Pivot Hardware – Use and Selection Guide

I get calls every week from clients who want to install pivot hardware to hang their doors (and sometimes other items like bookcases and even refrigerators). Using pivot hardware can serve several different criteria on a job site such as aesthetics or perhaps because a door is too heavy, tall or wide or maybe just because the owner is looking to do something different or less common than hinges.

In my experience there seems to be a general lack of understanding of the use and application of pivot hardware by many home owners, contractors and even architects. Most of the time this is where the knowledge of the hardware professional is indispensable and can help save money, aggravation and even delays on projects. But first we must define pivot hardware (or sometimes called pivot hinges).

There are two primary types of pivots used in commercial / residential construction

a. Offset Pivots
b. Center Hung Pivots

The selection of the proper pivot hardware for a given application can best start with asking a simple question.

The first question I most commonly ask is whether a door is single acting or double acting. A single acting door is one that swings open in one direction only. Typical single acting doors are classroom doors and bedroom doors. Double acting doors swing open in two directions. Typical double acting doors are seen in restaurants where the door to the kitchen can swing “in and out” so as to better allow people to move into and out of the kitchen with a try full of dinner plates.

We can easily eliminate offset or center hung pivot based on the answer to the above question. If a door is single acting, then both offset and center hung are still possible candidates. But if the door is double acting, then we can absolutely eliminate offset pivots. So lets move forward with a better definition of center hung pivots.

Center Hung pivots are unique and allow for a special set of design criteria for a doorway to be met. These pivots should be considered when a client wants the hardware to be concealed as much as possible or when a doorway is double acting. Center hung pivots are mortised into the bottom and top of the door generally centered in the door in relationship to the thickness and typically about 3/4″ from the pivoting edge of the door to the center of the pivoting axis. This makes the pivot hardware very nearly completely hidden when the door is closed.

Also because the axis of pivoting is in the center the door can be accommodated to double act if the application calls for it. A typical double acting door can been seen in a hospital room bathroom. The pivot hardware on these doors is center hung. Typically this bathroom door swing in but in the event of an accident (such as a patient collapsing) the nurse can, by disengaging a special strike plate, swing the door out into the room to allow access.

Center hung pivot hardware is available for doors less than 100 lbs. as heavy as up to 1,000 lbs., range from just over $100.00 to well over $1,000.00 dollars, are available is most sprayed and architectural plated finishes and made by many manufacturers such as Rixson, ABH, Ives and Dorma.

The following are a few considerations when specifying or using center hung pivots.

a. Center Hung pivots are not for use of fire rated doors
b. May violate the warranty of the door manufacturer
c. Typically require a radius edge to one or both stiles of the door.
d. Can be used on single or double acting doors but the way a door is machined depends on this.

Now moving onto offset pivots and back to our first question weather or not a door is single or double acting. Again if it is double acting then offset pivots are not an option. But if the door is single acting the then offset pivots are required.

Offset pivots can be specified for a number of reasons but the most common are weight of the door and the design criteria set forth by the owner. Offset pivots have a much higher weight capacity than hinges and can be considered the best possible means of hanging a door. Because the weight of the door is born exclusively on the bottom arm of the pivot (which is directly connected to the pivot spindle) the weight of the door itself is carried by the floor (and ultimately the remainder of the building).

Offset pivots are visible at the top and bottom of the door and are generally only slightly more difficult to machine in doors than center hung pivots.

Offset pivots are named such because the vertical pivoting axis is “offset” from the face of the door. There are two common offsets, 3/4″ and 1 1/2″. 3/4″ is by far the most common. This means the distance from the face of the door to the pivoting axis is 3/4″. 1 1/2″ offset is also not uncommon but are generally only used when the the doorway requires a greater offset such as thicker than standard casing or when a door is set deeper into a jamb than normal.

Typical applications for offset pivots are wardrobe closets or lead lined doors in hospitals and clinics. And like its cousin center hung pivots, offset pivot hardware made made for doors as light as less than 100 lbs. as heavy as up to 1,500 lbs., range from just under $200.00 to well over $1,000.00 dollars, are available is most sprayed and architectural plated finishes and made by many manufacturers such as Rixson, ABH, Ives and Dorma.

The following are a few considerations when specifying or using offset pivots.

a. Offset pivots can be used on fire rated doors
b. Intermediate pivots can be specified so as to not violate the warranty of the door manufacturer
c. Do not require a radius edge to either stile of the door.
d. Can be costly depending on the size and weight of the door they are installed onto.

I enjoy talking about pivots, their general and less common uses and helping people determine the right pivot for their application.

Choosing an Entryway Set For the Home – Buying Guide For Single Or Double Doors

An entryway set is an important feature of the front door not only because it sets the tone for what visitors can expect inside but because it is a crucial focal point of design. Most home entryway sets are chosen to reflect the architectural style of the home itself. Understanding how to choose a new entryway set can seem like a daunting process with so many options available but it can be made simple by understanding a few fundamental questions:

Is it for a Single or Double Door?

A single door typically requires a single knob and deadbolt set. Depending on the style of entryway set these could be two separate pieces that function separately from each other or one larger piece installed onto the door. If they are separate pieces a passage style doorknob is typically used and a single cylinder deadbolt is installed above it to secure the door. Multiple deadbolts can be keyed the same.

A double door system will typically utilize one active knob and one dummy knob for the non functioning door. The active door will use a system similar to the single dummy set up while the inactive door will be secured at all times (sometimes by an interior surface bolt) and a non functional doorknob will be installed. The non functional knob is referred to as a double dummy style knob and although it will appear the same as the functioning knob it will not turn or operate a latch mechanism.

What Backset is needed?

The backset refers to the distance from the center of the bore hole to the edge of the door. Not all doors have the same backset measurement so it is important to measure this distance before choosing a backset size.

For exterior doors a standard backset is 2 ¾ inches – this is in most cases however not all so measure carefully.

For interior doors a standard backset is 2 3/8 inches – once again this is in most cases but not all so measure carefully.

The backset length (if the door was drilled correctly) should be the same for the deadbolt.

What does center to center distance refer to?

Entryway sets with the deadbolt and knob on the same plate will include a center to center measurement – this refers to the distance between these two pieces on the door. If you are replacing an existing set measure the distance from the center of the existing deadbolt to the center of the existing knob to obtain this number – the same size will need to be used.

What Finish should be used?

The variety of finishes available depends entirely on the manufacturer – some offer as few as three and some offer as many as fourteen. Matching existing finishes from other manufacturers can sometimes be problematic because finishes can vary slightly. If available use a finishing guide to determine which finish will best match your existing hardware. If all the door hardware is being replaced in a new color try to select hardware from a single manufacturer to ensure a good match.

Using the same finish on different items on and near the door will help to create a common theme and a more complete look for the front door of your home. Door knockers, mail slots, kick plates and door bell buttons should be coordinated within one theme and finish.

Tips and Suggestions

There are a wide variety of options available for entryway sets in stores and online. Choose a style that is compatible with any existing holes to avoid the need to re-drill or replace the entire door. Remember to search for high quality materials such as solid brass (not plated) or iron to ensure strength and durability over time. Cheap and thin metals will dent and scratch more easily and need to be replaced.

Not all companies offer custom centers or keying multiple sets the same so be sure to ask before making a selection if these options are available.

An entryway system is a beautiful way to update any front door and add new value to your home. Choose a style that reflects the personality of the home itself and the home owners and have fun. It can be a frustrating process with so many options but taken one step at a time it will have a rewarding conclusion.