Volume 47, Issue 1 - January/February 2008

No More Exemptions!
Adoption of Proposed Standard 
Could Prove Costly for Pre-Hangers
by Samantha Carpenter, editor of  Shelter magazine.

John Wheless fears the side-hinged exterior door standard proposed for inclusion in the 2009 International Building Codes. His wholesale distribution company could be impacted severely if it’s enacted. In its current form the standard [also known as AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/IS2/A440] 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 individually tested and certified to be labeled. 

Wheless is the president of Allen Millwork in Shreveport, La., and his company has been pre-hanging doors since the 1960s. 

“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
If you are a distributor or dealer wondering from where this standard came, you might be surprised to know that it’s been in the works for a while. In the November/December 2002 issue of Shelter magazine, former Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) president Alan Campbell, wrote. “The WDMA continues to initiate, support and implement those standards integral to the success of the window and door industry. One of the standards that WDMA has developed and maintained is the WDMA I.S. 9 Wood Primary Entrance Doors document. In the fall of 1998, the WDMA Entry Door Standards Committee initiated the revision of the WDMA I.S. 9 Standard. The committee recognized that the standard should be updated to be material-neutral and include structural performance criteria applicable to the building code requirements. The WDMA Entry Door Standards Committee considered other industry standards such as the Canadian Standard for Insulated Entry Doors, Steel Door Institute Standards and ASTM standards and test methods. The result of this work is the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA)/WDMA Voluntary Specification for the Performance of Side-Hinged Exterior Door Systems.”

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?
Jack Cortese is president of Bridgewater Wholesalers Inc. in Branchburg, N.J., and his company has been pre-hanging doors (which fall in the side-hinged exterior door category) for 25 years. Cortese takes issue with how the standard is written and that it doesn’t allow for the interchanging of components.

“I believe that standards can be achieved that will allow parts interchange,” Cortese says. “AMD is working to help define a testing method that is acceptable and repeatable when parts are changed.” 

Bill Stevens, general manager of Trimpac Inc. in Sauk Rapids, Minn., says that 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.”

Angelo Marasco, director of marketing for ODL, a company that produces door glass supplied to pre-hangers nationwide, says the first question to ask is, “What current problem does this standard solve?” Marasco doesn’t believe there is a clear answer. “Requiring each door system to be tested would be extremely costly and time-consuming, and will limit future component and door system development,” Marasco says. “Florida has a great model for certified component substitution that has been in place for ten years.”

Todd Hartnett, vice president of AFCO Millwork Products in Olive Branch, Miss., says that the standard would add to lead times and add cost to each door unit, eventually causing price inflation that results in little or no improvement in quality. “Much of this cost would go to enforcement. How one puts together a door unit affects its testing performance as much as, or more than, whose components are used,” Hartnett says.

Looking to the Future
But some manufacturers of doors or components feel this standard would improve door performance. A company official at one component manufacturer, who wishes to remain anonymous, says, “We test our door units regularly. We test the full assembly and we have found that the combination of components (hardware, glass, reinforcement seals and PVC) all have impact on the performance of the assembly. To just say that certain components have to be tested and passed does not mean they will perform the same in a different assembly.”

While many other 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.”

If the side-hinged exterior door standard is adopted into the ICC codes as it is currently written, what does this exactly mean for pre-hangers?

“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. 

Perry points out that, as an association, WDMA does not do testing. “However, we have member companies that have tested whole-unit door systems. The performance rating of the whole-unit door system depends on the interchangeable parts tested,” he says.

AAMA will offer certification to the new standard, according to Dean Lewis, manager of certification for AAMA. “AAMA’s certification program is the largest and most well known program dating back to 1962 (45 years) and has been continuously accredited by American National Standards Institute since 1972 (35 years).

Lewis says the 101 documents (that form the basis of the program) date back to AAMA’s first standard in 1947.

“AAMA members help to create these standards and their performance criteria and work with other industry associations to create requirements that maintain the highest performance levels,” Lewis adds. “AAMA certification requires two unannounced plant inspections per year and offers the highest quality assurance for doors and windows.”

Not So Easy 
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.

Russ Worley, president of Millwork Specialties Inc. in Whiteville, N.C., also says testing has cost his company money—to the tune of around $1,000 per unit and $1,800 for impact testing.

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.”

Art Cullifer, pre-hang products manager for Dunbarton Corp. in Dothan, Ala., says his company has done extensive testing on its products and it has cost the company $10,000 to $50,000 per year.

The Trickle-Down Effect
Many pre-hangers and suppliers aren’t only concerned with the cost this standard could create for them, but they believe the consumer will pay more and will have less entry door choices if this standard is enacted.

“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.

All is Not Lost
Pre-hangers and suppliers may think that this is a losing battle, but AMD, while stressing the importance to its members to get involved, doesn’t believe that all is lost.

“We encourage our association members to attend all public forums on issues that affect our industry and voice their concerns,” Leone says. “The ICC hearings take place in February 2008 and occur at the same time as the AAMA meeting. Up until that point, AMD will continue to make every effort to work with AAMA and WDMA to find common ground on verbiage to this document.” 

AMD Answers Hard Questions
Rosalie Leone, executive director of the Association of Millwork Distributors, recently answered some specific questions concerning the side-hinged exterior door standard, also known as AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/IS2/A440.To read the question-and-answer article, visit Shelter's Only Online section.

To View the Standard
The AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/I.S.2/A440-05 Standard can be purchased and down-loaded from the WDMA’s website at www.wdma.com.

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