Unlocking the Secrets of Exit Devices

02:42:01 PM on 11/30/2011

Of all the product categories we cover in training sessions, entrances is the one that still generates the most apprehension. Maybe it’s the variety of offerings available, or the intricacies of coordinating different types of hardware with the construction and function of the door. Maybe it’s the strict tolerances that must be maintained to ensure proper door swing and latching, or maybe it is just an unreasonable fear of something that has never been adequately simplified.

When we address entrances in our customer training sessions, most people have a general understanding of hinging methods or the variety of closers and locks and their installation and adjustment requirements. What our attendees seem to gravitate toward are the common sources of service problems. Twisting an adjustment screw on a door closer to affect its closing speed or to lessen the amount of pressure required to open it doesn’t seem to intimidate anyone. Even stuffing shims behind the leaf of a butt hinge comes off as benign. Where we get the most attention is when we cover the topic of exit devices. Everyone seems to have a horror story about an exit device that drags the floor or won’t latch no matter what they try. For the sake of both Kawneer and our customers, we have created a very comprehensive document on the proper fabrication, installation and adjustment of our most common exit devices. The document is still a document though, and we all know the instructions sometimes seem to get lost on a job site.

Therefore, this month, to follow up my previous postings on Curtain Wall and Storefront, I will attempt to simplify the process of diagnosing and curing the out-of-adjustment concealed-vertical-rod exit device. As the test case, I will use the Door-O-Matic (or Falcon brand) 1690 Exit Device.

I will address three common malfunctions associated with these concealed vertical rod exit devices:

Exit-StrikeCommon malfunction #1: The 1690 device utilizes a “button” type strike on the frame header to trigger the latch. Sometimes a device does not re-latch properly because the strike is not positioned correctly to trip the latch when the door closes. This poses a security problem as it may become possible for the door to be pulled open from the exterior even when the device is locked.

Common malfunction #2: Door does not fully close because the latch mechanism is hitting the strike on its interior side and not in its “throat”.

Common malfunction #3: Device has its bottom rod dragging on the floor when the door swings and does not properly seat into the floor prep.


Causes of the malfunctioning units:
The primary cause of the first malfunction is related to the installation and tolerances of the door within the frame. If there is excessive clearance between the top rail of the door and the frame header, the strike may not project deep enough into the latch mechanism to re-latch it upon closing.

Service options to remedy top door clearance issue:

  • Raise the door within the frame to reduce the clearance and increase the depth of the strike projection into the latch, or
  • Shim the strike down away from the door header to achieve the same result. Many veteran installers refer to this second option as the “Penny-Fix” since a handy shim is a coin that can be placed between the strike and the header.

The primary cause of the other two malfunctions is most likely an improperly adjusted exit device. Critical adjustments occur in regard to the length of the rods themselves — if they are either too short or too long, the operation of the device will be adversely affected.

  • Rods too short: When the touch pad is depressed, rods will not lift high enough to fully unlatch the top mechanism and will not fully lift the bottom rod. In this case, it may be possible to open the door, but the bottom rods may drag because the top latch was not fully unlocked. Therefore, when the door closes, the latch mechanism hits the strike improperly and the door remains propped open.
  • Rods too long: The top latch will properly disengage, however this will occur too soon and the bottom rod will not be adequately lifted to clear the strike prep located in the threshold or the floor. This may make the door difficult or impossible to open, or it may be another reason the bottom rod drags on the floor.

With the 1690 device, the solution for these two malfunctions is:

Pull the rods and adjust their length to the appropriate dimension and reinstall them into the door. Kawneer publishes the exact dimensions of these rods, as well as instructions on the procedures to remove, adjust and reinstall them. In part two, I will go through the procedure to make these adjustments and provide information on how to not only take it apart, but also to get it all put back together without any parts left over.

Stay safe, secure and well adjusted!






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