Three Generations of Door Maintenance

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A first-generation door the owner attempted to repaint, with poor results.

The best time to think about maintenance of your doors and hallways is at the point of purchase. Wise purchasing can do much to prevent future maintenance problems. All products are not the same. Some people think they are being thrifty when they buy at the lowest possible price, but there is a big difference between being thrifty and being cheap. Being cheap means buying inexpensively without regard to quality, value, and the long-term consequences of the purchase. Being thrifty means getting the most value for your dollar.

Don't be a cheap buyer of doors if you intend to keep the project. An informed buyer will know the differences in quality and will set his price accordingly. Maintenance and other problems will cost more money in the long run.

Some manufacturers still use low-quality paints that don't provide a 20-year warranty. Paint finishes that do offer this guarantee are called siliconized polyesters and are available as a standard paint finish from the best door and hallway suppliers. Most manufacturers have gone to grade E or F steel, which guarantees 70,000- to 80,000-PSI strength. This makes the doors harder to damage.

Door latches are made of stainless steel, and the slide part of the latch should be magnetic stainless steel to work with the security system. All springs should be lubricated with a heavy coat of white, lithium grease from the manufacturer. All exposed fasteners should be stainless steel. All of the drum wheels should be protected from scoring and wear from the axle with prelubricated bearings. Tension should be adjustable in increments of 16, adjusting each spring evenly, not individually. The astragal should be a bulb type for a continuous seal at the floor and should be UV-protected.

If these purchasing specifications are followed when orders are placed, many maintenance problems will be eliminated. A considerable amount of money will be saved by the owner in the long run.

First-Generation Doors

Doors belong to one of three generations. First-generation doors were available between l969 and l976, and were heavy, hard to operate, and used grease on guides and axles. The doors had old paint systems designed to last only five or six years without extensive chalking and fading. The locking system added virtually nothing to security, as it was held on to the curtain with small pop rivets. There was no thought given to the replacement of worn-out parts. The lock system was not secure and easily broken. The door required constant maintenance.

In some cases, people used sectional doors that were field-painted and consumed valuable head room inside the unit. These doors also had an inferior locking system offering little security. In many cases, these doors have already been replaced; if there are any still around, they should be swapped for new. By this time, they will have been painted at least twice. The painting adds about six pounds per application, making the doors heavier and more difficult to operate as well as being dangerous to adjust.

Second-Generation Doors

Second-generation doors were supplied between l975 and the present. The paint system was upgraded by most manufacturers in l998. Any manufacturer not using a 20-year guaranteed paint should not be considered as a good supplier of doors.

In many cases, the plastic used as an astragal on the bottom bar and in the guides as a wear strip has completely deteriorated. There is metal-to-metal wear between the axle and the door-support bracket, which, if a door has heavy use, often causes the bracket to erode through the axle and make the door impossible to open or close.

Springing on second-generation doors was generally poor and the springs were allowed to rust without any lubrication from the factory. In many cases, this has caused spring failure, which can be quite expensive to correct and makes the doors dangerous to operate. Springs on these doors were not designed for long operation.

None of the doors introduced up until l999 had any kind of tension-adjusting device. Adjusting spring tension could only be done by factory-trained installers. The inside stops at the top left and right inside corners were often bent out by the installer, causing the door curtain to go past the stop and flip around, possibly hitting the person operating the door. This situation has caused several serious injuries.

The locking device, while more secure than that on first-generation doors, was zinc-coated and subject to severe rusting. In l999, one manufacturer introduced stainless-steel locks, which are presently the industry standard. The second-generation door was not designed for heavy use and will not sustain it.

Third-Generation Doors

Third-generation doors have only been available since 2002. These doors all have bearings between the axle and the drum wheel, making them maintenance-free. Improved 20-year, guaranteed, siliconized polyester paint is a standard feature.

All of these doors have an easy tension adjustment, which does not require removal of hitch pins. A bar can be inserted in the fixture and turned to the proper tension. A bulb-type astragal of improved or UV-resistance plastic is used.

All springs are prelubricated with a heavy coat of white, lithium grease and are designed for higher cycle life of 15,000 operations. The door-latch system is stainless steel, with the slide being made of magnetic stainless steel to accommodate various security systems.

