Volume 8, Issue 10 - November 2007

Lock & Load 
Ensuring Hardware and Side-Hinged Patio Door Performance
by Ellen Giard Rogers

To the average homeowner a patio door is just that—a door that opens to the backyard, back porch or perhaps a patio. But a lot goes into building that door. Patio door manufacturers take their doors through rigorous testing protocols to ensure the best possible performance. Many companies also go one step further and have the door certified and labeled. Certification and labeling are required by code for windows, but are voluntary when it comes to side-hinged doors, including patio doors.

While the 2006 International Residential Code referenced the AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/I.S.2/ A440-05 standard specification, the requirement for certification and labeling of side-hinged doors—including swinging patio doors—was excluded. Codes groups of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) and Window and Door Manufacturers Association are working to have that reference included in the next code cycle.

Manufacturers of side-hinged patio door companies agree that, because of performance issues and concerns inherent with hardware, testing is critical. Currently, though, there is no mechanism available for matching the performance of the hardware to that of the door. While task groups within AAMA work to develop a program to address this issue, what can manufacturers do to ensure the best possible door production? It all comes down to testing. 

Testing Matters
“Hinged patio doors were included in the window standard [101/I.S.2] for a number of years and from our point of view, we have tested to the entire standard through the 2002 version, which included air, water [and] structural,” says Jim Krahn, advanced research manager, codes and regulatory, with Marvin Windows & Doors in Warroad, Minn. “The big challenge was in the 2005 version of the standard when you had to look at all of your product lines and determine whether you wanted to include the forced entry test and the cycle test … they were the additions that made it more robust than the 2002 version.” Krahn continues, “It’s not necessarily a matter of performance issues, but is more a matter of complexity and the length of the different tests that you have to do.”

Rod Clark, a product manager for Jeld-Wen Windows & Doors, says testing is important because manufacturers want to know that the product they’re selling will be reliable. “If we’re going to sell something that we’ve typically warranted … and [if] a component doesn’t match that, we’re going to have an issue,” Clark says. “From an industry standpoint, they’re looking for something that will last a little longer. I think it just boils down to the fact that things have to work.” 

Hardware Challenges
Hardware selection, specifically locking systems and handle sets, can pose unique performance considerations. For example, what if the customer requests that the door be shipped without hardware? Such a scenario is not unusual for entry doors or hinged patio doors made without multi-point locks, as both are typically shipped loose of hardware, but problems could arise if the hardware that the builder, homeowner or installer selects does not equal the performance level to which the door has been tested.

“These days [door] installation instructions are much more detailed than they were in the past and we’re actually specifying the hardware that is to be used on the door,” says Clark. “If some other type of hardware is used it will void the warranty.”

When manufacturers conduct door testing, they are doing so on the entire door—hardware and all. “We conduct a complete system test on the whole door and sometimes cycle tests on the hardware itself to simulate stress,” says Jeff Kibler, brand manager for the Peachtree Companies in Mosinee, Wis. “We have our own labs and, for certification and testing purposes, we’re calibrated by a third party to witness/certify.”

Multi-Point Locks
Multi-point locking systems, which can be found on the majority of hinged patio doors produced today, have different considerations compared to standard locks. With the exception of the handle set, this type of hardware almost always is installed by the patio door manufacturer. 

“Many multi-point locks are somewhat proprietary and require special machining. When you sell a door with multi-point locks you’re probably also furnishing it with the locking hardware itself and the furniture [trim set/handle] because the center points on the hardware can be custom, so the handles almost always go with it [and are installed at the jobsite],” says Krahn. “There are isolated cases when somebody wants something special and custom. If that person comes to us and absolutely insists that they want to select their own handles, they will be told it’s not a certified product anymore.”

It’s still important to make sure the handle set added to the door will still perform to the same levels to which the completed door was tested.

“If we’re going to send out a door that does not have a trim set, then we also make the recommendation of the particular suppliers and particular handle sets required,” says Clark. “These are the ones we’ve tested and we know they will work. Anything else is at their own risk.”

Supplier Selection
Working closely with suppliers is one way manufacturers can ensure hardware performance.

Merrill Millwork in Merrill, Wis., is not the typical patio door manufacturer. The company supplies patio doors to window manufacturers that do not make their own. Bill Bauman, president of Merrill Millwork, says his company’s production of hinged patio doors runs about 50-50 between multi-point locks and standard locking systems.

