Addressing Contract Glaziers’ Hardware Concerns

By Jordan Scott

Hardware is vital to a building’s usability. The first thing a customer reaches for when entering a store is not an item for sale, but the door handle. Hardware facilitates safe movement in and out of a building, while also adding to the aesthetic intent of the entrance. However, the specification process behind choosing commercial door hardware isn’t always as easy as opening the door.

Specifications without Specifics

Timothy Lietaert, president at Glazing Concepts Inc. in Corona, Calif., says that many specifications are vague, leaving his company to specify its own hardware.

Al Eini, brand manager of architectural hardware for C.R. Laurence – U.S. Aluminum, agrees.

“Architects occasionally create over-simplified drawings. This leaves a lot to interpretation and lets the general con-tractor dictate the profile and hardware. It can cause unnecessary back-and-forth emails for clarifications, and by the time they’re ready to quote, it’s been two weeks,” he says.

Another major challenge Lietaert’s company faces occurs when the specified hardware doesn’t work on the doors the company is providing.

Gary Rubin, project manager at Zaun Glass in Burbank, Calif., has encountered the same thing.

“The biggest problem we have with all-glass storefronts is that the height and weight of the door dictates what hard-ware can be used. Often architects want something, but don’t understand the weight capacity and it won’t work,” he says.

Eini suggests that architects work with a manufacturer at the beginning of their design to understand what’s possible and what kind of style and design they prefer, even if they don’t use that manufacturer in the end.

“A hardware consultant could work as well. It allows the architect to specify the hardware, rather than having the glazier specify,” he says.

Rubin has worked with hardware consultants on numerous projects and said that they make the process smoother, instead of having hardware decisions made down the line.

“Sometimes they procure the hardware for us. It leaves the guesswork out of it and hardware mistake are not our responsibility, but we don’t earn the mark-up in that case,” he says.

Contractors who order hardware from the manufacturer could save time, according to Eini.

“A common misconception is that each part number needs to be specified with every part of the entrance. They’re wasting their time,” he says. “All they need to do is send us elevations and specify the finish or hardware type.”

Finding an Appropriate Source

While Eini encourages collaboration, he says that contract glaziers and architects should have the Glass Association of North America Fully Tempered Heavy Glass Door and Entrance Systems Design Guide accessible, as the document will answer many common questions.

He also warns glaziers against relying on the manufacturer for local code information.

“Glaziers often think that the manufacturer or distributor support teams are well-versed in all local codes,” he says. “Local codes can be more restrictive than national codes, and the glazier needs to check their local codes and those of the authority having jurisdiction.”

Eini says the key is for glaziers to work closely with their local glass fabricator or distributor.

“Having a single source can save time and money,” he says.

“As a glass contractor, the industry requires us to have knowledge of many things. We rely a lot on the hardware suppliers to at least know what questions we should be asking,” says Lietaert.

He says that parts always seem to get missed, and whatever savings the company realized by buying hardware outright is eaten up by the mistakes. Lietaert suggests having more than one set of eyes look at the information to prevent costly errors.

Form and Function

When it comes to electrified hardware, the specifications usually tell the glazier what to provide, but not what function the architect wants the hardware to serve.

“Without knowledge of the function, we cannot request a wiring diagram, and it is challenging for the low-voltage contractor to hook up the system without knowing what function the end user is looking for. We normally subcontract the auto-operators and rely on that team extensively to tell us what is required,” says Lietaert.

He finds that challenges arise because of poor specifications, the inability of contract glaziers to hold the general con-tractor and their client accountable for an exchange of timely information, poor collaborations and door manufacturers not making the right deductions for the door hardware to work.

Rubin says magnetic locks don’t work properly without the required amperage. His company has had issues with the locks both in-ground and when used in the header.

“For one project we went back during multiple trips and performed costly evening work. We ended up getting the building engineer involved and a low-voltage guy was called in to do a test,” he says. “He found that there was not enough power at the last door for the locks to function properly. The owner needs to have the proper amperage prior to doing the work.”

Custom Finishes and Trends

Rubin has seen a greater demand for custom hardware during the past five years, but says that lead times are long.

“It can take four to eight weeks de-pending on how busy they are,” he says. “It becomes a struggle to get the hard-ware to the storefront manufacturer.”

Eini addresses this issue, saying that glaziers need to account for that time and plan ahead.

“Glaziers often assume that custom work can be done in a few days. Custom orders can take up to six or eight weeks. They don’t give themselves enough time to get the job done and end up in a vicious cycle with the client,” he says.

Eini adds that many glaziers who are used to working with aluminum aren’t as familiar with more exotic finishes.

“We get a lot of questions about exotic finishes, especially oil-rubbed bronze and blackened stainless steel finishes,” he says.

Finishes aren’t the only growing trend within the industry. All-glass storefronts have become more popular during the past ten years, according to Eini, which means that these hardware concerns aren’t going away.

“Architects like the modern look of slim profiles. They don’t like to build solid walls anymore,” he says.

With a major shift toward energy efficiency and thermally improved openings, hardware can play a major role in the energy savings of commercial buildings as well.

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