After 25 years in the industry, our Technical Manager for Doors has seen it all – from clients executing projects to near perfection, to the biggest mishaps and blunders resulting in thousands – even tens of thousands – of unnecessary costs. Here he shares some of the worst pitfalls, and how to avoid them.
It might be surprising to know that some of the costliest mistakes can be made at the very start of the process, when choosing doors with slightly different specifications would make a big difference to the bottom line.
My hunch is that architects sometimes make decisions without full knowledge of the cost implications. For example, ordering doors that are just a few 100mm bigger than the standard doors will cost you significantly more, because each door is then a bespoke item. On a multi-million pound project, that one choice could actually mean paying tens of thousands of pounds more.
Likewise, choosing a non-standard laminate – opting for a grey a few subtle shades away from the standard, for example, as we’ve seen done – is going to add significantly to the cost, but with a negligible aesthetic impact.
It is common to see decisions like these changed down the line, when the client will opt for a standardised product instead, especially if they need to claw back an overspend elsewhere. But a little bit of insight at the earliest stage could save a lot of time and money.
Making all the doors a standard size means they are easier and quicker to get hold of and you get a better price. It’s preferable from an installation perspective too, as you can easily order a replacement if one door gets damaged on site.
Don’t get me wrong – high spec bespoke doors can make an incredible impact and are well worth the investment in the right circumstances, but in cases where the bespoke door is only marginally different to the standardised option, the pragmatic solution is probably best.
Another mistake people make is ordering their ironmongery separately to their doors. I can see their logic – by cutting out the middleman and going directly to the ironmonger they think that will save them money.
But we order direct from the manufacturer, and at such volumes that, more often than not, we get the best price. So not only are you creating extra work for yourself, but you’re also not saving any money. In fact, when we are working on an order using ironmongery supplied by a third party, we need to levy an administration fee to check and manage the stock – so it might even end up costing more. For me the obvious choice is one order, one invoice, less hassle and potentially less expense too.
The other common error is ordering a product to site too early, so you have to store it, perhaps for weeks, in far from ideal conditions on site, and risk the door or doorsets warping, twisting, or swelling.
I always advise our customers to treat a door like a piece of furniture – it needs to be kept inside, at away from extreme heat or cold, without too much moisture – so really you shouldn’t be bringing doors in until after all your wet trades have completed their work
It’s far better to get the product right when it’s needed. Our lead time for doorsets at the moment is four to five weeks, and when a customer calls them off, they can specify when they want them delivered. Unfortunately, we can’t keep hold of them for any length of time, so it does mean robust planning on the part of the site manager.
Installation is perhaps the most pitfall ridden part of the process. The biggest mistake you can make is bringing in people without the right knowledge and skills to install the doors, especially fire doors.
That’s why we always offer training courses if the customer needs them. We’re not there to tell people how to do their jobs, but we can help them do it in such a way that means the doors are signed off by buildings control without an issue.
With the new legislation around fire doors, joinery teams can no longer install and walk away – they need to take responsibility for installing a door correctly, with the correct fire rated components and installation materials, because if someone gets injured, the installation company could find themselves in court as well as the building contractor and the manufacturer of the door.
You need to make sure that the joinery team is competent in installing fire doors, and that means referring to the fire certificate. So many times, we’re only asked for fire certification at the end of the project, but that certificate contains essential information for correct installation. If it specifies a 100mm number 10 screw and you’ve used a 90mm number 8 screw, you’ve just invalidated the fire certification of every single door on that project.
I always say, look at the fire certification before you even open the wrapping of the door. That document goes into every detail, from the fixings you can use, to the foams and mastics to fill the gap between the frame and the wall. There will be some products that specify a minimum gap you can seal, so you do need to check all the information – the devil is in the detail.
Unfortunately, we see work held up on sites on a weekly basis because buildings control has come in and not been able to sign off the doors due to incorrect installation – delaying completion of a project while you reinstall all the doors can have a costly impact.
Fitting fire doors is a skilled job and poor work will always get found out – I remember a case where every single door on a job was condemned a year after completion; because of the way they were fitted, and they all had to be replaced.
Even when it’s not a fire door, you can’t just screw a door into an opening and walk away. We’ve had clients ask us to come and rectify simple issues, like a door drop seal allowing too much light through, but that is the responsibility of the joinery company. They need to know how to correctly adjust door drop seals and door closers. A poor installation job can ruin the look of even the highest spec door, so it’s vital to get that element right too.
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