Volume 9, Issue 1 - January 2008
No More Exemptions!
Who knew that when the Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) filed an International Code Council building code amendment removing the exemption for door systems from AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/IS2/ A440, that such controversy in the door industry would arise? If passed, this would call for door pre-hangers to test, certify and label all exterior door systems for compliance with the standard as a complete unit.
The standard covers performance criteria in the areas of: structural, cycle count, air and water infiltration and forced entry. As the proposed standard is written currently, no interchanging of components is allowed. All possible combinations of door units would need to be tested individually and certified to be labeled. The rationale behind this is that this will raise entry systems to a higher quality.
No problem, right? Maybe not for door manufacturers but many pre-hangers have concerns. This includes John Wheless, president of Allen Millwork in Shreveport, La., whose company has been pre-hanging doors since the 1960s. His wholesale distribution company could be impacted severely if it’s enacted. “The standard on the table now would change the single-family residential construction process,” Wheless says. “In a world where we are working to be leaner to compete and survive, costs and time frames would go straight up. We are not in the retail business; we deal with builders and dealers, but the demand for our products comes from the mouth of a homeowner … Try to tell a lady in your hometown, who is building a $400,000 home, she can’t have a special front door that doesn’t look like every other one on the street because it doesn’t meet the standard. If the standard doesn’t allow for mixed manufacturers’ components, it would immediately be unenforceable.”
The Standard’s Origin
Five years later and after several revisions, the A440 standard, which has the support of the WDMA, AAMA and the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), is moving through the final actions in each of the three associations.
But this standard isn’t new. It’s been in the codes for some time, but exterior door systems have been exempted from it—until now.
“WDMA has already filed an International Code Council building code amendment removing the exemption for door systems that effects both residential and commercial construction,” says Rosalie Leone, executive director of the Association of Millwork Distributors (AMD).
Leone says the code hearings are scheduled for late February and, if the process moves forward without consideration for component-changing pre-hangers, there may be negative supply market effects and price increases for consumers in areas where the codes are strictly enforced and demand remains consistent.
Angela Dickson, senior coordinator of communications for AAMA, confirms the status of the standard.
“The AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/I.S. 2/A440-08 document has successfully completed its third ballot and all comments (which can be viewed on the AAMA website) have been addressed by the Joint Document Management Committee,” Dickson says. “The goal is to submit the final standard to the ICC for review for the first hearing in February 2008. It is expected that the updated standard will be adopted for inclusion in the 2008 ICC codes due to be published in January of 2009.”
While AAMA, WDMA and CSA feel this side-hinged exterior door standard will raise entry systems to a higher quality, many distributors and suppliers disagree.
Raising the Bar—or Not?
“I believe that standards can be achieved that will allow parts to interchange,” Cortese says. “AMD is working to help define a testing method that is acceptable and repeatable when parts are changed.”
Ray Breedlove, general manager of Dealers’ Choice Millwork in Jonesboro, Ga., doesn’t believe this standard would help improve overall quality of entry doors, but also notes, “As a public company, we require a great deal of back up from our suppliers.”
Bill Stevens, general manager of Trimpac Inc. in Sauk Rapids, Minn., says he certainly understands the need for higher standards and performance on exterior door products and systems.
“Having a code requiring that the entire assembly be tested will not necessarily do either of these two things,” Stevens says. “We’ve been building and providing componentized exterior door systems for our customers for more than 24 years. We’ve done independent testing on exterior systems to demonstrate and show customers that our products hit high performance standards. This alone is not enough to create a great exterior program.”
Stevens says that fit and finish, installation and homeowner upkeep are areas that need to be addressed as well.
“Having a manufacturer-tested or certified product is not the answer to eliminating the exterior door issues that surround our industry today,” Stevens says. “If we buy off on this, then we are just dealing with symptoms and overlooking the entire picture of what needs to be done to solve the real issues. Take, for example, the window industry. We have adopted standards for windows and now we’re still looking at ways to improve window performance by coming up with consistent installation standards.”
