How to Strengthen a Commercial Door – Steel, Aluminum/Glass or Wood
By default, most commercial doors do not come with the security improvements necessary to make them as secure as they can be. In fact, by default most commercial door locks can be bypassed in minutes by nearly anyone wanting to break into a business. A few of the things you can do are the same as those to reinforce a residential door, but many are unique to commercial / business doors and we’ll focus on those tips in this article.
To reinforce your commercial door to the best of your ability, you need to:
- Use the best grade locks,
- Install door security hardware to protect those locks from being bypassed and
- Reinforce the door and door frame as necessary.
Commercial doors can be made up of metal, wood or aluminum storefront with a glass insert. This article is not focusing on the structure of the door itself, we are assuming you have a steel wrapped or solid wood exterior door, or a typical glass aluminum storefront door, installed on your business.
We are going to cover ways that help you make sure that the door you have is reinforced as much as possible to prevent illegal entry and bypassing of locks through common intrusion techniques.
Installing the Right Type of Lock
Door Security Hardware to Reinforce Commercial Door Locks
Door Security Hardware to Reinforce the Door and Door Frame
Extend the life of Your Commercial Door Hardware
Install the Right Lock for a Commercial Door
A business door will only be highly effective and sturdy if it has the right lock, and that is a commercial grade lock intended for commercial / business doors.
I’ve seen too many small business owners substituting residential hardware on their commercial building to save a dime. Residential grade door locks are not built as sturdy as commercial grade locks and nearly all residential products now come with plastic parts. Whereas, commercial grade locks are built heaving, with better material and have no plastic parts.
Commercial Lock Grading
Understanding commercial lock grading is extremely important. Today we have entities like ANSI, or the American National Standards Institute, who have well defined commercial lock grading systems. The commercial locking systems are graded based on a set rigid and demanding testing processes. Based on such test results, the locks are graded. The two most common grading for commercial locks are Grade 1 and Grade 2. The grading is done on the basis of three major parameters: strength, cycle and material used.
The best locks that are available in the market are Grade 1. Grade 1 is the strongest and most durable. They are recommended for use in areas where there is high traffic or a high need for security. They are heavy duty locks ideal for exterior doors on a commercial buildings where security is a priority. Grade 1 locks are expensive, because they’re worth it. You can find Schlage Grade 1 locks on Amazon.
Grade 2 locks, also referred to as medium-duty locks, are used on doors that are less likely to be compromised. They are used for indoor offices and other such places. To save money, small business owners will often use a commercial lock of Grade 2 on exterior doors, and in most cases where crime is low, this is sufficient. But, it is not as secure as a Grade 1 so you need to understand the trade off you are making in price vs security. Check out Schlage Grade 2 Locks on Amazon.
Grade 3 locks are at the low end and only suitable for light, non-security applications. As a local locksmith, we won’t install Grade 3 on any commercial building unless specifically told to do so by the occupant. If you have some interior doors that aren’t used often or aren’t protecting anything of value (closets, cleaning rooms, etc…) you can save some money using them, but for any exterior door, Grade 2 or above should be all you use.
A quick note on fire safety. Some commercial doors are fire rated. For liability reason, we urge you to only hire local, licensed locksmiths or door companies to work on fire-rated doors to maintain their fire rating and integrity.
Door Security Hardware to Reinforce Commercial Door Locks
Latch Guard Pricing on Amazon
So what are latch guards? Latch guards are made up of heavy gauge steel that can’t be bent or cut easily. The gap between the frame and the door is one of the weakest point which can be attacked. If the gap is wide enough a crowbar can be used to separate the frame from the latch or the latch can simply be pushed back using a screwdriver to free the door.
The latch guards are metal plates whose purpose is to cover the gap and the visible latch to prevent tampering. Go for latch guards that are thick and corrosion resistant. You will need to choose a latch guard that is suitable for the lock set and door you have. Their are specific latch guards for out-swing doors, in-swing doors, and aluminum/glass storefront doors. And for each of those types of doors, the guard may be designed for a specific type of lock on that door.
There are also special types of latch guard plates that comes with a security pin that embeds into the frame side of the door. This security pin acts as an additional anchor to prevent a crowbar from separating the frame and the door by pinning the two pieces together.
If you don’t know what you need, call your local locksmith and they will get you the right product to protect you commercial door and latch.
