Don't let your hinges become the weakest link

Cost savings in all areas are an important objective when specifying new products or services but, as Karen Hubbard of UNION Architectural Hardware explains, incorrect specification of hinges can create an expensive legacy of spiralling repair bills


The clock is ticking for doors with either incorrectly specified or poorly installed hinges.  These relatively inexpensive elements of dressing a door are integral to the functional well-being of the other architectural ironmongery, the fire integrity and security of the building, the door surrounding and the door itself. 

It’s vital that correctly specified hinges are used on all doors - ensuring that they are capable of bearing the load of the door, can handle the demands of the passing traffic, and can continue to function as-new for many years.  Over time, poorly specified hinges will start to fail.  Unable to support the weight of the door, the performance of the hinge will deteriorate every time the door is used. 

Initially, failure is difficult to detect - the hinge may start to squeak or could appear to be in poor condition.  The reality is: the entire door is starting to fail and the cost for replacing damaged parts could run into three figures.  The decision to save a few pounds on cheaper hinges could soon seem to be a false economy.

If the hinges are not strong enough to bear the weight of the door, the door may drop leading to a series of other more costly problems.  Even if the other pieces of door furniture are correctly specified and fit for purpose, many will start to fail. 

With a drop of just a few millimetres, the bottom of the door can start to catch and scuff the floor.  This scuffing could cause damage to both the door and the floor surface but the inconvenience of an unsightly doorway is the tip of the iceberg, as it could potentially lead to a hefty repair bill.

The dragging on the floor prevents the free egress of the door.  Consequently, the door closer is put under undue strain and will probably struggle to operate.  As the door closer strains against ever-increasing resistance, the life-cycle of the door closer is reduced. 

With failing hinges and a failing door closer, the door will become increasingly difficult to operate.  As a result, the door handles will be roughly treated.  In time, this continued heavy-handed treatment could also cause the handle to fail by putting strain on the fixings. 

As the hinge continues to fail, securing the door may become problematic.  The latch or bolt from the locking mechanism will hit the strike plate lower and lower as the door drops.  Access control systems may not fully engage and compromise the building’s security and further manhandling of the door to ensure it is secured will aggravate damage to the hinge and exacerbate the problem. 

Once the hinge starts to fail, the door itself is compromised.  Security will be weakened and, if the door is part of an emergency exit route, the safety of the door will be in question. 

Most importantly, failing hinges on a fire door could create a critical weak-point for the fire to spread more easily.  As the door drops, intumescent seals will be less effective as gaps will be more difficult to seal in the event of a fire.

It is fair to say that the strength of the hinge is a good measure of the strength of the door itself.  A correctly specified and installed hinge will ensure the door operates effectively and efficiently until part of the architectural ironmongery reaches the end of its durable life.  A poor quality, under-specified or badly installed hinge will weaken the door, the building and, ultimately, the reputation of the specifier.

The urge to save money is a healthy one but taking the cheaper option on hinges could backfire dramatically.  The correct specification may lead to a few extra pounds being spent but the risk of using hinges that are not fit for purpose to cut project costs is a real cause for concern.  The cost to repair and replace so many different parts – not to mention compromising the safety and security of the building - should be food for thought for anyone thinking of cutting corners.