Specifying Door Hardware – Tips for Interior Designers & Architects

Handle by adrazahl, on FlickrI am often surprised by how difficult interior designers and architects find the process of specifying door hardware. I have seen even relatively experienced interior designers or architects have a look of fear (or perhaps I’m mixing up the glazed eyes of boredom?) when I’ve asked them to prepare the door hardware schedule for a project. Door hardware specifications are also something that frequently go wrong on a project, and on a larger project such as a hospital or in a specialised secure environment, these mistakes can have much more significant cost consequences than we imagine ($40K worth of door hardware can be a bit of a shock, but I’ve heard of that happen, thankfully that wasn’t my own project!) One of the project managers that I used to work with regularly asked why we could not just specify the same door hardware on every project?

So why can’t we have the same door hardware on every project? It’s not just the capricious will of the interior designers or architects as perhaps some project managers sometimes think.  It is the fact that there are different performance requirements for doors on each project which often are based on differing client requirements for specific security, acoustics and even aesthetics (I had one client who had a fetish for sliding doors). I will admit is also true that there are also different aesthetic requirements on the part of the interior designer or architect as well.

In my opinion there are several difficulties we encounter when specifying door hardware:

  1. There are many objects that make up ‘door hardware’ and its not something that seems to be taught to students of architecture or interior design. If all goes smoothly on site, door hardware is not something that is examined in detail.
  2. The way that door hardware is often demonstrated in supplier images is frequently mystifying to the uninitiated – the lock or handle might be shown individually rather than any images of how it fits onto the door or with another piece of hardware. Often component parts are not clearly identified. I always found it quite hard to learn from supplier catalogues without any other explanations or understanding.
  3. There is then the challenge of getting all of the parts of the door and its hardware to coordinate together – in particular the door frames, the door handles and locks and the door seals – which come from different suppliers. Again the product information is often not clear enough to enable specifiers to be sure if their selections fit together, and because we are all trying to keep documentation costs down, hardware & seals are infrequently detailed.
  4. Finally the door hardware schedule itself tends to be quite detailed and often number or code heavy document which makes reviewing items against product information time consuming and checking onerous.

For these reasons interior designers and architects often rely on the door hardware representative to prepare the schedules for them. Whilst this is a very useful service, the interior designer or architect still needs to have some knowledge of door hardware. They have to be able to brief the door hardware specifier on the client requirements and communicate with the security consultants. If the interior designer doesn’t understand the details of door hardware it may be difficult for them to communicate these requirements. Someone also needs to check the schedule – just the same as you would have someone review something that was prepared in your own office.

My tips for specifying door hardware

  1. When you are learning – Work with an experienced door hardware specifier, this could either be someone in your office or a supplier. But don’t just expect them to prepare the schedule. Ask questions so that you start to understand what the hardware is actually being specified. Look up the information, diagrams or images in the catalogue to see if you can actually understand what it is being illustrated and ask questions if you don’t.  Look at door hardware on site too.
  2. Personally when briefing the door hardware consultant I like to use a door by door Revit schedule identifying the hardware requirements for each door and my selected hardware models. I ask the door hardware specifier to let me know if they disagree with any of my selections or have alternatives to offer. Here is an example.
  3. If you have specific situations where clearances are key, for example clearances between door handles and door frames on sliding door, prepare a fully detailed drawing to illustrate how the sliding door is supposed operate. Whilst it takes a bit more time, that way you won’t end up with a situation with people jamming fingers or handles installed on the glass when they were supposed to be on the stile. If there is a drawing and it doesn’t work the builder should come back to you with an RFI. This has saved me more than once. Once you have set up the details once, they don’t take too long to modify for slightly differing hardware configurations.  Here is an example.
  4. If you have electronic security or specific client security needs such as requirements for dual locking systems you may have to spend more time working through with the door hardware and coordinating with the security consultant on the details. The interiors/architectural hardware schedule needs to identify which doors have electronic security as well as include any physical security the security consultant requires.
  5. If RFIs come up in relation to the door hardware and you know the builder has substituted items ask the builder for the code numbers of the substituted items and make a record of this for the next time you specify. This is good practice with any RFI. I keep a list of all documentation errors, omissions or misunderstandings discovered on each project after tender stage (regardless of if our team found them, the builder queried issues or something just didn’t look right in the final product).
  6. If you have come up with a set of hardware that all works together, can you use it again? If it meets the project requirements there is no reason why not!

Do you have any tips for door hardware specifications and schedules? Do you have any questions on door hardware? Does anyone actually like specifying door hardware?

Image credits:

Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  adrazahl