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  • Writer's pictureRyan Shoop

Grade Series (Part 4)

Updated: May 6, 2022

Photo of man shopping for sports coats on racks in a store.

Continuing the discussion on door hardware grade from the previous posts.


Decision-making points for the door hardware specifier.

How can we use grade to achieve the desired result?

Very brief recap:

“grade” indicates the minimum tested mechanical performance of a hardware product, measured in cycles. It is an indicator of durability and cost.

Selection of Grade

Imagine you are shopping for clothes. A whole new wardrobe, in fact. In this scenario, let's pretend all of your clothes were lost in a house fire (no loss of life, thankfully!). You want good clothes, durable, comfortable, nice to look at (maybe you would put those priorities in a different order. That's OK.). You need at least one good presentable business outfit, so you go to a high end designer store because you know you will find quality there. As it turns out, that premium-cost boutique store also has all of the same types of other clothing items you are shopping for, even down to the socks and underwear. Why wouldn't you buy your entire wardrobe there? Well, that's no problem if money is no object.

Obviously if we want to make all of the door hardware on a project super-durable, we could just call for everything to be grade 1. This would result in some (very) high bids from the door and hardware subcontractors. On many projects, if the owner has an objection to these high bids, the natural next step for the GC and subcontractor is to engage in value engineering where they substitute some of the grade 1 hardware for lower-grade or no-grade hardware.

To avoid this contractor-driven value engineering, it is advantageous for the architect and their door hardware consultant to proactively select the most appropriate grade hardware items for each door based on their expected frequency of use. This is best done during the design phase rather than in construction administration, so the project team can have realistic expectations and avoid surprises and additional services or change orders during construction.

On some doors, grade 1 hardware really is the most appropriate selection and should not be substituted with lower grades. This is the case with any high-traffic/high-usage door, especially main entrances to the building or suite entrances. However, most projects include a mixture of doors that are high-use, medium-use, and rare-use. Doors that may only be used once per year or a handful of times per year can be perfectly well served with grade 2 or even grade 3 hardware, which saves on cost. For usage rates that fall in the middle, it is a judgement call that should be made collaboratively by the project team.

Think about it. You have a door that is expected to open (cycle) 200 times per business day. That’s over 50,000 cycles per year. Compare that with another door that is expected to he opened once per week (52 times per year). Assuming that the 50,000-cycle per year door is fitted with high-durability grade 1 hardware, as it should be, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to pay such a high cost to use that same hardware on the 52-cycle per year door. The major hardware manufacturers recognize that building owners want the hardware on their doors to look the same aesthetically, even if the grades are different. In an attempt to meet that goal, they have come up with paired styles of levers across grades.

What if (for any reason) hardware that really should be grade 1 is substituted with something lower grade (with the owner's acceptance)? This is not ideal, but sometimes happens, usually due to cost issues. In this case, it is important to help the building owner understand that the lower-grade hardware will wear out more quickly than grade 1, and will require more frequent servicing and replacement. In the long run it may end up costing them more, but sometimes owner decisions are driven by first costs.

One reason why an owner may prefer to use lower grade hardware is to save on costs for tenant-occupied spaces. The owner may decide that it is better to include an allowance for hardware replacement within their operating budget for the ordinary cost of turnover. This can apply to commercial office spaces, apartment buildings, or other building types that may experience tenant turnover. By operating this way, the owner ensures that the space is left with shiny new hardware after each turnover, while sparing themselves the expense of grade 1.

This is the fourth and final entry in a multi-part series on door hardware grade. Stay tuned for a new topic coming up next week.

Don't be afraid to ask questions either in the comments section or by contacting me directly. Also if you think I got something wrong, let me know and if appropriate I will make sure to issue a correction.

Architects, do you have a project with door hardware questions? Check out my website There you can find my contact info, and reach out to set up a call. Let's discuss how I can save you time and money while helping to ensure high quality results for your clients.

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