Hold-Open Door Hardware
When the first human shelters with solid walls were built they must have been made with an opening through which a person might enter. Then there was a storm that created the need for a way to close the opening against the weather. At first the means of closing the opening was probably a curtain; later, after the idea of the hinge manifested itself, it became a door.
Doors are a very convenient means of closing, but they are a less convenient means of opening. Clearly the most convenient access is provided by the absence of a door. Doors that open and close by themselves as a person approaches are almost as convenient as no door at all, however automatic doors are expensive and require energy that is largely wasted upon people who are physically able to open a door for themselves. But because people are often lazy or forgetful, the hydraulic door closer is a handy means of making sure doors are shut after the space cadets have passed through. Door closers are very widely used in commercial applications where cooling and heating energy conservation is a major concern, or in security applications such as entrances to multi-unit dwellings or other secure spaces.
Arising from the widespread use of door closers is the need, on occasion, to temporarily hold open doors that would otherwise close automatically. This need ranges from a matter of being convenient, for example, bringing a load of groceries into one’s apartment building, to more important matters such as holding doors open in hospital corridors for daily use while ensuring that they close and positively latch in the event of a fire alarm.
In the case of the apartment building, often a kick down door holder or plunger type door holder will do the job, like the Ives FS455 or FS1153 above. The problem with kick downs or plungers is that often the rubber wears out and then the metal makes a permanent unpleasant mark in the floor. Also, especially in the kick downs, the mechanism itself wears out and then it seems to want to hold the door open all the time - not good for security.
Something on the order of a hook-and-eye (like the Ives FS446 pictured at the beginning of this article) is often adequate. The user must open the door and then put the hook through the eye to secure the door in the open position. If the door must be held open frequently, or the user is allergic to (or unable to perform) the work of putting the hook in place, there are several spring-driven devices that do the same job, but do it every time the door is opened to a certain degree.
One such is the automatic door holder, such as the Ives FS40 pictured above right. Degree of opening is controlled by location. The user opens the door until the striker, installed on the floor (or wall), engages with the door-mounted spring-loaded mechanism. The door is held open until the striker is pulled out of the spring loaded mechanism.
A door closer with a friction hold-open arm (see below) works in much the same way, except it does not take up floor space. The problem with a friction hold-open arm is that the very same friction that holds the door open wears out the mechanism that causes the friction. That means that the more one uses the friction hold-open arm, the sooner someone has to climb a ladder and adjust it. Tell me, will that someone be you? I think not.
If you are really fixated on the idea of your door closer also being your door-hold-opener, and your door is no more than say, seven feet tall, I suggest you use something like the LCN closer below that has what they call a 'Hold-Open Cush 'n' Stop' arm. Norton Door Controls also offers a closer on the same idea, but they call it a 'Hold-Open Closer Plus' arm.
The difference, as you might notice, is a handle that the user turns to activate the hold-open function of the door closer. The handle means that it is no longer friction that effects the hold-open, so adjustment tends to be less frequent. An added benefit is that the door can be opened fully without activating the hold-open. Less maintenance and more control: I'd say it is a winner.
Instead of incorporating the hold open feature into your door closer, you can get a separate piece of hardware that does the same thing: the overhead stop and holder. The overhead stop and holder is great when you have an exterior door that is subject to wind. It stops the door before it reaches the end of its swing, preventing damage to hinges and closer and possibly the door itself.
The problem with the overhead stop and holder is installing it with a door closer. If you choose a surface mounted overhead stop and holder, often it must be installed on the opposite side of the door from the closer, or the closer must be modified so that it can work around the overhead stop and holder.
All right, I admit it. It tends to be a nightmare. But it can work really well if you spend a little time with the manufacturer's tech support people.
The overhead stop shown below is the Glynn Johnson 100S series. It is a concealed overhead stop - which is the easiest kind of overhead stop to make work with a door closer.
In addition to mechanical hold-opens there are electric ones. Electrically operated hold-opens are typically used in commercial or institutional applications in conjunction with the fire alarm. They are most often used on hospital corridor doors that are always open until the fire alarm is activated. Then the electric hold-open devices all release, allowing the hydraulic door closers to close the doors.
There are two kinds of electric hold-opens: electromagnetic and electromechanical. Electromagnetic hold opens are simply electric magnets. Electromechanical hold-opens are incorporated into a door closer so that the same mechanism that holds the door open also shuts it.
Below are pictured examples of both. Both are designed as life safety hardware, to work in conjunction with the fire alarm to help insure that fire doors are closed and positively latched in the event of a fire: serious business.
In addition to the life safety functions of electromagnetic and electromechanical hold opens, they are sometimes used to hold doors open for other reasons. For example, a high powered executive can throw a switch and open the door, and the door will stay open until the executive throws the switch again, releasing the hold open.
On one hand one might consider this to be the very pinnacle of laziness. I mean really, can't you get up and shut the door. On the other hand there is dramatic effect: after the meeting the door mysteriously closes behind the last VP who exits, seemingly all by itself. Spooky.
The closing door is a metaphor for many life events, as is the opening door. Holding a door open can have unexpected consequences as well as unforeseen connotations. Choose your hold-open hardware wisely.
More by this Author
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The theory and practice of door closer adjustment, with steps and detailed instructions to adjust the swing of your hydraulic door closer.