Repair or Replace? Five Questions to Ask About Your Old Door(s)

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Building and maintenance professionals are charged with making facilities function properly. But what happens when it’s a door issue? Below are five questions to consider!

1. Is it a Minor Issue or a Major Issue?

If a door has a minor issue – the hinge squeaks, the closer leaks, or the lock doesn’t lock – we can often replace individual parts, and provide economical service to the existing opening.

If the door has a major issue – it needs to swing a different direction, or the frame is no longer structurally sound – we are usually better off replacing the entire opening. This delivers a better result that will be more affordable over time.

“Do it fully right once, not halfway right twice!”

2. Is it an Aesthetic Issue or a Functional Issue?

If a door or frame has surface rust or superficial damage that does not affect its function (meaning that security or fire resistance are not affected), repairs can be made with body filler, paint, or even patch fixtures.

If a door or frame has significant structural issues stemming from rust-through, broken anchoring points, forklift damage, frost heave, building settling, or other factors, replacement is often the wiser, longer-lasting solution.

3. Will the Door’s Code Requirements Change?

Often, if you are just adding a closer or replacing a lockset, minor repair work is sufficient and code requirements will not change.

But if you are changing the function of a building or room, you may also be changing the function of that doorway.

  • For example, you may be combining two smaller rooms into a larger conference room. Egress capacity requirements of the larger space may indicate that your door should use panic hardware, where previously it was fine with a simple lever lockset.
  • In another instance, a door that was once relied upon for security may now also need to serve as a fire break within the building. Rely on your door expert and your Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) for guidance. Repair or replacement may depend on the application.

In addition, building codes change. If you are completing significant updates, you want to be sure that the material you are installing is “up to code.” This is where it helps to know a door expert. You want to be confident that when your project is complete, your doors will not cause inspection issues. Repair or replacement may depend on applicable codes.

4. Does the Door Need to be Fire Rated?

If the AHJ determines that your door needs to be fire rated, both the door and frame usually need to be replaced. Sometimes the frame may be labeled – but not the door – in which case only the door would need to be replaced. In instances where you have many openings that need to be rated, it can be more cost effective to have a labeling agency inspect the frames and possibly add a label to them. This is costly for 1-2 openings but can be cost effective for many openings. Closers will need to be added if the openings currently do not have them, as well as latching hardware if the openings currently only have push/pull hardware.

5. Does the Door Need a Window Added?

If you decide that you want a window in a fire rated door, the door will need to be replaced. You cannot cut a window in an existing fire rated door, since it will void the fire rating. The available size of window is determined by the fire rating on the opening and the type of glass used.

Guest Authors: Mike Morse and Maurie Paul
Mike and Maurie are Building Consultants in LaForce’s Madison market. Special thanks for their valuable contribution to the LaForce Frame of Mind!

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