Tom has 35+ years in the door hardware industry, 16+ years in hardware distribution, and 17+ years as a commercial locksmith.
Typically, pairs of narrow and medium stile aluminum doors ship from the factory in one of the three following states, arranged in order from the most common to least common:
- Equipped with concealed vertical rod (CVR) exit devices
- Equipped with passive push/pull bars
- Equipped with an Adams Rite MS1850S-X50 hook bolt and flush bolts
Concealed Vertical Rod Exit Devices
While you can find cheaper ways to release concealed vertical rod (CVR) exit devices electrically, the most reliable and durable way is to electrify the devices themselves. The method of electrification varies by manufacturer.
In the photo above are Falcon 1690 exit devices. The easiest way to electrify them is to replace the non-electrified versions with electrified ones. As long as the internal rods are in good working condition, you can reuse them with the new device. The electrified 1690 can also use the rods of an existing 1990 crossbar device. A common installation when there are existing 1990 crossbars is to use an electrified 1690 on one leaf and a mechanical 1690 on the other, so they look the same when the job is completed.
In the same way, you can replace an existing 1285 or 2085 CR Laurence exit device with an electrified 2085 and reuse the existing rods.
A few manufacturers, including Security Door Controls and Command Access, make aftermarket latch-retraction kits for a variety of exit devices. These allow you to keep all of your hardware and modify it in the field. This does require a bit more skill.
The slightly cheaper way to electrify existing narrow or medium stile aluminum storefront doors with concealed vertical rod exit devices is to use an electric strike or similar mechanism.
Concealed vertical rods designed for use with narrow stile aluminum doors, and with few exceptions, are not very compatible with electric strikes. To begin with, in order to use an electric strike, you have to lose the bottom rod, making the device half as secure as it was. The difference is very noticeable when you pull on the locked door and the bottom of the door flexes open two to four inches, depending on how hard you pull.
But the chief source of incompatibility is the standard latch that ships with most concealed vertical rod devices for narrow stile aluminum doors (see photo below). Looking at the (non-electric) strikes that the latches are designed to work with, you can see the issue.
These latches are not compatible with traditional electric strikes. Some manufacturers make latches that are compatible with electric strikes. In the photo below, you can see the Falcon optional Pullman top latch for use with their 1990 and 1690 series vertical rod devices and the Von Duprin optional ES top latch. The rounded, spring-loaded latch (see arrow) is what makes it compatible with an electric strike.
Though this tends to be slightly cheaper, it is more labor intensive and does not produce as good a result as electric latch retraction.
When equipped with Pullman latches, concealed vertical rod exit devices can be used with electric strikes like the Folger Adam 310-6-8 for a single device, or 310-6-1, 2, 3 or 30 for pairs of devices.
There are some specialized electric 'strikes' on the market specific to particular exit device models. One such is the SDC PD2090A series shown below for use with Falcon (Doromatic) or Kawneer devices.
Doors With No Locking Hardware
Push/pull bars consist of a push bar and a door pull. The pair of doors above, photographed from the interior and exterior, show the straight push bar on the interior side and an offset pull on the exterior. This opening has an MS1850 hook bolt and flush bolts as well. We'll talk about that in the next section.
When pairs of aluminum narrow stile doors are shipped with push/pull bars, they have no locking mechanism, but they are held closed by the door closers. The electric locking choices for these doors are:
- Exit devices
- Electromagnetic locks
- Flush bolts and single point latch
When installing exit devices on aluminum doors where none were installed before, there are choices.
Concealed Vertical Rod (CVR) Exit Devices
While CVR exit devices are the most secure and reliable way to make a pair of aluminum doors lock electrically, it is also by far the most labor intensive because the doors must be taken down to make the installation.
Surface Vertical Rod (SVR) Exit Devices
SVR exit devices make for a secure installation, but because the latches and rods are mounted on the surface of the door they tend to take a beating. This is especially true of the bottom latches and rods. The best way to prevent damage to the bottom rods and latches is to install rod and latch guards if there is enough room to do so, but the result is an ugly install. You can also install the devices top rod only (or less bottom rod), but since the bottom of the door is not secured, you can pull on a door with top rod only devices and the bottom of the door will open as much as three or four inches.
One Side or Two?
There is no rule that says you must electrify both leaves of a pair of doors, but you need to if you have automatic door openers on both leaves.
Maglocks like the one pictured above are often a last resort when there is no other way to lock a pair of glass and aluminum doors. Installation of the lock itself is relatively easy, but since most jurisdictions demand that they be interfaced with the fire alarm panel, the job may entail more work and red tape than one might think. Be sure you get your local fire marshal or building inspector involved before you install.
To make the installation a bit more compliant with life safety code, I generally recommend using a push bar with an internal mechanical switch like the one pictured below to release the mag.
Single Point Lock With Flush Bolts
Once very common, pairs of aluminum doors that consist of an active leaf with an Adams Rite MS1850 hook bolt and an inactive leaf with flush bolts are now much more rare. One still-common application is at car dealerships where they have very large pairs of aluminum and glass doors that they use to bring cars through, into the showroom.
If the hook bolt is installed between 34 and 44 inches above the threshold you can use one of these options:
- Replace the MS1850 with an Adams Rite 4510 or 4900 latch and a 4590 or 4591 push paddle or 4560 lever
- Replace the MS1850 with an Adams Rite 8400 series mortise exit device
If the hook is installed lower than 34 inches or higher than 44 inches, it is best to deactivate the deadbolt by installing a blank face plate and dummy cylinders and install a new lock or exit device 34-44 inches above the threshold.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.