Door handing describes the direction that a door swings and which side of the door the hinges are located. Many times, door industry nomenclature may seem simple, yet can become complicated based on the intricacy of an opening. Even a simple term like “handing” can be more complicated than meets the eye! This week, Dylan Watkins (LaForce Building Products Consultant in Milwaukee) breaks down the terminology and describes some common missteps.
Most situations can be described with four handing types: Left Hand, Right Hand, Left Hand Reverse and Right Hand Reverse. A “regular” (Left Hand or Right Hand) vs. “reverse” (Left Hand Reverse or Right Hand Reverse) handing is determined by:
1 – Viewing the door from the secure side (typically the key side); and
2 – Considering which side the door has the hinges.
If you are viewing the door opening from the secure side (where the key enters the lock), and the door pushes away from you, this is a “regular” swing. If you are viewing the door opening from the secure side (where the key enters the lock), and the door pulls towards you, this is a “reverse” swing.
Once you know if a door is “regular” or “reverse”, you need to add the hand. Again, while viewing the door from the secure side, check if the hinges are on the right or the left. Add this information to your description.
In summary, when viewing the door from the secure side:
- If the door pushes away from you and is hinged on the right, the door is a Right Hand (RH).
- If the door pushes away from you and is hinged on the left, the door is a Left Hand (LH).
- If the door pulls towards you and is hinged on the right, the door is a Right Hand Reverse (RHR).
- If the door pulls towards you and is hinged on the left, the door is a Left Hand Reverse (LHR).
For non-keyed doors, you determine the handing the same way. Just consider which side would be the secure side if the door had a lock on it.
In addition to specifying correct handings, complex openings – such as openings with a panic device, a mortise lock, paired door openings, or double-egress door openings – may require additional description. It is important to ask more questions, which can include:
- Is there panic hardware or fire exit hardware? If so, the door is always described as a “reverse” door. This is because panic/fire exit hardware doors are always free from the side with the panic bar/push pad, which is always the push side. Therefore, the secured side has to be the pull side.
- Is there a mortise lockset? If using a mortise lockset in the door, a “reverse” handing can make a big difference in the prep of the door. If the mortise lockset has no escutcheon plate yet a keyed cylinder, the door could be prepped with the cylinder hole on the incorrect side of the door, if the handing is not specified correctly! This is a costly mistake, as a new door will need to be manufactured.
- If the door is a paired opening, which leaf is active? Along with the handing, you must note which door is the active leaf. The active leaf is the leaf with the lockset, while the inactive leaf may have flushbolts or other top or bottom latching hardware. If both leafs have the same hardware, it is known as “both leafs active.”
- Is it a double-egress pair of doors? Double-egress pairs have one leaf that swings toward you and one that swings away. They are designed this way to provide free egress in either direction. This makes determining the handing a little confusing since neither side can be considered a “secure” side. Therefore, double egress doors are typically described as Right Hand/Right Hand or Left Hand/Left Hand. If a double-egress door opening uses panic devices or fire exit hardware, both leaves should be described as “reverse” handings. Finally, if there are special locking arrangements, normal handing rules apply.
Other considerations related to door handing:
- Commercial and residential contractor languages are not the same! Residential contractors use a simple method of determining door handing known as “butt-to-butt.” If your butt is against the hinges, do you open the door using your left or right hand? This works for a few instances, but as detailed above: You can’t always be sure. Always ask multiple questions to ensure a proper application.
- Door closers (when handed) are only described as Right Hand or Left Hand, as door closers are not affected by the complexity of reverse door swings. Double-Acting door closers are non-handed.
- Some hardware is non-handed or can be handed in the field. A door should still be described appropriately to eliminate any errors.
- Most paired openings are commonly supplied as Right Hand or Right Hand Reverse, because of the flow of traffic. Even if this is the industry standard, it is still good to verify which leaf should be the active leaf, prior to ordering.
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