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Dec 09 2013

Swing Free in School?

Category: Door Closers,Fire Doors,Hold-OpensLori @ 12:28 am Comments (16)

Over the weekend I visited a local high school for a swim meet.  Right away I noticed MANY pairs of fire doors equipped with LCN Sentronics, which are designed to hold the doors open until the fire alarm sounds and then close the doors to deter the spread of smoke and flames.  Some of these doors were propped open with wood wedges (uh-oh).  When I took a closer look, I realized what the problem was.

The units installed in the school, on cross-corridor and stair doors, were LCN 4310ME-SF multi-point hold-open units with a swing free arm.  (If your eyes are starting to glaze over at the mere mention of hardware model numbers, stick with me.)  These units will hold the doors open at any degree of opening, which is why some of the doors have wedges – to keep the doors from standing open at odd angles.  This unit is more suited for a fire-rated hospital patient room (this application was once very common), so the staff can leave the door partially open.  After the door is opened for the first time, it feels like there is no door closer – the door swings freely.  Great for a hospital patient room – not so great for a high school.  The doors are standing open at all angles, swinging freely, and when someone goes through the door there is no resistance at all so the doors are getting a fair amount of abuse.

My first choice for almost all of the cross-corridor and stair doors in this school (basically any school) would be wall-mounted magnetic holders.  If I absolutely had to go to a closer/holder unit, I would use a single-point hold-open rather than a multi-point.  This would avoid the problems of the doors standing open at random angles, and the lack of resistance if someone goes through a closed door.  At this point I will recommend that they reinstall the arm screw so that it is no longer a swing free arm.  At least that should keep the doors standing open in the right position.  If you have any other ideas, please leave a comment.

If that explanation doesn’t make sense, just leave me a comment and I’ll elaborate.  Here are some photos, as well as a video of what happens when someone walks through a door with this unit on it…

Stair Pair


Here you can see the two pieces of the arm…the arm on the left, and the swing free portion at the end of the arm.  This piece stays in the fully-open position until the fire alarm releases it.  It then rotates around and picks up the rest of the arm in whatever position it is in, and closes the door.  The screw that I will recommend reinstalling goes in the two screw holes shown here, to reconnect the arm to the swing free portion.

Swing Free Arm

This pair is not fire-rated, but I’m guessing it is to prevent a dead-end corridor.  Note the wood wedges.

Dead End Corridor

Here’s the video…this was normal use, and you can see how the door operates:

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16 Responses to “Swing Free in School?”

  1. Nabil Hanna says:

    Agree with you to have single point hold open.

    prefer to use the 4040SE in cross corridors.

  2. Bruno says:

    Thank you, very interesting post. Your narrative helps retain the difference between “multi-point” and “single-point” and the opportunity for each of the types. BTW, is it a vertical section that one can see in the first picture, in the middle of the doorway? Is that really allowed?! Amazing…

    • Lori says:

      Hi Bruno –

      The vertical section is a removable mullion. It is allowed…I don’t usually use them for cross-corridor or stair pairs, but I will be asking the masses for their opinion later in the week. 🙂

      – Lori

  3. Jeff Tock says:

    I guess the pallet of paper in the path of egress is ok….it’s probably non-flammable.

  4. Cda says:

    Thanks for the info

  5. Chuck says:

    This is what happens when Architects and/or Engineers spec the door hardware.
    (Don’t even get me started on how they spec key systems and keying schedules…)

  6. Lisa says:

    Hey, I was at that school yesterday too, collecting a child from volleyball practice. I hadn’t noticed the doors, but I was surprised to see them trying to run such a large swim meet at a facility with no deck space and very little room for spectators. The two story lobby must be a chilly place for children in wet swimsuits. And yes, it was my project, but no one asked my opinion on either the door hardware or pool deck size. Hope your kids swam fast!

    • Lori says:

      Sorry I missed you! No, it wasn’t ideal for such a large meet…the occupant load sign outside of the viewing area says it holds 200 spectators, and there were probably well over 100 kids swimming so way more than 200 family members. Plus it was HOT. My kids aren’t that fast (yet) but none of them drowned so it was a successful meet for us. 🙂

      If you know who we should talk to at the school about the doors, let me know. I’m sure somebody has noticed and is swearing at them daily. We can help, and the fix will cost them $0.

  7. Andy Lindenberg says:

    There is one particular condition that I do use multi-point hold open closers on in schools. More often than not, The Architect wants the doors opening all the way to the walls. At times, the adjacent wall or sidelight is smaller than the door leaf itself. Sometimes, only a couple of inches. Because of very sharp angles, wall magnets will not work. In this condition, to ensure the door folds back and holds open as far as possible, I’ll use the ME (multi-point) closer. I resist floor magnets whenever possible. In this condition, I’ll use the ME closer, but make sure I explain the operation to the Owner/Architect, so they know what they’re getting. Also, make sure the unit gets specified with either an 80, or 140 degree hold open bypass, depending on the swing. This will ensure the doors don’t hold open at a degree drastically less than fully open.

    • Lori says:

      I agree Andy. The B80/B140 bypass cylinder will prevent the door from holding open until it gets beyond that degree of opening. So with the B80 cylinder you may end up with a door holding open at 85 degrees, but at least it won’t be sitting at 30 degrees and subject to abuse.

  8. Ralph says:

    As architect, building code official and parent emptied high school my children attended, 3 times for having an auditorium with 400+ people in attendance and chains around exit devices on all exterior doors.

    • Lori says:

      Wow – scary! Our elementary school auditorium holds 300 people, and we had an evening event where it was totally overcrowded. The exits were all available just like they are during the day, but only one of the 5 doors has panic hardware and 2 of the doors swing in. I was so uncomfortable I had to leave.

  9. Richard McKie says:

    I am very late coming to this thread, and have also been late coming to this type of hold-open.
    Our school district only had one school equipped with Sentronics holders which had me baffled the first time I had a service call. They are a mix of single point and multi point units. It took some head scratching to figure out how the arm on the multi point works. To top things off the units are a mix of 24v and 110v units with some SEH holders mixed in just to make things interesting. We found the SEH holders just weren’t up to the treatment they get in a high school and became a maintenance headache. They are being replaced by 4040SE’s. As the doors are in banks of 4 there is no place to mount mag holders short of building a structure to support them, and the custodians hate floor mount mags as they run over them with their ride-on floor cleaning Zambonis.
    One application where we have started installing the 4040SE is on doors that the users want to keep open at times (Generally gyms and weight rooms for ventilation purposes)but will be remotely closed in the event of a lock-down or fire alarm event. We install these controlled by the fire alarm and lock-down circuits but with an additional user switch for local control of the doors. So far they have worked well, The AHJ likes this much better than having barbells holding the doors open!

    • Lori says:

      It’s never too late! The 4040SEH track is the same as the 4040SE track, so if you’re having problems with the SEH, the SE may not solve them. The most important thing with these units is that there is a stop to prevent the door from being pushed open too far, but it can be hard to coordinate the stop and hold-open. Did the doors with the SEH units have a Cush closer?

      – Lori

  10. Richard McKie says:

    The issue that we had with the SEH Holder wasn’t with the track, it was with the spring loaded ball bearing assembly that holds the door open. It required constant adjustment and often just wouldn’t hold the door in the open position. This only occurred on doors which were manually closed often. We found that replacing these units with the 4040SE solved the problem.

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