How to Be a Door Hardware Technician
If I Were a Carpenter …
Sometimes doors must swing uphill in order to close because someone tried to bring in a 37-inch wide piece of equipment through a 36-inch opening, or the building settled, or the contractor miscalculated; but the end result is that the door frame may lean slightly to the push or pull side of the opening, creating a slope the door must climb to either open or close.
Through casual observation, this phenomenon can be difficult to detect . The one-eighth-inch gap between door and frame may be consistent all the way around the door. One can disconnect the door closer and see which way the door swings of its own accord to determine slant, or one could use a carpenter’s level. Simply place the level vertically against the door. If the bubble in the vial is between the lines the door and frame are plumb. If the bubble is elsewhere, door or frame or both are out of plumb.
When a door frame is “sprung” and its corners are no longer true, that is, its angles are no longer ninety degrees, the easiest way to measure the extent to which it is skewed is with a carpenter’s square.
If a door closes uphill and does not need to comply with ADA reduced force restrictions one can simply adjust the spring tension on the door closer (within reason) if the closer is adjustable, or if it is not adjustable replace the closer with one that is adjustable or has a more powerful spring.
To correct the root of the problem might be a much more ambitious undertaking, because if the gap between the door and frame is even all the way around, and the joints between the frame and the wall are consistent and clean, it is probably the wall itself that is out of plumb. Then it might be a matter of removing and re-mounting the door frame "crookedly" in relation to the frame, but plumb and square in relation to the earth.
Wrap your head around that. :)
Access control continues to expand its interactive role with door hardware. Now, problems that were once purely mechanical often take an “electrifying” turn. However, it is not always a highly technical problem. For example, if all the powered devices suddenly cease to work on a given door, the first place to look is for the electric through-wire hinge. Did someone have a piano delivered? Did a mover pound the hinge pin out of the electric hinge? If so, guess what: that hinge is not an electric through-wire hinge anymore.
The piano story above is an example of the kind of problem that often occurs when high tech meets low tech. Whether it is through negligence or ignorance makes no difference, the result is the same: damaged hardware and an opening that no longer functions properly.
Electrified hardware tends to be easier to damage and generally more sensitive than non-electrified hardware, therefore, as a rule, users can expect electrified openings to require more maintenance over time than purely mechanical openings. Solenoids and electric motors usually wear faster than mechanical locks do, and are almost always more expensive to replace or repair.
Although door hardware technicians can view this increased need for maintenance as an assurance of continued employment, it can also be a source of time-wasting puzzlement, no matter how much hardware, electrical or electronic experience a technician may possess. Most of the mechanical problems that occur with doors and door hardware are immediately visible at the opening, but electrical problems can be much more insidious. Even with the latest testing equipment it can be very difficult to pinpoint a malfunction in a system that may include an exit device with electric latch retraction and a request-to-exit switch, a magnetic door position switch, a proximity reader, a motion detector, an electric hinge, a power operator with on-board logic board, a power supply, interfaces with fire and burglar alarm panels and remote monitoring capabilities.
A patient and methodical approach works best when dealing the sometimes complex reasons for electrical or electronic hardware problems.
Software and Hardware
The role of computers in access control creates adds a new dimension of complexity to door hardware installation and repair. Computer problems can quickly become door problems when the two are connected. For example, if the access control software is programmed to permit or deny access to individual workers according to their shift, havoc could result if the network’s real time clock malfunctions.
PoE (Power over Ethernet), in which the network server supplies power to electrified door hardware, adds still another variable. What happens if the server stops supplying power? Now you need the System Administrator and/or the Information Technology Department involved.
If a user cannot gain access using their credential (prox card, prox key, pin code, etc.), the problem may lie with the credential, the reader, the controller or the software; or it could just as easily be user error or intermittent hardware failure. Sometimes with computer related electric locking hardware issues one must explore all possibilities more than once to find the answer; however, this is the case whenever one depends upon others for their knowledge.
It Takes a Village
Today’s users want and expect to have one technician (or vendor) to address all of their door and door hardware issues and needs, but as the diversity of expertise needed to do so continues to expand, many technicians are finding themselves ‘behind the ball.’ Not only are there questions they cannot readily answer, often they do not know whom to ask. Sometimes they are not even sure what questions to ask.
My advice to door hardware technicians is to learn all you can about everything remotely connected with door hardware, and in every facility you service, get to know the electrical, HVAC, carpentry, and access control and/or systems integration vendors that service the facility, as well as the information technology technician or systems administrator for the computer network that hosts the access control software. These other vendors and/or facilities personnel will probably be able to provide the expertise you do not have or at least steer you toward the information you need to do your job.
There is no shame in not knowing everything; no one does, after all. But it is a shame when things don’t get fixed because someone failed to ask a question.
This article was excerpted from the article, " Butcher, Baker, Door Hardware Technician … " published in the February edition of Doors and Hardware Magazine, published by the Door and Hardware Institute.