Surface Closers are Ugly!
What other options are there?
Out of all of the hardware pieces that are commonly attached to doors everywhere, one of the biggest and boxiest are surface-mounted closers.
For some detail-oriented architects who work very hard for a clean clutter-free aesthetic, when these things show up on the doors in the middle of construction, it can feel like they're grinning at you, having thwarted your efforts.
Anatomy of a surface closer
With a surface closer, the mechanical parts that make the door move (to the closed position) fit inside that box, and a metal arm reaches out from the box to pull the door leaf.
The box can be attached to the door leaf or to the door frame, and can be installed at either side of the door.
Surface closers are always attached at the top of the door and frame, in order to avoid obstructing the clear opening as much as possible.
Surface closers are the most commonly used type of device for closing a door. The fact that the moving parts are all surface mounted makes them relatively easy to access for maintenance.
But they are boxy looking. When we see these things, it feels like we are in an institutional building, which might not always fit the design intent the architect is looking for. So what other options are there that might not be so visible?
Concealed Overhead Closer
Concealed overhead closers are a great option if you are looking to hide the box.
They basically locate all of the components that would be in the "box" inside the head of the door frame instead. The arm that connects the closer to the door leaf is also hidden when the door is in the closed position.
This option is available for most swinging doors, including aluminum, hollow metal, wood, and exterior or interior.
As is typical with just about any construction feature that comes in a surface-mount or a concealed option, concealed comes at a higher cost. Also there is more coordination and prep with the door frame, and future long term maintenance is somewhat more challenging than with a surface closer.
Floor closers can be a great choice for very heavy doors, or for designs that do not have space available inside a frame above the door head. An example would be all-glass entrances with a glass transom above.
The closer itself is basically a bottom pivot hinge, with the mechanical components to move the door leaf concealed in a box that sits flush with (or below) the finish floor.
Disadvantages include cost, maintenance, and challenges with prepping the floor to receive the closer.
Floor closers are generally intended to be installed in concrete slabs. As you can probably guess, the concrete work on site usually happens a long time before the GC has thought about coordinating the door hardware for the project. Early attention to installation details (especially at exterior doors with floor closers) is critical.
Adding floor closers to an existing slab in a renovation project may be very difficult or impossible depending on the specific existing conditions.
Spring hinges are "invisible" so long as you were expecting to see hinge knuckles sticking out at one side of the door.
They have a barrel that contains a spring that pushes the door shut, and this barrel is located in the same place as the knuckles of a typical butt hinge. At least you won't have a big box on the door.
Spring hinges are less expensive than surface closers (making them an appealing option for multi-family units), but they offer a less pleasant closing sequence, and have far fewer options available. Please take a look at this NotSoHardware article from May 2022 for more on this topic.
Concealed Closer Hinge
Similar to spring hinges, concealed closer hinges are a hinge product that includes an integral closer feature.
With this type of product, the hinge and the closing mechanism are completely hidden from view when the door is closed, at both sides of the door. The closing mechanism is never visible, as it is located inside the leaf.
Questions? Ask me in the comments section or contact 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 www.rshoopconsulting.com. 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.