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Locks, Keys, & Hardware

A good percentage of all doors and gates have some form of locking device other than a latch. Americans with Disabilities Act Standards (ADAS) basically includes locks within the hardware section stating it should be located between 34” and 48 “ above the finished floor or ground. California on the other hand allows a maximum height of only 44” – its minimum height of 30” is over-ridden since ADAS provides for more access, so we get the range of 34” to 44” within California.

There are some exceptions per ADAS for existing locks.

  • Locks in glazed doors without stiles can be at any height
  • Overhead rolling doors or grilles can be at any height
  • Doors and grilles with locks that are activated only at the top or bottom rail can be at any height
  • Gates in fences or walls protecting pools, spas, and hot tubs can have the operable part of the release latch at 54” maximum as long as they are not also self-locking

Locks should be operable with one hand and not require tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist. A good test, although it is not mandatory, is whether you can operate the lock easily with a closed fist. A sliding surface bolt would need to have a projection that sticks out further than just the normal, otherwise you would need to pinch the nub in order to slide it. Toilet stalls or other locks with a twisting locking mechanism need to have a larger paddle shape and the same goes for a throw latch. For that matter, keys provided to the public, such as restroom keys, which require twisting of the wrist should have an attachment to make it easier to turn.

Another item on locking devices is the force required to operate the mechanism. Interior doors and sliding doors are required to have 5 pounds maximum and CBC requires the same for exterior doors – ADAS does not have a requirement on operating force for exterior doors. Doors adjacent to other power assisted or automatic opening doors are allowed in some circumstances to have a slightly higher amount of force to operate. Another exception is fire rated doors which is left to state jurisdictions with CBC requiring 15 maximum. For doors in a means of egress system, access controlled doors have differing requirements for unlatching or unlocking, whether it is a steady pushing force, a manual unlocking device, or the fire alarm or sprinkler system automatically unlocking doors. Now the force required to retract latch bolts or other devices that hold a door or gate closed are not required to comply with operating force.

Door hardware and locking devices have a number of requirements. Realize that this is one of the items that a large percentage of our population benefits from, since about 6.5% of our population has difficulty lifting and grasping and this increases as we age. There are new methods for locking other than keys which can be a keypad or card for swiping. The bottom line, is to give it some thought when a door needs to be locked and to not fall back on what has always been done.

Be aware that your local City or County may have additional requirements that are more restrictive than the State or Federal requirements. Also, this article is an interpretation and opinion of the writer. It is meant as a summary – current original regulations should always be reviewed when making any decisions.

© Janis Kent, Architect, CASp 2013