Custom Steel Doors and Frames
Custom or In-Stock?
“What do you have in stock?” is something steel door distributors are hearing a little less these days. While there will always be demand for stock products, architects are increasingly choosing to customize – whether for acoustics, opting for bullet resistant doors, or to add a modern touch with slim profile frames.
Custom steel doors and frames may be selected for a variety of reasons.
Wouldn’t it be nice if every opening was a perfect 3’0” 7’0”? That’s not reality though. Oversized and other nonstandard dimensions come up all the time in special use buildings and retrofits.
Door assemblies can be upgraded for additional safety and comfort. They may offer protection from Mother Nature (e.g. hurricanes and tornadoes) or from people (e.g. sound reduction, forced entry resistant doors, bullet resistant doors or blast doors). Generally, these look just like regular doors because the performance comes from the door core and hardware.
Steel doors can have embossments or attractive panels. Some architects like to have millwork affixed to the trim or have a faux wood finish with woodgrain etching. There are countless ways to customize the appearance.
Custom steel doors and frames don’t have to be complicated. To pass along some ideas, here are recent custom projects completed by SDI Certified manufacturers.
With that in mind, the architects were seeking doors and frames that could withstand the climate, while also looking attractive in such a prominent tourism building.
They ended up contracting with Steelcraft, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, to produce 160 steel doors and frames with an embossed wood finish that emulates a real wood look through an engraining process in the door panel. A mahogany finish was selected for its rich appearance. Being in a humid environment, the standard galvannealed material type was a perfect match along with the strength of steel for a lasting solution.
The doors and frames had exactly what they wanted: the warmth of wood and the strength of steel.
The doors were a variety of sizes depending on the opening. In order to accommodate the blast conditions, parts of the frames were reinforced with solid steel blocks – no 20 gauge found in these doors! Some of the doors were up to 2-1/2” thick, many of which even had vision lights of 84mm thick specialty glass. The glass was layered instead of one solid chunk to meet the stringent blast and bullet resistance requirements.
The engineers at the nuclear power plant could have obtained these doors from Europe or any number of places, but they chose an American manufacturer because they liked what they saw when they toured the facility. Three months later they received the products, exactly to spec.
Standard door frames aren’t compatible with ICF, so the manufacturer contacted MPI in Corbin, KY to produce a custom solution. MPI produced custom integrated frame assemblies that would hold tight to the foam forms. The walls were poured with concrete and their custom frames became a solid part of the wall that meet all fire procedures and other industry requirements.
Ceco Door provided several types of acoustical openings including STC 45 and STC 50 ratings that required different sound seals, thresholds and door bottoms to achieve the required sound performance for the highly classified rooms. Radio Frequency Shielding openings were also supplied to ensure sensitive information is contained. The RF Openings provided 40 decibels of shielding along with STC 50 acoustical ratings. Blast resistant doors were also provided on particular exterior openings to meet the Department of Defense specifications.
Even though requirements on this project meant that some openings would require multiple performance attributes, Ceco was able to supply the variety of specialty openings that the Army needed to successfully complete the project.
In January 2015, ground broke in downtown Denver on a new high rise called The Confluence. Fast forward three years, and a new 34 story tower of luxury apartments now graces the Denver skyline. The building boasts 288 units of studios, one, two, and three bedroom apartments that are available for $1,500 to $12,000 per month.
A prominent door distributor in the Midwest, along with a local wholesaler, partnered with Pioneer Door to manufacture 700+ steel door frames of varying heights, widths, and depths. But there was a catch… isn’t there always? They wanted the frames to be made without returns and welded together to allow for millwork trim to be affixed to the frames.
Not only did Pioneer produce the custom frames and millwork on time, they adjusted their production schedule to make the logistics feasible for frame installation at The Confluence.
Construction was underway in the heart of downtown Los Angeles on what would become the tallest building in the West Coast. The project took immense logistical creativity due to the density of the location and the structure’s expansive footprint on the property. There were only a couple of loading docks and a perennial line of trucks waiting to drop off their materials, and without a convenient place for them to be stored.
The building required custom glazed elevations and thousands of standard, fire rated, and custom hollow metal doors and frames. Due to the lack of storage space, the GC was dreading having to manage and catalogue all of the products.
In light of this, the manufacturer, DCI Hollow Metal on Demand, offered to deliver the products in smaller batches as needed. They would deliver 50 one day, another batch the next, etc. so the GC could install them as received rather than manage thousands of doors and frames on site. While the products were on time and made to spec, it was the custom delivery schedule that saved the day.
Curries supplied more than 350 blast resistant openings to meet the required code standards of this project. The specialty doors were constructed to withstand from 12 psi to 34 psi of peak pressure to provide extra protection against explosions and excessive force.
In addition to needing the over 350 blast resistant openings on the project, the Navy also required the doors and frames to be delivered on a very strict and short schedule. To meet the challenge, Curries provided a shipping schedule that the distributor and contractor were able to work with to meet the Navy’s demands.
Their facilities organization was interested in acoustic doors that would limit the transmission of sound throughout the building. In addition to patient privacy, this would also comfort patients from the constant sounds of pacing personnel, noisy carts, and beeping machines.
HopeHealth ended up purchasing the acoustic doors from Republic Doors and Frames in McKenzie, TN. They produced doors with a variety of STC levels to suite the various openings, each with the necessary seals, door bottoms and thresholds to achieve the desired sound performance.
In 2010, an ambitious developer purchased the property to convert it into 1.1 million square feet of retail, offices, and residences – the city’s largest adaptive reuse project ever.
As you can imagine, the 85-year-old building was full of unique wall thicknesses, dimensions, and jamb depths. When it was all said and done, the developer purchased more than 500 doors in various sizes and styles, including custom 8’0” tall entry doors and frames. The doors were manufactured by Premier, who made them on a floor-by-floor basis to simplify storage during construction.
As you can see, there are countless ways to customize a door. Some architects are surprised by how easy it is to go custom. Steel door and frame manufacturers have the benefit of being able to use lasers and shears to size sheet metal to spec very efficiently.
The next time you’re wondering what’s in stock, consider if it’s worth going custom instead. Whatever customization you choose, consult with the manufacturer early in the process—they’ve seen it all and can be very helpful in the design process.