Installation Troubleshooting Guide for Standard Steel Doors and Frames
- Improper Door/Frame Clearance
- Door Bind Against Rabbet
- Hinge Bind Against Stops
- Twisted Door
- Twisted Door Adjustments
- Twisted Frame
- Frame Set out of Square
- Frame with Rabbets Toed In or Out
- Lock Fits Loose on Strike
- Lock Fits Too Tight in Strike
- Lockset Off Location on Door Strike Off Location in Frame in Wall
- Miter Not Closed on Frame
- Clearance at Bottom of Door Too Small
- Frame and Door Hinge Misalignment
- Frame Loose on Drywall
- Glazed Window Units
- Label Missing from Fire-Rated Frame
- Label Missing from Fire-Rated Door
- Paint Problems
- Water Stain Damage
- Thermal Bow
The user of this document assumes all responsibility associated with but not limited to product performance and violation of product warranties for any product associated with the installation and suggested repair methods in this document.
The intent of this document is to cover field installation problems most commonly experienced with standard steel door and frame installations. It should be understood that most problems encountered are because of inappropriate application of the products and/or improper installation.
The suggested method of repairs requires only basic hand tools and relatively little time. It should be understood that more complex problems or compound problems could exist which warrant extensive field repairs and modification to products. These types of field installation problems are not intended to be covered in this document and should not be made without first consulting the manufacturer.
To ensure proper door and frame function, the clearance between the door and frame must be properly maintained. All standard steel door and frame manufacturers closely hold tolerances that result in a nominal clearance between the door and frame of 1/8 inch. If this clearance is not maintained, interference and hardware misalignment may occur.
The Steel Door Institute has many publications which were developed to establish industry standards and assist in specifying as well as installing standard steel doors and frames. One publication, ANSI/SDI 250.11, Recommended Erection Instructions for Steel Frames, will be of assistance regarding the erection and installation of standard steel frames.
Although styles and types vary, many manufacturers offer built-in features that allow hinge pockets on doors and frames to be modified from standard-weight to heavy-weight. Examples of the different methods are: grinding or flattening down raised embossments in shim plates or reinforcements; removing or breaking off hinge filler shim plates; adjusting set screws; and removing wire shims. These options all involve removing material from the pocket to allow for heavy-weight depth to be achieved. As always, check with individual manufacturers to determine the type of modifications offered.
Is the door binding?
Frames which are out of plumb will likely cause improper operation of locksets and binding of bolts in the strike. Check carefully the installation of the frame prior to making hardware adjustments.
Normally, hinge bind is found between the door and rabbet. There are several ways of shimming which will move the door in different directions. The following guidelines should be used in shim applications.
Hinge bind against the frame stops is possible field condition. Again, there are several ways of shimming which will move the door in the desired direction. The following guideline should be used in shim application.
- Using Shim “A” only, door will be relocated in direction of Arrow “X”.
- Using Shim “B” only, will move both door and centerline of hinge barrel in direction of Arrow “X”.
- Using both Shims “A” and “B” will relocate the door in direction of Arrow “X” by a greater amount than by using Shim “B” alone.
- Using Shim “C” only, door will be relocated in direction of Arrow “Y”.
- Using Shim “D” only, both door and centerline of hinge barrel will move in direction of Arrow “Y”.
- Using both Shims “C” and “D” will relocate the door in direction of Arrow “Y” by a greater amount than by using either “C” or “D” alone. The centerline of hinge barrel will be relocated the same as by using Shim “D” alone.
Normal installation results in the plane of the door face being parallel with the plane of the frame face. If the frame is square and plumb, all face surfaces of the frame will be in the same plane. A twisted door will “break through” the frame’s face plane surface. BE SURE the frame is square and plumb. If it is not, the problem is probably with the frame installation and NOT the door.
When required, it is possible to “spring” the door back to (or much closer to) its ideal position of being parallel with the imaginary plane across the faces of the frame. This can usually be done with the door remaining in the frame. A piece of wood blocking must be placed between the door and frame. Pressure is then applied at the twisted area to “spring” the door. However, caution should be exercised on drywall installations since the frame could possibly work lose from the wall, particularly with slip-on drywall type frames.
An alternate method can also be used which will allow the door to remain in the opening. This method might be appropriate in drywall installations as previously mentioned. Although the example shown deflects the top half of the door, this method could be used on the bottom half of the door as well.
