July/August  2002

Shelter's Product

Solving Problems

Melting Exterior Doors Prompts Industry to Come Up with New Doorlite Frame Material
by Bob Ormond

Since it began using doorlite inserts with plastic frames several decades ago, the plastic frame itself has been a challenge in the exterior-door-system pre-hanging industry. While door system manufacturers continue to advance various technologies to make the energy system more thermally efficient, the important component that holds the insert in place in the door has not advanced at the same pace. 

The door might be advanced thermally, the jamb and threshold system might be advanced thermally, even the TruSeal® Swiggle™ insulating dual pane or triple-pane decorative glass in the inserts might be advanced thermally, but the plastic frame holding the insert in place was not.

To a great extent, the thermal-efficiency problem first became apparent in storm doors placed before front- or back-entry systems. The high temperature build-up would occur in the space between the storm-door and energy-door surfaces; temperatures could exceed 175 degrees and stress the heat deflection abilities of the polystyrene frame. In short, the polystyrene frame would distort in a way that looked to the end user like it had melted. The problem became worse when frames were painted or stained dark colors because no doorlite manufacturer would warranty any polystyrene frame that was painted anything but a light-to-medium color. 

Add to the melting problem the yellowing issues associated with ultraviolet light discoloration and degradation if the polystyrene frame was left unfinished, and the doorlite manufacturers seemingly had painted pre-finishers and end users into a corner when it came to resolution of how to finish the frame properly. It was a common callback situation that was endured by the manufacturer, distributor, door shop and lumber yard for decades.

Eventually, a few members of the doorlite industry proposed using another frame material. Approximately four years ago, polypropylene was introduced as a frame material that would answer one of the challenges associated with polystyrene. It fell short of other attributes of polystyrene, such as strength and paintability. 

On the positive side, polypropylene, when left unpainted and unstained, could withstand a higher heat deflection—up to 275 degrees—before deformation, and it would not turn yellow when left unfinished or exposed to ultraviolet light. Instead, over a period of time, the unfinished polypropylene would turn a chalky white color. This was a great benefit to those who did not want to be saddled with painting doorlite frames. 

The NeXt generation frame can be painted or stained any color.

On the negative side, polypropylene was a much more brittle frame material to use due to additional fillers such as fiberglass or mica that needed to be added to the polypropylene frame for it to be ready to accept paint or stain. The pre-finisher or end user would either have to rough up the frame with light-grit sand paper or pay an additional amount for an emulsifying coating to rough up the polypropylene surface chemically enabling it to accept primer, paint or stain. 

Finally, once the frame was prepared for painting or staining, polypropylene was not approved by any of the doorlite manufacturers to be painted any color darker than light-to-medium colors.

At the request of the manufacturing and distribution industry, a new NeXt Generation Frame™ material that would answer or exceed all of the above mentioned shortfalls was developed. This new frame could even be painted or stained any color including caliginous shades such as dark-green, dark-brown or even black. 

The door-manufacturing industry wanted a frame that was simple to use and could be successfully painted or stained even if instruction labels or stickers were missing from the door entry system. The bottom line was that the company wanted a product that could be delivered to its customer that it would not have to deal with on a callback issue again.

The NeXt Frame™, introduced during the year 2000 to the OEM industry and during the year 2001 to the distribution industry, has proven to be a well-received and sought after innovation. Asset and time-absorbing callbacks due to various perceived frame failure issues experienced by manufacturers and distributors with polystyrene or polypropylene frames have diminished through use of the NeXt Generation Frame Material. 

Because of its success and acceptance as a preferred frame material to use, the upgrade X-Frame™ is now featured at no additional cost on Trinity Glass Decorative Collections and as an option along with polystyrene frames or polypropylene frames for Trinity’s standard commodity glass collection. 

Bob Ormond is the director of marketing and sales for Trinity Glass International of Bowling Green, Ky.


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