Selecting, installing the right hardware: What to know before you buy

Hardware can make a significant difference in the look and function of a building but builders need to know how to make the correct suggestions or selections for their clients. Following is advice on selection and installation offered by James Harris, product manager for National Hardware; Kate Martindale, director of sales and marketing for CannonBall:HNP; and Pat Nestor, sales representative for MWI Components.

Start with the application

National Hardware hardware

National Hardware photo

It comes down to the basics. If it’s door hardware, what kind of door and how big? Said Harris: “Be sure you know what it needs to hold it up.”

Ask questions about the hardware. As Martindale noted: “The builders need to know the difference between the hardware and the appropriate applications that it’s used in. They also need to know the specifications of such hardware as well as any applicable restrictions.”

Know the type of use it will have and what it needs to stand the tests of time. Nestor offered: “Is that side of the building typically subjected to high winds? Also, call-backs can take up time and cause concerns, so use the strongest door needed for a particular application from the start so the owner is completely satisfied with the end product.  Offer color matched door side rails to give a more professional look to the door.”

Know what’s important to your customer

Cannonball:HNP hardware

Cannonball:HNP photo

“Different types and combinations of rail, hangers, door frames give different benefits,” Harris said. “Figure out the customer’s priority first and then appeal to the desire to make sure they are happy.”

“Customers desire the best type of hardware that they can get based on their individual job needs,” said Martindale. “Value is the biggest concern; however, the hardware must fit the type of application based on each particular job. Different types of hardware are usually available at an additional cost and lead-time.”

Nestor has noticed: “Customers are looking for a modern look when it comes to flashing style and they are looking for heavier products to support the weight of heavier doors.”

Understand your construction before selecting your hardware

“The way the hardware is mounted can be limited to the type of opening and the construction of the building,” Harris advised. “Keep the construction and the hardware installation in mind to make sure they come together aesthetically.”

Don’t do this!

Equally as important as knowing how do select the right hardware is knowing the common mistakes to avoid. Harris suggested these tips:

Never skimp on accessories

“Hanging a door is good but if it does not have the right accessories to control and secure the door, it will not stay in good shape and the builder will be called back to fix it shortly,” Harris said.

Make sure to level the rail and adjust the hangers

Not leveling first, Harris cautioned, “will create an uneven door and even if it still opens and closes easily, it will wear the track in the long term.”

Never skip on measuring

“This leads to a door that is not a perfect rectangle and it will never hang right,” Harris said.

Never ignore company instructions

“This is especially true when using a type of hardware that has not been used in the past because installation instructions can vary,” said Martindale. “To understand quality, the best route is to seek help from a company professional who can provide the most thorough information that is necessary for the products to work properly.

Don’t base your decision on budget

MWI hardware

MWI Components photo

“Common mistakes are focusing too much on budget,” Nestor said. “These sliding doors have to withstand heavy use and wind.  Spreading horizontal framing members out to cut costs causes the door to be weaker: using 1 1/2-inch doors because they are less expensive than 3 1/2-inch doors.  Use an extra set of trolleys (double truck assembly) to support the weight and allow the door to roll easier.  Use the reinforcing pieces that are offered to help stiffen the door.  Use a guide rail system to hold the door against the wall when it is open.  Use all hardware items like latches, stops and guides.  It is all worthwhile when you don’t have to repair or replace the door in the future.”

Hardware is better than ever

Harris noted that good quality hardware is designed to work better than ever. “Modern technology allows for amazing engineering in commercial sliding door systems,” he said. “Parts are 3D rendered in computer software and conceptually weight loaded before they are ever built. They can then be printed from a 3D printer to check for fit and dimension. Before any parts are made and physically tested they have great research done on them. This allows for faster development and safer products.”

Trends in rural markets

Continuing in demand in rural markets are larger facilities to accommodate larger machinery, and quality sliding door hardware is needed to help protect those valuable machines and farmer investments. 

As well, Harris noted, extreme weather conditions are playing into the market. At National Hardware, Harris said he has noticed that Mother Nature is influencing trends. “Increased visibility or exposure to tornados is driving more work on door frames that are wind resistant. Stronger and larger doors and hardware are the long-term trend,” he said.

At CannonBall:HNP customers have shown an increasing interest in the company’s new flat track system.

And at MWI, hardware is also trending towards heavier, from 1-1/2 inch sliding doors to 3-1/2 inch doors. sBut style is also playing a role. “Colored side and bottom rails are hot,” he said. “Owners would like to have these matching the steel on the building,” said Nestor. “White is the  not the norm anymore.”


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