Pivot Door Installation Issues

After 30 years of experience, we have found the following issues to be the most common problems with the installation and longevity of the pivot door. This information will provide valuable guidance with all types of pivot doors purchased anywhere and from anyone.

  1.  Starting by using a level is good but finishing with a level is not.  The space between the bottom of the pivot door and the top of the threshold must be consistent. Extra-wide pivot doors require that the vertical jamb members slightly incline in the direction which opposes the weight of the door. The degree of the incline is determined by the consistency of the space and not by a level. 1st make the space consistent and 2nd continue to incline the jamb until the space under the door begins to become inconsistent in the opposite direction (1/32”). The additional incline is so little that it will not affect the bottom seal. This additional incline will ensure that the door space settles into the proper position after use. Remember that gravity works in one direction the additional lean will help compensate for future use.
  2. Adjust racking with the door hung and glass installed. No additional weight may be added to the door after this adjustment has been completed. Do not level and plumb a pivot door jamb and then install a pivot. The additional weight and width, of pivot doors, preclude this regular type of door installation. This point is very important because most door installers will use regular door installation methods to install a pivot door. This is what creates an improper pivot door installation that will require reinstalling the pivot door as described.
  3. Proper shimming is very important. If shims move or fail, there the door may become misaligned in the future. Do not use nails. Use wood screws that are at least 3” long. The screws will be secured into the structural king studs. Space screws about 12” apart and place a shim above each screw. Thoroughly insulate the perimeter cavity with foam. The foam will provide better insulation and help to keep the shims in place. The two most important shims are the two which counter all of the door weight. Double these up and tap the corners thoroughly, with a rubber mallet, in the direction of gravity to ensure that all play has been eliminated.
  4. Joints tend to loosen over time. Here is a list of preferred pivot door joints for the most popular materials
    1. Wood pivot door corners
      1. Glued lap or mortise & tenon joints are the strongest wood joints.
      2. Screws work very well when used perpendicular to the grain. Screws installed parallel or near parallel to the grain will not hold and will cause the wood to split in time.
      3. Large stiles and rails are recommended to increase the size of the joints. 6” or larger stiles and top rail and a 12” bottom rail are recommended.
      4. The threshold must be thoroughly secured to the vertical jamb members to ensure alignment.
    2. Aluminum pivot door corners
      1. Mechanically joined corners should be reinforced with concealed welds. Welds will help keep the joint tight and aligned over time.
      2. Large stiles and rails are recommended to increase the size of the joints. 6” or larger stiles and top rail and a 12” bottom rail are recommended.
      3. The threshold must be thoroughly secured to the vertical jamb members to ensure alignment.
    3. Steel pivot door corners
      1. Corners should be mitered and fully welded. Flat surface and outer corner welds should be ground smooth and interior corner welds should be left for added strength. This method leaves no visible seams and allows the door frame to be very thin.
      2. The threshold must be welded to the vertical jamb members to ensure alignment. This method allows the threshold to be tailored to the floor covering conditions and slopes.
  5. Heavy-duty pivot hinges must have radial & axial bearings. The axial bearings will transfer the force downward and ensure smooth operation. The radial bearings will mitigate shear forces. Typically, these heavy-duty pivot door hinges start at around $1,500 and can handle up to 1,000 pounds. Plan on spending $2,000 for a quality exterior grade pivot hinge. Typically, pivot door hinges which cost around $500 are light-duty and designed for interior doors up to 500 pounds. Do not use pivot door hinges with a capacity of 250 pounds for any exterior pivot door. You get what you pay for when it comes to pivot door hinges. The aforementioned prices do not include the costs associated with installation and planning.
    1. Note: Most heavy-duty pivot door hinges require cutting into the cement subfloor. Post tension slabs cannot be cut without an x-ray. MSD provides a heavy-duty pivot door hinge which is built into a welded threshold.
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