Physical security | Access control hardware

Door Security Hardware Overview

We cover all the most important components of effective door security hardware

9 min reading time

Door Security Hardware Overview

Updated on December 01, 2022

Written by Dillon Okner

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If you’re in the market for a new security door and hardware solutions to keep your business secure, the options available can be a bit overwhelming if you’re just starting out. We’ve created an overview of the different types of door security hardware available to you, and described the main features of each type.

The main focus of this article will be to help you understand:

  • Types of office doors
  • Hanging option
  • Physical security and safety options
  • Access control options

While your best resource will be your office building’s general contractor and security team, this guide will hopefully allow you to engage in an educated and informed conversation with them as you make your decision.

Security Door Type

We’ve already created a guide that covers types of doors that you’ll find in a typical office or industrial setting, so check that out for a more in-depth look at your door options. However, whether you choose a glass, metal, or wood door, all of the following information will apply to the way that they are installed and can be secured.

Hanging the Door

There are two common ways that doors are hung to a door frame:

  • Hinges are what allow a door to pivot along one edge to open and clothes. While you’re typical door will have three hinges along the top, middle, and bottom of one edge of the door, some larger, more secure doors (such as entrance doors) may have hinges that run along the entire length of one of the door’s edges. There are many different types of door hinges, but the most common ones you’ll find are 3-knuckle or 5-knuckle butt hinges.
  • Pivots are placed on the top and bottom of a door, which allow it to be opened and closed on an axis. Pivot doors can be larger and heavier than hinge doors, and since the pivots are hidden in the door frame, they allow for a seamless look that many find more aesthetically pleasing.

Types of locks

Not all locks are created equal. Knowing the pros and cons of the different types of locks can help you make an informed decision about how you plan to secure the equipment, data, and private information in your office.

Mechanical locks use a physical release mechanism to keep a door closed and locked. The release mechanism (usually a lever, knob, key, or thumbturn) needs to be manually activated (turned, pressed, etc.) before the door can be opened. These locks come in a number of different forms.

  • Tubular locks (also known as radial locks, Ace locks, or circle pin tumblers) can often be found on cabinets, bike locks, ATMs, and other commercial products, and are not commonly used on doors. Their keyway is made up of a ring-shaped hole with a solid metal cylinder in the middle, and they use a basic pin tumbler system.
  • Cylindrical locks are very commonly used due to the ease with which they can be rekeyed, flexibility when it comes to master key systems, and general ease of installation. Sometimes referred to as bored locks, they are commonly used with lever handles, and they use a latch bolt system that interlocks one end of the cylindrical lock chassis with the other.
  • Mortise locks built into the door (the pocket they’re built into is called a mortise), and are typically very heavy duty and secure. They are made up of many different parts:
  • The lock body, which houses the locking components
  • The handle or knob, which is turned to retract the latch
  • The through spindle, which connects the handle with the lock body
  • The lock cylinder, which contains the part of the lock that allows the handle to retract the latch
  • Interconnected locks are made up of two connected locks, making it so that the latchbolt and deadbolt retract simultaneously when the lever handle is pulled.
  • Deadbolts are distinct from the other locks in that they don’t use springs and can only be unlocked by key rotations. They can either be single and double cylinder deadbolts, but double cylinder deadbolts are less common in business due to fire safety codes.

There are also many different types of electronic locks and electronic door security hardware available. The key difference between mechanical and electronic locks are that electronic locks require power to operate the locking and unlocking functions of the door. Keep in mind that the electric locks come in two functions: fail safe (the system unlocks when power is removed) and fail secure (the system locks when power is removed).

Electronic hardware:

  • An electric strike replace traditional fixed strike faceplates, and makes it so that the latch can be locked or released electronically. The security of an electric strike tends to be linked to the security of the access control system it’s paired with.
  • An electromagnetic lock (also referred to as a mag lock) is made up of an electromagnet and an armature plate that are attracted to each other so securely, they are able to keep the door from opening.
  • An electromechanical lock is basically a traditional mechanical lockset that has been retrofitted with an electronic system, allowing for controlled access via card readers, remote releases, etc.

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Door Safety

Exit devices on doors are what allow the exterior of a door to be locked while also allowing the interior of a door to be opened. These devices are usually spring-loaded, and are generally coupled with panic features. They come in a variety of form factors.

  • The touchpad uses a bar that runs through the midsection of the door, with the touchpad being what is pressed to unlock/unlatch the door to exit.
  • The crossbar operates on similar mechanical principles as the touchpad, but is commonly found on glass and is often chosen for aesthetic reasons.
  • Recessed exit devices are simply devices are embedded into the door.
  • Vertical exit rods are used when there are additional latches on the top/bottom of the door, and they connect the exit device to those latches for exit.
  • Vertical exit cables perform the same function, only they are concealed within the door.
  • Dogging an exit device means that the latching mechanism can be held in the retracted position.

Door Control

There are a number of options available when it comes to controlling how and when a door opens and closes.

A door closer is a device that aids in the closing of a door. There are a number of devices to choose from, but here are some of the moe common types you may come across:

  • Surface-mounted closers are mounted at the top of the door and frame, and use an arm mount to put resistance on the closing door.
  • Floor closers mount to the floor and are commonly found on pivot doors.
  • Concealed closers are mounted in the frame head and hidden from view.
  • High-security closers are specifically designed to withstand vandalism and abuse.
  • Electronic closers can be used to automatically close and shut doors.

Automatic operators are devices or systems used to automatically open doors. Here are some examples of common types of operators.

  • Push to release button systems are spring-loaded buttons that can be used to automatically unlock doors. They are commonly used as fail-safes in the event an access control panel fails.
  • Electro-hydrolic systems are used for occasional door automation.
  • Electro-mechanical systems are used when door automation will be used frequently.
  • Pneumatically powered systems use air pressure to automatically open doors.

Door Access

While the mechanics behind much of the door security hardware described above are based on similar fundamentals, the access control systems used to monitor and allow access can vary significantly depending on the level of security needed. All types of electronic locks fall under two:

  • Networked locks are electronic locks that are connected to a larger access control system, which allows system administrators to change and track access rights as long as they are connected to the network.
  • Standalone locks/readers are based off the same technology as networked locks, but they are not connected to an overall network, so a network administrator must go to each physical lock to change access rights.

Types of credentials #

  • Patented key management systems are systems that are specific to a particular organization, meaning that keys can only be duplicated or administered through specific, professional locksmith channels.
  • Card keys come in a variety of different forms, but the key takeaway is that they are plastic cards that bear magnetically or electronically encoded data, and they are read by card readers on doors, which grant access.
  • Biometrics are generally considered the most secure form of credential, and they use biological markers (like fingerprints, retinal scans, and voice recognition) to grant access.

Dillon Okner

Head of Global Workplace at Enjoy Technology, INC

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