Considerations on Updating Walkthrough Doors

Many people walk through your entrance door each and every day. This is the first impression of your business that they see and touch. When is it time to upgrade your entrances? There are many considerations to retrofitting your existing, aluminum-framed entrance systems. Technology and options have changed greatly since most buildings’ entrances were installed.

Retrofitting existing, aluminum-framed entrance doors

By Ron Schaaf

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About half of all U.S. commercial and institutional buildings were constructed prior to the 1980s. Many of today’s buildings will continue to be in use until 2050. This presents a high likelihood that the entrances will need renovation, and that owners and occupants will benefit from the improvements.

Here are seven key conditions to consider for entrance door updates:

1. The age of the entrance. If your building is in a historical district, replacement doors should replicate the design, proportion and arrangement of glazing as closely as possible. This includes matching the original finish color. The Rehabilitation Tax Credit program offers 10 and 20 percent credits for qualified, certified, renovation projects.

2. The frequency of use. Door types vary in their ability to handle the amount of daily contact and volume of operation. A narrow stile door is designed for light usage, a medium stile door for light to moderate usage, and a wide stile door for heavy usage. Doors with heavy wall construction are designed to take on high traffic flow. Heavy wall, narrow stile doors accommodate moderateto- heavy usage; heavy wall, medium stile doors handle heavy usage; and heavy wall, wide stile doors withstand abusive usage.

3. The climate and geography. In northern climates, a thermal entrance door and frame should be considered. Thermal entrances will provide maximum insulating properties and limit the heat transfer from the interior by separating the aluminum components. In warmer climates, choosing high-performance glass, or matching shading devices with entrance systems, will help manage unwanted solar heat gain to keep entries more comfortable.

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4. The hardware selections. Specific egress hardware may be needed for commercial buildings with requirements to allow a person to exit the entrance door even though it is locked from the exterior. In most cases, this falls under a fire code and typically requires a panic device be mounted on the interior side of the door at a prescribed height. If the door has a higher volume of traffic, heartier hardware may be necessary. All grades of hardware are required to meet industry standards, but Grade 1 hardware should be used for an entrance door that will be subject to more use and abuse.

5. The changing codes. With the passage of the American Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, hardware requirements changed along with the door’s bottom rail minimum height. The ADA code has specific standards for hardware requirements and accessibility. Along with ADA consideration, energy code changes need to be evaluated. Again, the entrance in a northern climate may require the door, frame and surrounding system to have higher thermal performance to meet current energy codes.

Coastal areas have codes to help protect people and property during hurricanes, storms and high winds. These requirements may require the entrance systems to pass rigorous large or small missile impact testing with anchorage, specific locking and hinging hardware requirements, and special glazing configurations. In addition to naturally occurring emergency events, there is increased attention on enhanced security to help minimize damage caused by explosive devices or events. If the entrance is in a governmental building, the requirements may call for the system to meet a certain blast pressure and impulse.

6. The finish. Architectural finishes can enhance both the longevity and aesthetic of a building’s entrance. For aluminum entrance doors, anodize is the most durable finish. Although anodize has a limited palette, more color options are offered today including copper. Painted finishes provide a nearly unlimited color selection, as well as custom colors that can match school crests or company logos, and draw attention to the building.

7. The warranty. Finish warranties vary by type and applicator. Class 1 anodized finish warranties usually span from two to five years, with some extended finish warranties available up to 10 years. Resin-based liquid paints typically have standard warranties from five to 10 years, with extended finish warranties available up to 20 years. Beyond the finish, the overall aluminum entrance door manufacturers’ product warranties generally are from one to two years, with extended warranties available up to 10 years.

The benefits of retrofitting a new entrance will bring an updated attractive appearance, reliable performance and dependable functionality with minimal maintenance.

Ron Schaaf is senior technical trainer at Tubelite Inc., Walker, Mich. To learn more, visit