Chris Rogers, vice president of manufacturing for Robert Bowden Inc. in Atlanta, says that if this standard requires all configurations of door units to be tested as a system there will not be enough third-party testing facilities to handle the backlog of manufacturers and pre-hangers nationwide trying to get all their combinations tested. Conservatively, Rogers estimates 63,936 combinations on a 2/8 15-lite door slab.
Rogers says he is in support of component-based testing. “The cost could be shared by all rather than the burden being solely on the manufacturer/pre-hanger,” Rogers points out. “I most definitely think a standard is important because it keeps a level playing field for competition.”
Companies that supply distributors with the components to pre-hang doors also are concerned about the negative impact the standard would have on the industry.
“In theory, it will require a better level of performance for all door systems,” says Mark Fortun, manager of product development and testing services for Endura Products, a manufacturer of door components in Colfax, N.C. “[This standard] would require extensive testing and associated costs, and require extended time to test all configurations—even major/common configurations,” Fortun says. “I don’t believe enough resources are available to have each and every door [configuration] tested.”
While many door manufacturers declined to comment, Therma-Tru, a manufacturer of entry systems, was willing to speak about the topic. The company supports the side-hinged exterior door standard.
“Therma-Tru believes testing complete door systems that are designed and engineered to work together is the best way to ensure a high level of performance against air and water leaks, prevent energy loss through the door opening and deliver peace of mind to the homeowner,” says Sarah Theis, senior public relations manager for Therma-Tru of Maumee, Ohio. “It seems reasonable to hold side-hinged exterior doors to the same performance standard as windows and sliding doors.”
“For areas of the country that may adopt the 2009 Building Codes, pre-hangers would need to use side-hinged door systems rated to the AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/I.S.2/AA440-05 standard and shall be labeled to show the performance of the products,” says Rick Perry, director of industry standards for WDMA.
While this might sound simple, pre-hangers don’t look at it in such a matter-of-fact manner.
King Sash and Door in Mockville, N.C., has tested its door units, and company president Terry Bumgarner says it cost his company $2,000 to $3,000 per unit.
Brian McIlwee is president of McIlwee Millwork in Itasca, Ill., and he says that while his company hasn’t tested any doors, “due to the complex nature of the entries we deliver, I doubt we could afford to test every possible combination. This [standard] is an 800-pound gorilla in the corner.”
Many door and component manufacturers have done more testing of their door systems than pre-hangers and know how expensive it is.
Crest Metal Doors Inc. in San Antonio, a manufacturer of exterior insulated door products, has conducted structural testing on its doors in typical unit installations for 20 years.
“Our products are tested and certified to meet all standards of the markets in which they are distributed,” says Marshall Steves Jr., president of Crest. “We probably have had more than $500,000 in testing expense over the years.”
Fortun says that Endura Products has tested for air, water, structural, forced entry, operating cycling and vertical load testing, and it can cost $2,000 to $2,500 per unit.
Compromising the Design?
“Design creativity would be limited due to the waiting period for units to be tested before they could ship to a jobsite, [and there would be] increase cost to the builders and homeowners,” Rogers says.
“We add value to the components we purchase in bulk by meeting our customer’s demand one job at a time,” he says. “With flexibility developed in our production system, we are able to mix and match products made of wood, steel, fiberglass, aluminum and many other plastics and composites. Some customers want aesthetics, some want durability and some want both, but they all want it in a timely and affordable manner.”
Cortese says BWI would have to condense its product selections to provide the financial ability to test the units. “Our customers would have less selection to pass down the channel,” he adds.
“The AAMA Door Council has a task group working on a component-based door certification program; significant testing already has been conducted,” he says. “Additionally, AAMA is working cooperatively with AMD in an effort to address the concerns of [its] membership.”
The AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/I.S.2/ A440-05 Standard can be purchased and downloaded from the WDMA’s website at www.wdma.com.
Samantha Carpenter is a contributing editor for DWM magazine.