Anyone not using third-generation doors is likely facing future maintenance problems. These are costly and have a negative effect on property value. Don't be caught in the lack of value trap.

First-Generation Maintenance


A second-generation door with a missing pull rope and worn-out astragal.

If an owner has first-generation doors, there are several things that can be done to improve their operation. First, remove all the old grease in the guides as, by now, it is dirty and acts as a glue would, impeding operation.

If the doors are chalky and faded, the chalky film will need to be removed with Armor All auto cleaner, available at most auto stores. After they have been cleaned, a layer of auto wax will help make the appearance more acceptable. If the finish is too far gone, it would be best to repaint the door with a good, industrial-quality enamel.

After refinishing has been completed, it is best to add more tension to the door to help its operation. This can be done by holding the axle with a pipe wrench and releasing the axle clamps that hold the spring tension. Probably one-quarter to one-half turn of tension will be required.

As these doors are 25 to 30 years old, it might be wise to consider replacing them. The liability created by their poor operation and the detrimental effect of their appearance will offset the cost. When replacing doors, most owners will contact their tenants to obtain a key for a short period of time. Tenants may want to attend the door-replacement procedure. They will then hire a security officer with a video camera to film it. This procedure should take no more than 20 minutes per door and will protect the owner against possible future litigation. When first-generation doors were first installed, they were not expected to last more than 20 years, so a functional life has been fulfilled, and the time has come for an owner to improve his property.

Second-Generation Maintenance


A scuffed hallway needs a kick plate installed.

Second-generation doors supplied in the '70s and early '80s used much of the same technology as their first-generation counterparts. Again, they are 20 to 25 years old with deteriorating paint and plastic that needs replacement. New doors may be the best option.

Plastic used on the bottom bar and inside the guides can be removed and replaced by simply opening the raceway with a screwdriver and pulling it out. The material is available from any door manufacturer and can be replaced by a manager as units become available. With the raceways open, the astragal may be pulled out through the mini-lock-latch side hole and a new seal reinserted.

From the inside of the door--with the door curtain within 4 inches off the floor--white, lithium grease should be applied to the exposed springs and the axle where it goes through the support bracket. Greasing the rusty spring will not completely stop deterioration, but should allow a few more months of operation before it breaks. This spraying of the rusty spring and axle can be done on any unrented units by the manager. As units become available, the manager can take care of the need to grease the springs and axles of the doors.

When viewing the door from the inside, make certain the inside stops at the top of each corner of the door are bent in and fully engage the bottom bar. There have been many cases of the door coming out of the tracks and hitting the person trying to operate it.

Clean the guides with a soft cloth and apply a coat of Armor All. If the door latch or outside lift clips and handles are rusty, they can be replaced with new parts made of stainless steel. As noted above, this can all be accomplished by the manager using products that are readily available at an auto store or even Wal-Mart.

Third-Generation Maintenance


A bent inside stop and loose bottom bar going past the stop.

Third-generation doors only need to be cleaned and Armor All applied to any exposed plastic parts, probably no more than once a year. These doors have been designed for low maintenance and long life expectancy.

Hallways need to be cleaned and any areas of wear or damage replaced. Most of the time, damage occurs at the bottom of the door as a result of being hit by carts. This damage can be covered with a Galvalume kick plate about l4 inches from the floor. Corner guards can also be applied at corners showing damage or wear.

Investments should be protected using continuous maintenance and cleaning procedures. It is important not to settle for products that are less than the best, as these will cost more in the long run. When the time comes to recoup your costs, the money will be returned with profit added. A good-looking project, even if it is l5 to 20 years old, will rent better and keep its value longer.

Some people think one door is just like another, but that is not true. Look for the features mentioned above when selecting doors and eliminate future maintenance problems.

Dan Curtis is president of Storage Consulting & Marketing in Atlanta, which specializes in market studies, feasibility, site layout and design, marketing, conversions and climate control. He is also vice president of Janus International Corp., of Temple, Ga. Janus manufactures self-storage doors, hallways and partition systems. For more information, call 770.432.2417 or 404.427.9559; e-mail dbcurtis770@aol.com.

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