7 Tips for a Successful Fire-Rated Door Frame Project
In an industry where increasing restrictions and regulations seem to cast a larger shadow over aesthetic and cost possibilities within projects, fire-rated door frames are no exception, and perhaps even the poster child for this challenge. If not careful, meeting client needs while adhering to various performance requirements can become a daunting task at best, with a budget and client satisfaction on the line.
As a provider of fire-rated framing solutions, including our Vulcanus Fire-Rated Door System product, we at Contact Industries are no strangers to this topic. Whether we’re called in at the last minute to perform a project rescue, or looped in from the start to develop a unique solution, we’ve seen our fair share of successes and challenges in this area.
Based on our experiences, when considering fire-rated door frames for your next commercial project, consider these seven tips to ensure success:
- Understand Project Expectations: Before anything else is considered, make sure you clearly understand the needs and requirements of your customer. Take a holistic view of the opening, and make sure the frames are consistent with the door, casing, and millwork. As the project progresses, revisit and reconfirm and expectations.
- Crack the Code: Code is everything, and ensuring your customer will meet requirements is just as important as communicating the aesthetic.
- Engage Partners Early On: This is perhaps the most important requirement. Keeping costs and scope in check is one thing, but failing to loop in industry partners from the start causes cost and time inefficiencies for all parties. Once you understand the project and code requirements, secure a manufacturer who specializes in commercial openings.
- Know Your Substrate: When considering substrate options for a fire-rated door frame, make sure you fully understand the benefits and limitations of each so you can accurately communicate these to your customer. Thanks to innovative adhesive advancements, decorative surfaces like veneer and laminate are now available on Certified Rated Substrates in softwood, hardwood, fire-rated MDF, and fire-rated metal frame options.
- Certify First. Market Later. Expanding on the previous point, fit, form and function are very important to understand for any project, but particularly for fire-rated door frames. Aesthetics are great, but code is king. A pretty frame that doesn’t meet code is a frame (and company) that doesn’t get utilized in the project.
- Keep an Open Mind and Dialogue: Balancing aesthetic desires, financial limitations and code restrictions requires open, honest dialogue with all parties. For veneer (or laminate) wrapped door frames, like what we provided in a project for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, it’s especially important to work closely with the manufacturer, while keeping an open dialogue of exactly what the end user wants and desires. Collaboration from the jobsite can inspire innovation. For example, we worked with our customers on a clip system to make hanging our veneered frames easier on the installers. Communication is key to success, and this is especially important when negotiating new ideas.
- Consult Before Compromise: The only time a client needs to compromise is if substantial consultation with the manufacturer has already taken place. There is a tremendous amount of innovation happening with fire-rated door frames due to advancements in adhesive technology, so if by some chance you’re able to inspire a change in the specs — which can and does happen — be sure to have extensive conversations with the manufacturer about what potential performance substrates may be available before conversing with the architect/builder.
Out of all these requirements, working together to pull from each others’ expertise remains a crucial component for succeeding as an industry, as well as within individual projects. Without such teamwork, innovative solutions go unnoticed, our industry’s value decreases and clients’ wish lists go unfulfilled.
As long as everyone strives to understand the growing regulations and challenges within our industry, and stays apprised of the wide array of solutions available in our marketplace, we can all continue to innovate and support each other on the way to more opportunities for bigger business, more creativity, and increasing the value of our work.
-Elements of this post can be found in the most recent issue of DHI Magazine. DHI is an association proudly serving door security and safety professionals, and the dynamic companies they represent, in the non-residential construction industry.