Inspecting the Specs Part 2: How to Choose the Right Pole Barn Door

April 25, 2016

Inspecting the Specs Part 2: How to Choose the Right Pole Barn Door

In our previous post, we delved into the attributes of a quality pole barn window. In this post, we move over to pole barn doors, and make an open and shut case for quality.

Just as we did in our windows post, we tapped the expertise of Al Geisthardt, Product Engineer of Plyco Corporation. Plyco has been a leading supplier of products to the post-frame construction industries for over 50 years, and they’re a supplier-partner of Wick Buildings.

 Al Geisthardt Plyco (1) (1)

We work with Plyco because of one word: Quality.

“A door should be made to last,” Geisthardt said. A simple idea, but one that’s difficult to execute unless every part of the door adheres to the quality mantra. So let’s dig into the details.

Water Loves to Wreck Wood: Why You Should Opt for Aluminum

With so many customers in the Midwest, our ongoing goal is to figure out a way to thwart the elements. As Geisthardt notes, that is more difficult if you use a wood frame.

Exposed directly to the elements, a post-frame door is subject to a lot of rain. Pole barns have big roofs, and a lot of water runs off it and splashes up on the door below.  This will lead to eventual rot if the frame is wood. Besides being unsightly, a rotted frame is also a security risk.

Geisthardt stresses the need for aluminum-framed doors for a number of reasons.

  • Aluminum has a resistance to corrosion, and is very strong for its weight. It can be wrapped around the frame to conceal both the wood framing and the steel side.
  • Aluminum’s formable nature allows the manufacturer to shape a very attractive frame with aesthetic and architectural appeal.
  • Aluminum’s strength allows for consistent dimensions as well, a critical point if the door needs to be replaced.

Commercial Door vs. Standard Doors

Before we deep-dive into the attributes of a quality pole barn door, consider that most people will buy either a commercial door or a standard door, based on the building code requirements.

Wick Buildings Engineer Leo Shirek explains the difference between commercial and standard doors, including why some people may opt for the commercial door even if they don’t need to meet a building code.

QA Interview - Leo Skirek Commercial Doors

Leo also notes that a customer can choose from a variety of different doors, which we details in the post “What is the Ideal Choice for Your Pole Barn Door?”

Feature by Feature: What Makes a Pole Barn Door Durable

Pole barn doors should be built for their longevity, and are truly the sum of their parts. So what are the parts that make a door durable? Here is a list of the elements we think are essential for every pole barn door:

Stainless Steel Hinges

Besides the stainless steel, your hinge should have a non-removable pin for security.

 

 

 Stainless Steel Hinge Outside

Stainless Steel Hinge Outside

Corrosion Resistance

We touched on the importance of aluminum. Another way to your door can resist corrosion is to ensure your screws are compatible with the door’s material. “Stainless steel and aluminum will interact just fine,” Geisthardt said. Brass and steel – not so much.

Thermal Break

In heated buildings, every door should have a thermal break around the entire frame.  As we noted in our post on windows, the thermal break separates the inside aluminum from the exterior aluminum, so the cold doesn’t transfer through the frame.   

 Thermal Break on Door Panel

Thermal Break on Door Panel

Thermal break on threshold.

Thermal break on threshold.

Polyurethane is used for the thermal break. It’s poured into place, then when it’s solidified, a segment of the aluminum is actually sawed away to create the barrier against heat loss.

Galvanized Steel Skin

The door should have a 24 gauge, galvanized steel-painted finish.  The 24-gauge skin is heavier than most standard doors, so it’s more dent resistant. It also has greater strength to resist the wear and tear of regular use and stormy weather.

Galvanized steel skin on a door.

Edges

Here’s where aluminum shows its mettle. A roll-formed edge allows for good interlocking between the steel of the building and the edge of the. Aluminum allows for the door to be made with accurate and consistent dimensions – again, ensuring replacements will have a snug fit.

 Edges on a door.

Edges on a door.

