increasing student attendance.”

Doors, with the correct hardware, play an essential role in providing safety and security to students, teachers, and personnel. Have you ever thought about how many doors you walk through when you enter a school? Was there an open gate when you entered the campus? Was the building’s perimeter door unlocked, so you were able to walk right in? How many doors did you pass before you reached the office?  Recently constructed schools are designed to direct the flow of visitors to help control access to the campus. Often, older schools were built to be more accessible, allowing opportunities for non-authorized people to enter freely, without having visitors check-in.

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Congratulations Are in Order

DHI Door Security + Safety Magazine recently announced the winners of the Robert G. Ryan Awards.  The awards are presented to the best volunteer authors of articles appearing in the previous calendar year in the magazine and cover both technical and business-related topics.

Two team members won in the category of – Feature and Business Article.

First place went to Brian Clarke, DHT, AHC, DHC, CFDAI for his article Securing Schools: Solutions Trends in Educational Facilities from the June 2017 DSS magazine issue.  Brian also received the Recognition of Outstanding Service and Involvement (ROSI) award and celebrated 5 years as a DHI instructor.

Second place went to Dan White for his article The Gravity of Mentorship from the September 2017 DSS magazine issue.

We are very proud of Brian and Dan and appreciate their dedication and commitment, not only to Hager but to the door and hardware industry.


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Electronic Access Controls on Historic Buildings: Hager Companies Headquarters

This article appears in the October issue of the DHI Security + Safety Magazine and is reprinted here with their permission.

Historic buildings pose a unique security challenge. By their very nature they are outdated – from the original materials to antique hardware, they exist to showcase just how different things used to be. However, progress has often happened for a reason, and one of the leading reasons is security.

Antique door hardware may have been built to last, manufactured from heavy-duty metals, but modern security issues require more than physical strength. Access credentials, controlled entry, and electronic logging are all emerging as security necessities. Fortunately, electronic access control systems are built to seamlessly and almost invisibly integrate into projects, including historic buildings where authenticity is paramount.

There are several access control systems that feature scalable parts that integrate wirelessly into a central control system with queriable reports, but when the time came to upgrade the Hager headquarters, the obvious choice was HS4, Hager powered by Salto, the security system recently rolled out by Hager Companies.

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Next week, several members of the Hager team will be heading to Long Beach, California for the annual Specifications Consultants in Independent Practice meeting, better known as SCIP, and the CONSTRUCT Education and Exhibits show.

We always have a great time at both events and it gives us a chance to chat with specification writers to learn how we can better help their processes and solve any pain points.

CONSTRUCT 2014 – Baltimore

Our complete line of door hardware falls under one brand, the Hager brand, and we take pride in writing true non-proprietary specifications.  We focus on being correct, clear, concise and complete to make sure all parties in the channel understand how each door opening is expected to function before it’s installed.

SCIP Members Touring Hager HQ – CONSTRUCT 2015 – St. Louis

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Product Launches

There have been several exciting announcements regarding our Hager powered by Salto HS4 and Electronic Solutions product lines this week! To make sure you haven’t missed any here is a short recap:

HS4 Electronic Access Control

KS – Keys as a Service  WebpageBrochure | Press Release

An HS4 electronic access control platform for mobile and remote administrators. KS is a cloud-based access control platform that is managed from a smartphone, tablet, or PC, and accessed from a remote software engine. Always up-to-date with the latest features via instant updates and add-ons, the KS platform is easily maintained and managed. Infinite in size, it ensures real-time monitoring and immediate resolutions of any issues with a clear audit trail. These benefits and features make the KS platform perfect for retail, rental properties, and the ever more popular shared workspace markets.


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