Wall conditions and anchoring methods can cause the frame to be “twisted” in the opening. The two jamb (hinge and strike) faces are not in the same plane as discussed in the twisted door section. This can be checked by using a level and/or plumb bob. Frames do not have adjustments when it comes to “twist”.
The importance of proper initial frame installation is evident in this condition. In the majority of wall constructions, except for the “slip-on” drywall type frames, “quick,” “easy” field fixes are limited. Improperly set frames which have the rabbets drastically toed in or out would require extensive field repair and in most cases require that the wall be entered to gain access to frame anchoring.
The toed in or out condition is worse near the floor. The header prevents the upper portion of the jambs from toeing in or out but as you move away from the header towards the floor, the jambs have greater potential to be toed in our out during installation.
The only frame with this condition which can be corrected with little difficulty is the “slip-on” drywall frame. Since the “slip-on” drywall frame uses only compression anchors near the head and sill anchors near the bottom of the jambs, this condition is easily corrected.
If both jambs are toed in/out, they both should be “squared-up.” This can be checked by taking measurements as shown above. Both the “A” and “B” dimensions will be the same when the frames are properly set.
The below figure shows a condition which can give the impression that the frame is properly installed. Both dimensions “A” and “B” will be equal but the frame will not be square in the opening. Both jambs can be twisted to create a parallelogram. This can be checked by placing a straight edge across the face of both jambs (the straight edge is represented by the dotted line shown below. The straight edge should set flat across both faces at the same time. If the jambs are twisted, a “gap” will be created as shown in the illustration. The “gaps” will be to the same side if a parallelogram was created. The gaps could also be to opposite sides as shown in the Typical Toed In or Out Condition figure on the previous page.
Some manufacturers provide a silencer hole in the frame stop to accept a push-in silencer. A “stick-on” silencer is also available for application to frames without the silencer hole. The silencer acts as a “rubber bumper” which evenly holds the door off the stop at a constant distance. If the door is held off of the stop rather than being allowed to move slightly towards the stop, the latch tube will fit tighter into the strike. Three silencers are placed on the strike jamb, one toward the top of the jamb (nearer the header) and one toward the bottom of the jamb (nearer the sill) and the third near the strike preparation.
This condition cannot be caused by an improperly set door and/or frame. If the lockset on the door was not properly aligned with the strike on the frame, interference would occur or the latch bolt would bind in the strike. Since this is not the case; the cause is something other than improper installation. The following should be checked:
The previously mentioned items should be checked and any problems corrected. If the latch continues to tightly engage the strike, additional clearance can be created by filing the strike or bending the latch bolt lip as shown. However, this should only be done as a final option.
Minor location adjustments usually can be accomplished by altering the strike plate. The strike plate alteration would “extend” the opening to allow the latch tube to properly engage the strike. This is similar to the section “Lock Fits Too Tight in Strike” except that the amount of material removed from the strike is greater. This could compensate for minor mislocation of the strike plate on the frame and/or location of the lockset on the door. These general steps should be followed for modifying the strike plate.
The major cause of miters not properly lining up and “closing” is incorrect installation. The effects of improper installation on miter seams are covered under the previous section of “Frame Set Out of Square.” This section should be referenced for detailed explanations of conditions which could occur, and solutions for correcting the problems.
The available options for correcting this problem are limited. Frames which are permanently anchored to the wall construction (such as masonry or steel stud) leave few alternatives. The only available “fix” is to trim the bottom of the door, if the door’s construction will permit trimming. As shown in the figure below, the nominal “sill clearance” should be ¾ of an inch. The sill clearance is the dimension from the bottom of the door to the bottom of the frame jambs, and ¾” is a standard industry wide dimension.
Before any alterations are made the door height dimensions should be checked.
The door height is determined by taking a measurement represented by dimension “A” in the figure. If the door height is “oversize” the clearance at the bottom will be too small.
The frame jamb height (which is the same as the opening height) is determined by taking a measurement represented by dimension “B”. If the jamb height is “undersize,” the clearance at the bottom will be too small.
The bottom of the frame jambs should be set “on” the floor not “in” the floor. In some special cases the jambs can be set “in” the floor but this requires special design consideration and adjustments in door height and jamb heights. If this was not compensated for in the designed heights, the clearance at the bottom could be too small.