Blocking

This is one of those little details that can make a difference. Blocking is a spacer around your lockset. It’s used to ensure the door doesn’t collapse around the skin when you install the door’s hardware. High-density polyethylene blocks will provide support for the skin.

Insulation

Not only should your insulation keep your building cool in the summer and warm in the winter, it should also be environmentally-friendly. A commercial door is recommended to have insulation rated at R-13. Choose an environmentally friendly, polyurethane core that emits no global warming glasses.

Insulation on a door jamb.

Insulation on a door jamb.

This type of core fills the interior of the door, expanding into the cavity. It fills all the voids, blocking any airflow within the door.

Sweep

A quality sweep will be flexible and cold-resistant. Alcryn is the most durable material for a sweep; Geisthardt notes that it stands up to all the toughest standards tests. “It’s the best we’ve ever had.”

Sweeps


Sweeps

 

Lite Kits

The lite kits include any types of windows with internal grids. Tempered, insulated glass should be the norm, with a thickness of 1-inch.

Example of Door with a Lite Kit.

Example of Door with a Lite Kit.

Testing: Does Your Pole Barn Door Measure Up?

A quality pole barn door has to meet the testing requirements of a number of different organizations that set the standards for the industry.  We’ll touch on a few of the organizations, then describe the particular test the door needs to pass.

AAMA – American Architectural Manufacturers Association (aamainfo)

A strong advocate for manufacturers and professionals in the fenestration industry with respect to product certification, standards development, education and training, legislative regulations, building and energy codes.

NFRC – National Fenestration Rating Council

The NFRC is the leader in energy performance information, education, and certified ratings for fenestration products.

ASTM International – American Society for Testing and Materials

The ASTM provides over 12,000 standards globally in a variety of industries.   

Door Testing Requirements

Air Infiltration – ASTM E 283

To ensure your door doesn’t allow air to infiltrate a door, this test simulates a 25 mph wind against the door.  (The video below shows the test against a wall.)

Your door should pass the .30 cfm/ft standard. A quality door will beat that mark (Plyco’s would have passed at .10, for example.)

 

Water penetration – ASTM E 331

The same standard for air hold true for water. In this test, water is sprayed on a door to simulate 8 inches of rain per hour. To pass, you have to demonstrate there is no water seepage. Here’s a video of ASTM E 331 testing conducted on a building.

Wind Load Rating – ASTM E 330

Wind resistance is important. If your door blows in during a windstorm, your roof could lift up and blow away.  This test simulates a DP 45 wind load; equivalent to Hurricane Sandy blowing against your door.  It will huff, it will puff…

Check out the video of ASTM E 330 testing on a window. Right around the 50 second mark, things go south.

Thermal Performance – NFRC 102-2010

The NFRC is all about retaining heat and coolness. This video, which explains the NFRC, details why the standard is important.

Security performance – AAMA 1304

This test amounts to someone using a screwdriver to break into a door.  Typically, doors pass this test, but it should be noted this test is conducted on new doors. Our big concern in this area is the security of a wood-frame door, in which the frame is rotted.

Last But Not Least: Installation is Critical in Pole-Barn Doors

As we noted in our windows post, installation is the key for any quality door. ASTM 2112 is an installation standard, but typically most contractors don’t scrutinize it or may not even know about it.

It falls upon the manufacturer to adhere to it by providing crystal-clear installation instructions. It’s another of those essential details that ensures the sum of the parts equals a quality pole barn door.

Why Standards and Specs are So Important

Is is necessary to know all these door-related details, inside and out? Unless you’re a builder, an engineer, or a door manufacturer, not really.

However, with a solid overview of the quality aspects of a door, you now understand what architects and builders are suggesting you install. You’ll be able to make smart purchase decisions, weighing cost vs. quality, and knowing what can happen if you skimp.  

A post-frame building is like a chain – only as strong as its weakest link. Quality in all areas, especially your doors, will ensure that chain doesn’t break.

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