By Conrad Mast
Recently we chatted with Conrad Mast, one of ProVia’s Field Service experts for doors. We asked him “what kinds of things would make a big difference in homeowners’ satisfaction with their doors, and also make things easier for dealers?” His answer: “Prevent callbacks due to door installation issues.” Well, he had a lot more to say about that, and here we share his door installation tips in this, the first of a two part series.
What are the most common reasons for callbacks on doors?
Number one is installation issues. Doors not sealing up properly and getting air leaks because the frames are not installed correctly, or at times, the sweep is really tight due to a crowned threshold and you have to try and make adjustments. Sometimes we can make adjustments in the field, but other times I have to note that in order to fix it correctly, the installer will have to come back out to re-install the door.
What do you mean, re-install the door?
Well, at least loosen it enough so you can make major adjustments to it. If your reveal across the top of the door is considerably wider on the strike side than it is at the hinge side, you may have to raise the hinge side of the door frame a little bit so the reveal is even across the top. This also takes the door up and relieves the sweep stress a on the threshold. If this isn’t fixed, the sweep will eventually tear, and then you’re going to get water leaking in. You also need to look for the door being on the same plane as the jamb. When you close the door, is it contacting the frame weather strip at the bottom before the top, or vice versa? These are all issues that need to be addressed. You can correct some of these issues by making adjustments to the hinges, but you are limited due to engineering limitations. But you can fine tune and tweak it a bit. These are probably the main door installation errors I see in the field.
Proper shimming techniques are taught at ProVia's Installer Certification Program
Do you see a lot of shimming issues?
Yes! A lot of times I see that shims aren’t installed at all. If you see that the door is sagging in the frame, there is a good possibility – it’s not shimmed. If you pull the casing off, you’ll probably find that there are no shims in there, often because someone didn’t take the time. Without shims, it will hold for a period of time, but after a while the door frame starts to move because there’s nothing holding it securely in place.
Do installers not shim because they think it’ll take too long, or because they don’t think it really needs it?
There’s a common misperception out there: “The door is pre-hung, so all I need to do is throw it in the hole, run some screws through the brickmold and I’m done.” Wrong! There have been quite a few times I’ll go out on a job site and see that they never installed the long screws through the hinges into the wall studding. I’ve gone out on jobs and the screw installation sticker is still there over the holes where the screws are to be installed. They just didn’t put the long screws in to anchor it. So you know if they didn’t do that, they probably didn’t shim either. This means the door will work great for a short period of time, but then it’ll start failing. When that happens, the homeowner often thinks they have a product failure, when actually it was simply never installed correctly. It’s important to follow the steps. That’s why our Installer Certification Program is so important.
Why does training make such a difference?
We have lots of really great dealers where we never see issues like this. But then there are others where the installers don’t have as much training. They simply install the door the best they know how. These are the types of installations that we get callbacks from because they didn’t shim or install the long screws.
As an example, I visited one installation of an entry door/storm door combination. The piano hinge of the storm door had absolutely no screws through the Z-bar. That obviously was causing operational issues, door slab sagging, thus causing the door to hit the strike side z-bar frame. The entry door had the same issue; the door was hitting the strike side frame at the top due to a lack of screw installation through the hinges. I’m guessing it was a new installer, and he just did the best he could and perhaps rushed through the job.
Be thorough. Spend the extra half hour during a door installation to make sure it’s done right.
If you had a roomful of installers in an auditorium with the chance to speak to them, what else would you tell them?
Let’s say you installed a Spectrum storm door. Before you leave the job site, show the homeowner how it works. Show them all the things the door does. This means you need to be educated yourself. You need to be familiar with the product, how it is designed to function. Some functions may seem simplistic to the installer, however, confusing to a homeowner who is unfamiliar with the product. Things such as making sure the upper sash is all the way up and the bottom one is all the way down before you try to latch it. Show them how to adjust a closer on a storm door. There’s a little screw that adjusts the closing speed. Show them how the deadbolt works. Some of those things are so simple if you work with it every day you think it’s no big deal. On an entry door, show them how the internal blind works. You pull the magnetic slide down. Now and then you’ll get one that disconnects, show them how to reconnect it. It’s pretty simple if you know how. Instead of calling back, the homeowner will say, “Oh yeah, he showed me how to do that”. We have an adjustable strike plate on our entry doors. Sometimes the adjustable plate will loosen due to not being secured properly, so the door becomes a bit loose. I tell a homeowner before I leave, “On this adjustable strike plate there are two plates, and the back one slides. All you do is loosen the screws a bit and slide it to the desired position and re-tighten the screws. Sometimes if the door becomes a little loose, check that.” And they say “Oh, that’s easy I can do that”. It saves a callback if they know that ahead of time. It’s the little things that are important. It’s important that the customer is educated about the product.
Compare the number of callbacks you’re receiving now compared to when you started 10 years ago.
From my perspective, as a percentage of sales they’re getting fewer. I attribute that to education. Our Installer Certification Program brings accountability on the part of the dealer and installer. However, as long as there are human beings installing doors there will always be some issues, but installers who are committed to their craft are getting better.
Do you see more or less people making a career of installing doors?
I recently met an installer in his late 20’s whose dad is an installer. He really enjoys installing doors and he’s very good at it too. It’s fun to watch him work because he has his own special way of setting up his job site. He brings a trash can and sets a board on it to create a platform for his tools, so he doesn’t need to bend over to get them all the time. So here’s a younger guy coming in and doing what his dad was doing. The world needs good, quality installers. We’re glad to see we have a lot of good ones working with us at ProVia. And we’re here to help anyone who wants to learn how to be the best in the business.
Do you have any favorite door installation tips? Comment below and share your thoughts. There’s more to come in part two of this series, so let us know if you have any installation or callback questions you’d like us to cover.