By taking these basic dimensions, you can confirm what element of the opening is in error. If trimming the bottom of the door is considered, you must make sure that the door’s design will allow such a modification to be made. It is best to contact the distributor or the manufacturer to determine if and how much the door can be trimmed. These types of trimming modifications can be relatively simple or more extensive depending on door design.
Frame and door hinge misalignment can cause a variety of problems. When misalignment occurs, either the door’s hinge locations or frame’s hinge locations are slightly off. This can apply to retrofitting existing openings where either the door or frame is being replaced, but not both. When new doors and frames are provided from a single manufacturer, this problem does not exist.
The example shown on the following page reflects the dropping of the hinge leaf which attaches to the door from its relationship to the hinge leaf on the frame. However, by removing material from the opposite end of the knuckles, the door hinge leaf could be raised as well. The frame hinge leaf can also be relocated in similar fashion.
Frame manufacturers closely control the dimensions to which their frames are manufactured. Since automated equipment is used these dimensions are easily repeated from piece to piece. The majority of cases where frames are loose on drywall will reveal that the overall wall thickness has not been properly maintained. Wall thickness conditions can vary from undersize to oversize. The thickness should be checked, if possible, to verify the wall’s compliance with the job specification.
Some frames use welded or snapped-in steel or wood stud anchors. These frames are installed prior to the drywall material being attached to the studs. The drywall can either be “butted-up” against the return of the frame or be “tucked in” behind the return of the frame. Only in the installation where the drywall is “tucked in” behind the return can there be a condition where the frame is loose on the drywall. This gap could be uniform along the entire length (height) of the jamb or could be only in certain areas. Since the frame cannot be removed, the only available options are to caulk the gap or cover it with trim.
These frames are intended to be installed after the wall construction is complete. The anchoring methods that this type of frame uses allows the removal of the frame if so desired. The manufacturers’ installation instructions should be followed anytime the frame is removed and reinstalled. Three conditions could exist for drywall slip-on frames which are “loose on the wall.”
1) The first condition is a uniform gap along the entire length (height) of the frame jambs. The frame should be removed from the opening and the wall thickness checked at numerous places around the opening. These measurements should be compared to the job specifications. If the wall thickness is undersize, two options are available.
b) If the gap is larger, the use of “spacers” can offset the lacking wall thickness. The use of spacers requires that the frame be removed from the opening, the spacer(s) attached, and the frame reinstalled. The spacers can be used on either one or both of the frame returns which would result in spacers on either one side or both sides of the wall. Spacers are available from the frame manufacturer.
2) The second condition would be a gap that changes along the length (height) of the jamb. This condition is generally found in steel stud construction and results in “over thick” walls in the upper corners of the opening, refer to Figure 5. This is usually a direct result of how the steel stud headers were attached to the vertical steel studs to form the opening. When the wall is oversize (in this area) it will force the header and jamb miters to spread apart and actually open up the throat dimensions to accept the oversize wall. This will cause the corners of the frame to be extremely tight on the wall and as you progress down the jamb, a gap will begin to develop and then gradually disappear closer to the floor, see figure further below on “Gap produced by oversized wall”.
This condition should be reported to the appropriate jobsite personnel. The condition can be corrected by putting a bearing plate on each side of the corner and compressing the internal steel studs with a clamp. However, the responsibility for correcting this condition belongs to the sub-contractor responsible for the actual wall construction.
3) The third condition is different from the first two which address the “fit” of the frame over the wall thickness. The cause of this condition is compression anchors which have not been tightened. The drywall frame would then be loose across the width of the opening and move from side to side against the rough opening.
Hollow metal borrowed light, transom, and combination sidelight frames are an excellent choice for exterior openings due to their design flexibility, thermal performance, and security. These types of frames are not factory sealed to prevent water infiltration; the contractor/installer must seal all joints that are exposed to the elements after the frame assembly is installed.
Manufacturers cannot control the workmanship associated with the installation of these types of frames, therefore, this work must be specified in the installation/glazing/caulking section of specifications.
Like doors, fire-rated frames are an important element of compliance with building codes and fire protection standards. Consequently, proper control of the labels which are attached to the frame is top priority for the manufacturer, code official and labeling agency. Once the product is in the field, whether it is installed or not, no one, including the manufacturer is permitted to attach labels unless a representative of the manufacturer’s labeling agency has inspected the product for compliance with the manufacturer’s procedures. Only authorized individuals can be in possession of and attach labels to fire rated products in the field.
