Replacing Concealed Vertical Rod Exit Devices on Narrow Stile Glass Doors
by Harold Fink, Locksmith, CRL CPS
I once was shown a narrow stile glass door with a concealed vertical rod exit device that had been a maintenance and security problem for the company ever since they took occupancy. Employees were using the door to exit the building, sometimes with company property, often to smoke, or to take an anauthorized break, or to use it as a short cut to the parking lot. In addition, to make it easier to enter through the door from outside, employees would stuff paper, chewing gum and other debris to disable the rod receptacles, both top and bottom, thereby preventing the door from latching or locking.
Since the maintenance director, the company manager, and the local fire marshall had already talked about how the state frowned on exit doors being blocked, padlocked, screwed shut or boarded up, I was called in to offer a solution that would be compliant and prevent employees from disabling the locking hardware on the door or frame.
My solution was to suggest an Arrow 400 series alarmed exit device with an Arrow S75 narrow stile mounting plate. That was the easy part. What made the job difficult was the removal of the existing concealed rod exit hardware. The removal of the old device was complicated by the necessity of having to take the door down to remove the bottom section of the concealed rod assembly.
This door had an overhead door closer which could have been removed. It was not necessary to remove the entire closer. I elected to just take off the arm. Next, the hinge screws needed to be removed to drop the door. These doors will normally use either standard hinges or top and bottom pivot hinges.
Before removing the hinge screws, I will often use wedges, blocks of wood, or both under the door to act as blocking material and prevent it from falling when the hinge screws are removed. Loosen the hinge screws a little until the door settles onto your blocking material, then slowly remove them all after making sure your wedges are secure and supporting the entire weight of the door.
Once the screws are removed, the door can be taken down by removing the wedges and allowing the door to tilt outward slightly. This action will pull the top hinge out of the frame and allow you to lift the door off the bottom pin and set it aside to do whatever service work you need to perform. In this case, the removal of the bottom portion of the vertical rod assembly.
Although I regularly take down narrow stile doors by myself, I strongly recommend that you use a helper or able apprentice that wants to learn how to become a locksmith. If you don’t have a helper, then don’t try this procedure by yourself on a windy day or on a busy doorway. You can imagine the potential consequences. As anyone that works on busy, high frequency doorways knows, it is very helpful to have your helper as an extra pair of eyes for those who insist on passing through the doorway while you work on the door, despite your well placed “please use other door” signs. They always are good at excusing themselves but seem never to understand the danger that they place themselves and yourself in when they pass through the doorway while you are balancing a door.
Now that the door has been taken down and the bottom portion of the vertical rod assembly removed, you can rehang the door and adjust the hinges if necessary.
Let’s see how the Arrow 400 series alarmed exit device mounts on a narrow stile glass door.
The first thing that is required is to install the Arrow S75 narrow stile mounting plate. I painted the mounting plate to allow the finish of the plated screws to match the Duronodic finish of the door.
As a rule, I install a third screw near the center of the installed strike on all my panic hardware or fire exit device installations, after adjusting the strike, to prevent the strike from being moved or knocked out of alignment. I have found this to be helpful in preventing unnecessary call backs due to latching or locking problems. I have noticed that more panic hardware and fire exit device manufacturers have engineered such a provision into their products. Install the third screw after you properly adjust the strike.
The mounting plate offers a solid foundation for the Arrow 430 alarmed panic device to mount on a narrow stile door. You can use the same plate to mount Arrow’s 300 series exit alarms to narrow stile doors.
The only thing left to do is to install the mortise cylinder in the alarm cover, attach it to the chassis, and put the end cap over the end of the device.
Doing this installation myself took me about four and one half hours. That time included taking down and rehanging the door and about one hour driving time to get to the job site. The great thing about this kind of work is that it is there waiting for those of us willing to take advantage of the opportunity when it presents itself. The opportunities for installing panic hardware, fire exit door hardware, door closers and other commercial door hardware are to be found in virtually every business you work in. Additionally, the many methods used by a few employees of a business to disable hardware are liability risks to your commercial client. You have to let your customers know when you recognize threats to safety of building occupants or potential pilferage problems that can fully justify the expense of your good installation with increased safety and reduced theft of inventory. It’s up to you to recognize the need and be ready to offer a solution to fit your customer’s requirements. You become a life saver and cost effective solution provider to your customer in the end.
Don’t be intimidated by concealed vertical rod exit devices. You can replace them. The next time you pass through one of these doors, if you have not attempted this procedure yet, take a moment to think about how you would approach the job of replacing a concealed vertical rod exit device.