Many commercial building use mortise locks. These are small, silver dollar sized locks that are used because they fit into lock housings. You see them often on the glass aluminum store front doors but they are commonly used on other doors as well. The main security issue with these locks is that they can be easily forced out by a pair of channel locks or large pliers by clamping on the front edge of the lock and twisting.
Torque collars are installed between the face of the lock and the body of the door. Torque collars prevent someone from getting a hold of the mortises lock and the torque collar spins freely so that getting a hold of it gains you nothing. Your local locksmith will have these on their van. They install quick and are inexpensive.
Because of the ease of which mortise locks can be broken into, and the low cost of this solution, this is our #1 Door Security Tip for businesses.
Pick Resistant High-Security Locks:
Some business locks can be bumped (see What is Lock Bumping) and picked just as easily as home locks (depending on the manufacture and lock grade). So this may be something you want to address if you have inexpensive hardware to strengthen the integrity of your building’s doors.
Nearly all commercial grade hardware will accept high security cylinders without needing to replace the entire lock. You just replace the cylinder (the piece with the key hole). This get you two things.
First, high-security lock cylinders are basically bump and pick proof. Meaning, no one without a significant amount of training and effort is getting in. Second, the keys cannot be duplicated at the big box stores so your employees can’t make copies of your business key (see Why Do Not Duplicate Keys Offer no Security).
We prefer Marks as an inexpensive solution and the Mul-t-lock as the high-security, high end solution. Search for Mul-t-lock Product on Amazon.
See our web page on High Security Locks
Commercial Door Hardware to Reinforce the Door and Door Frame
Hinge Security Pins (Jam Pins):
This is great, inexpensive door reinforcement for your exterior doors. Commercial out-swing doors have exposed hinges (the hinges are on the outside of the door) that can be easily cut or popped off. Once cut the door can just be pulled out of the frame.
Jam pins stop this so that even if the hinges are cut off, the door cannot be pulled out. Remove a screw from every hinge and install a security pin in it’s place. Remove the opposite screw so that when the door is closed the pin goes into the hole left behind by the missing screw.
Jam pins generally are made of a combination of machine and wood threading. These kinds of pins can be used on both metal doors and wooden doors.
Extra Items to Reinforce Wooden Doors:
Here are a few important extra things that can be done for a wooden door.
Reinforce Strike Plates
Elongated Security Strikes on Amazon
Strike plates secure the doors locks into the frame of the door. It is beneficial to do two things to these plates.
First, if the door frame is secured by a standard wood structure (not concrete block) remove the small screws holding in the plate and replace them with 3″ screws. This will ensure that the plate is secured to the studs in the wall and not just to the door’s thin framing. You also want to do this for the door hinges.
Second, you can go one step further and install an elongated plate. This will allow you to secure the plate with more than two screws to distribute the force, extremely useful to prevent forced entry by kicking in the door.
Reinforce Door Material
Once you’ve reinforced the hinges and the strike, it’s time to focus on the door itself. The strip of the door that the deadbolts and levers run through is the new weak point of the door. Install a door wrap to protect the door from splitting at these point during a forced entry attempt.
A door wrap is installed behind the door hardware and wraps the door with an aluminum or steel plate. Door wraps act to distribute the force of a break-in attempt over a larger area so that more force is required to cause damage.
Extend the Life of Your Commercial Door
Dog Down The Panic Bars
Panic exit devices known as push bars allow for free egress from a building. People exit by pushing on the bar. You can imagine the amount of wear that can be done as this is repeated many times an hour, many hours of the day, and nearly every day of the week.
However, most panic exit devices can be placed in a permanent unlocked mode so as to allow people to enter the space freely without pushing on the panic bar.
One of the most common methods of dogging down or placing the exit device in an unlocked mode is just by pushing a bar, insert a “dogging” key & turning. Dogging keys generally look like hexagonal Allen wrenches and these keys come in various sizes depending on the brand and the model of the exit device. If you don’t have a dog down key, your local locksmith will be able to get one for you.
Paint The Door:
Painting a door has nothing to do with making the door look beautiful. Painting an external commercial door prevents water damage, rust and uneven closure. Use high-quality paint that won’t peel off easily and paint any bald spots whenever you see them.
Adjust the Doors Closers:
If your storefront door starts slamming or not closing properly, you may have a door closer issue. A slamming door can damage the door and possible even the frame. A locksmith can help you address this issue.
The Final Word
There are many ways to reinforce a commercial door that a tenant or business owner can handle themselves and receive a big security boost to the door’s strength. When in doubt, have an expert out. You local locksmith will be more than eager to help get your business safe and secure.
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