All labels on fire rated frames are located on the hinge jamb between the top and middle hinge (see figure below). It should be noted that some frames have an embossed label, rather than a surface-attached label. The embossed label is stamped into the frame rabbet and can be painted over.
Fire-rated doors are an important element of compliance with building codes and fire protection standards. Consequently, proper control of the labels is top priority for the manufacturer, code official and labeling agency. (The manufacturer must account for every label used and the label can only be applied at the manufacturer’s facility or at an authorized labeling distributor of the manufacturer.) Once the product is in the field, whether it’s installed or not, no one, including the manufacturer is permitted to attach labels unless a representative of the manufacturer’s labeling agency has inspected the product for compliance with the manufacturer’s labeling procedures. Only authorized individuals may be in possession of and attach labels to fire rated products in the field.
Labels on fire-rated doors are located in one of two places, either between the top and middle hinge, or on the top channel (see figure). Be sure you are looking for the label in the correct location.
If the product is only prime painted, and peeling has occurred, then poor adhesion between the primer and bare metal has occurred. This can usually be attributed to inadequate surface preparation before prime painting. The bare metal must be adequately prepared to ensure good prime paint adhesion. The door should be completely sanded, washed with solvent and re-primed. The sanding and washing operations provide an adequate surface to assure good primer adhesion.
The failure could be caused by either poor surface preparation before prime painting or the use of a non-compatible finish paint that has reacted with the primer and lifted all paint from bare metal. In either case the corrective measure would be the same. The door should be completely sanded and washed with an appropriate solvent. The door should then be re-primed. Lightly sand the prime coat, wipe and finish-paint with a compatible top coat. Whenever the door is being prepared for top or finish-coat painting the surface should be cleaned. Use the same solvent that will be used to thin the topcoat paint and thoroughly clean all surfaces to be painted.
Both hollow metal doors and frames have various holes that are drilled and tapped. These holes are in various components such as reinforcements. All of the components are brought together as an assembly prior to the painting operation.
There are a variety of painting methods manufacturers can use. Some of these methods can result in paint build-up in the tapped holes of the reinforcements. This build-up can make installation of screws difficult. The build-up should be removed to make screw installation easier and assure that the screws are properly seated.
The best method of cleaning the tapped holes is to use an actual thread tap which matches the screw thread. The tap will easily cut though and clean paint build-up and by running it in and out of the hole. If the build-up is not as great and extra screws are available (or can be obtained) a screw can be run in and out of the hole to clean minor build-up prior to final screw installation.
- Initially, the water stain appears as a discoloration or variance in sheen or gloss in the primer. Damaged areas will look and possibly feel different from the rest of the product.
- If the water stain has existed for a considerable length of time and was caused by • large amounts of water, rust will start to appear through the discolored areas.
- Water stain damage can be detected by random areas of finish paint failure on the door as well as the appearance of uniform rust development on those areas. In some cases the finish paint will show good adhesion in water damaged areas but will also show a uniform layer of rust developing through the finish paint.
- For products that are prime painted only, the affected areas should be adequately • sanded. If necessary, the area should be sanded to bare metal. The entire door/frame surface should then be lightly sanded and “feathered” into any heavily sanded areas. The entire surface should then be re-prime painted.
- For products that are finish painted, the affected areas should be adequately sanded. • If necessary the area should be sanded to bare metal. The entire remaining finish-painted area should then be lightly sanded and “feathered” into any heavily sanded areas. If bare metal is showing, these areas should be re-prime painted and lightly sanded to “feather” into the lightly sanded finish-painted areas. The product should then be re-finish painted.
- When the door is being prepared for top or finish coat painting, the surface should first be cleaned. Use the same solvent that will be used to thin the topcoat paint and thoroughly clean all surfaces to be painted.
Installers need to be aware of a condition known as Thermal Bow. Thermal Bow is a temporary condition which may occur in metal doors due to the inside-outside temperature differential. This is more common when the direct rays of the sun are on a door surface. This condition is temporary, and to a great extent depends on the door color, door construction, length of exposure, temperature, etc. This condition can often be alleviated by painting the exposed surface a light color. Thermal bow can occur in reverse under extremely cold conditions. Typical symptoms of thermal bow are hardware latching difficulty and door clearance issues.