“With the double bore [standard] we stock hardware for standard levers and bolts, but we can’t really offer any variety there, but we do have many types available from different hardware manufacturers, so customers can get that variety,” Bauman says. “With multi-point locks we limit ourselves to one supplier. While we have many finish options, it does limit our design offerings.”

Kibler says at the Peachtree Companies they design their hinged doors around the hardware itself.

“We select the hardware first and sometimes we work with the supplier to make custom hardware for a door,” he says, adding that there are also selection considerations, for which suppliers can be of assistance.

“You want to make sure that the design can support that type of door, as well as aesthetics issues. In other words, how does it fit integrally into the design?” Kibler says. For some manufacturers component interchangeability is an important consideration.

“Typically, we get the locks and trim sets from the same company, but one of the things you want to be able to do, from the variety standpoint, is select hardware from a particular manufacturer that could be substituted for another product,” says Clark. For example, if a customer requests a certain finish or a unique style that’s only available from one company, it’s important to know that the handle set will still fit the door’s lock mechanism. 

Code Revisions
Though many companies choose to have their hinged door products labeled and certified by AAMA, the program is voluntary and not required to show code compliance. Efforts within AAMA and WDMA are underway currently to amend the codes to require certification and labeling of all side-hinged doors. However, manufacturers could still be at risk if the hardware is below par when compared to the performance of the door, as there are no mandatory requirements enforcing hardware manufacturers to conduct component performance testing. If a builder, for example, can not prove to a building inspector that both the door and its hardware are in compliance, the entire job could be red-tagged, preventing a certificate of occupancy. AAMA’s Door Council, though, is working to develop a program that may help make meeting these requirements simpler. The program that would give companies wishing to have an AAMA-certified and labeled door the ability to choose the components based on their individual performance. 

“There are more variables in a door than you can replicate in a simple test,” says Eric Stoutenborough with HOPPE North America in Fort Atkinson, Wis. Stoutenborough also serves as the chair of the Door Handle Set Task Group within AAMA. Under the program, he explains, manufacturers could choose the components that match the criteria they need in order to meet certain performance levels, which could be beneficial, for example, when it comes to multi-point locking systems and handle sets, which are often changed.

Some manufacturers say this type of program could be very beneficial to their businesses. According to Bauman, when it comes to multi-point locks and handle sets, performance levels can vary when multiple suppliers are involved.

“That’s why [at this time] you only want to use one supplier for multi-point locks,” Bauman says. “We’re testing the complete units with the hardware and once you’ve done that you don’t want to supply [the finished door] with others.”

Bauman adds that a component-based program that would require hardware manufacturers to conduct the same performance testing as patio door companies could also be advantageous. “We don’t have the ability to test door hardware [specifically] … we rely on the hardware industry. It [could be helpful] if they had a standard to meet.”

Product failure or after-installation performance issues are other reasons why some manufacturers favor the component-based program. Clark says if something goes wrong after the door is installed it always goes back to the manufacturer. “There’s even legislation in some states that says specifically, it’s always the manufacturer, no matter what. We’re the ones usually on the hook and have to go out and fix it,” says Clark. But other manufacturers are not as optimistic and see some limitations with a component-based versus system-based system.

“Just because you have approved components does not mean the door will perform. It’s impossible to make a blanket statement one way or the other,” Krahn says. “In some cases, such as structural, you can test the hardware for strength and if your panel is within some reasonable comparison to what that hardware was tested with you’re OK. But if you make your panel out of less structural materials, it does not matter how good your hardware is, your product is not going to perform. Even though you can do some comparative testing in components it still requires that a representative total sample is tested so you have a baseline from which to work.”

What’s Next?
In completing the component-based program, AAMA task groups are working with existing reference documents [i.e., ANSI A250.13 and ASTM E330] in their efforts.

“We’re not trying to re-invent something,” Stoutenborough says, explaining that providing a measure of quality is their goal.

Completing the program is expected to take some time, just because there’s so much involved.

“Different [components] can perform differently,” Stoutenborough says, speaking specifically about the handle set group. “There’s just so much that can be different.” 

Ellen Giard Rogers is a contributing editor for DWM magazine.


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