What I Used To Do To Make A Living Fun & Interesting
Installing Metal Doors and Frames
Every once in a while, someone asks me what I do for a living. The short answer is that these days, I make videos to put on YouTube and run this website. Prior to doing this, I was doing something much different, and this article will show just one aspect of the work I did before I “retired”.
In general terms, I’m a carpenter, but I normally worked in one small part of the trade. Carpentry, like most other trades and professions, is broken up into specialized fields, and I wound up doing door and hardware installation. It needs to be said that the bulk of my working years were spent in the commercial sector of construction, which is much different from residential construction. Commercial construction generally deals with larger projects and public buildings, such as schools, rec centres, hospitals, etc. I did spend a little over a year in residential construction, and I have done a fair bit of renovation over the years (mostly on my own houses), so I do have extensive experience in both.
Recently, I went out to help my brother Don on a door and frame replacement in an older school in Toronto. This type of job is really a small part of the work I did, with the majority of my time spent in new installations, in newly constructed buildings. Still, these small jobs do pop up every so often, and they need to be done.
I had my camera along with me, just to take a few pictures to have for myself.
I really didn’t plan this article (or the video), so there are some things I missed earlier in the day; video, in particular.
We arrived at the site around 7:30 and located the door in the building that needed to be changed. It was a single exit door from a small stairwell:
The door is an emergency exit from one part of the second floor of the school, so it is rarely used. Although the door operates fine, the bottom is rusted through in places (these doors are made from heavy gauge steel), and the steel frame has rusted through on the bottom as well.
It’s in rough shape, and rather than repair the damage, the school board wants the door and frame replaced:
They also want the old hardware reused. The existing panic bar and closer:
Although these also look pretty rough, they still work. Since the door is seldom used, these will probably last for as many years again on the new door.
Too often we have gone out to a job and unpacked everything, only to find that something was wrong and we could not do the work. So, the first step before taking any tools out is to measure the new door frame and see if it will fit in the opening.
The look of disgust on Don’s face indicates that it will not:
A call has to be made to a higher power to find out if we have the ok to do the extra work to cut the door frame down to fit. As it’s lightly raining, the time waiting for the answer is spent inside, where we measure the door to see if it will fit in the frame…
There’s a story here regarding this and it starts with the door being supplied to fit in the existing frame. The school board then changed their minds and decided that the frame should be replaced as well. A new frame was ordered, but the guy from the manufacturer didn’t trust the hand-drawn (but highly accurate) sketch that Don had provided, and insisted that he, himself would come out and measure for the new frame. So it’s not much of a surprise that when the frame comes it doesn’t fit, and along with that, the door doesn’t fit in the new frame!
Fortunately, we didn’t have long to wait for the go ahead for the extra work and began removing the old door, starting with the hardware that will be reused. The easiest way to remove the old rusted standard screws from the closer is to shear them off with a thin chisel:
The hinges are newer and although those screws are rusty too, they can be carefully taken out with the impact driver.
The frame is about 3/8″ too wide and must be cut. Whenever possible, I’ll remove the full amount from one side only, usually the latch side (the side opposite the hinges), rather than cut both sides to make it exactly even.
These brackets keep the frame from collapsing inward while the standard anchors are installed, and need to be removed or bent over:
Just a few blows from the hammer and the tack welds let go.
Next, the frame is laid flat on the pavement. These are made from 16 gauge steel, which is nearly 1/16″ thick and can be difficult to cut:
To do the work, a modified metal cutting saw is used. It’s equipped with a tungsten carbide blade made for cutting steel:
It makes quick work of the cut, leaving a straight, clean edge.
With the new frame ready to go in, the old one must come out. We start by loosening everything up with a 2lb hammer and chisel:
The frame was filled with mortar as the walls were built, and we have to break all of that out. Eventually, the frame can be pried with the bar away from the opening.
Luckily, this one came out easily. In the past, we’ve had some really tough ones that had to be cut into small pieces to remove.
In general, all of these types of frames in these buildings are installed this way. They are on site while the concrete block walls are going up and are built in at that time.
The remaining mortar has to be smashed out next:
This doesn’t take long using the hammer and chisel and rotary hammer drill fitted with a chisel.
With the opening ready, we can get the frame put in. Before that, I made a cut across the top latch side of the frame. This will allow us to spread the frame so that the door will fit.
We have a unique method for of fastening these frames: drive concrete screws into the brick and block and weld the screws to the frame. This locks the frame into position and is very strong and reliable.
Here, Don is drilling through the hinge mounting plate and through the lip on the back of the frame with a 1/4″ steel bit:
A hole is then drilled into the brick with a masonry bit and the screw is driven. You can see the head of the screw slightly protruding in the photo above, right.
Next, the head of the screw is welded to the hinge plate and ground smooth:
This provides maximum support right where it’s needed the most, at the hinges.
The weld is ground flat to the hinge plate and doesn’t interfere with the hinge.
Also, placing these fasteners here means they don’t have to be patched later, saving time.
Next, the door is hung and it is used to line up the latch side of the frame. A single screw is driven to hold it in place (for now) on the inside, near the top of the frame:
Since the door is too wide for the frame, the frame needs to be adjusted and that’s where the cut I made earlier comes in:
This side of the frame can be pushed over and the cut is welded in this new position, leaving ample room for the door.
To solidly anchor the frame on the latch side, screws are driven into the brick at the edge of the frame:
These are then welded to the frame:
The frame is secured in several other places, including welding the head of the frame to the steel lintel above.
It is now ready to have the hardware installed and the other repairs made.
The door came with a 1-1/4″ cylinder hole (for a key) in the outside that needs to be patched. One of the brackets removed earlier is pounded flat and cut to fit:
Then welded in. I need to be careful not to get it too hot and ignite the foam inside the door:
The weld is ground flat. It ain’t pretty, but is strong and once filled will be indistinguishable from the rest of the door surface.
The frame came with expanding anchors, but they cannot be used, since there is an insulated space between the brick on the outside of the building and the concrete block on the inside. The mounting holes in the frame line up with this space.
But the holes need to be filled, and I used the head of the anchors welded into the holes.
Just a couple of small tacks that will be ground smooth:
This screw was put in as a ground point for the first welding operation. To fill the hole, the screw itself is left in and cut off flush and ground smooth.
The panic bar is installed:
These old devices last forever, if they are not abused. The downfall of most of these in the older schools is kids kicking the bar and bending it, causing the unit to malfunction.
The old, crusty closer is next:
After removing it and transferring the measurements to the new door from the old, Don uses a short self drilling screw as a drill bit to make the holes.
Then screws the closer body to the door with 3″ long #14 screws:
Short self drilling screws are used to mount the arm to the frame and the cover is reinstalled.
The stainless steel kickplate is next, and half of the screws need to be drilled out to get it off:
It’s then screwed onto the new door.
The corner where I cut the frame has to be patched with auto body filler:
And the cylinder hole in the door. These are overfilled, then cut down when the filler is still soft with a knife.
The filler is sanded smooth:
The other areas on the frame that were welded, cut or ground are also primed.
Finally, the security contact is reinstalled on the frame and door:
And we are finished:
Someone else will come and fill the frame with either mortar or spray foam, and caulk it. Normally, there would be a sweep at the bottom on the outside to close the gap, but there wasn’t one on the original door.
I made a short video from some of the pictures and live clips while doing the work shown above, plus the start of another job in a new building: