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Wooden doors don’t belong here

Posted: July 7, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 7, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Hello Robert,
I’ve been reading your interesting column for quite some time now.  I’m a newbie contractor but want to learn all I can and do the best job possible. I installed four doors to a trash room about six months ago. When I got there, there were no doors there. The complex called me saying the fire department told them that they cannot use wooden doors. My question is why not? They are solid wooden doors and now I’m being told to replace them with “fire rated” metal doors. Is this correct? Thank you,
Jerry C.

Hi Jerry,
They are right. The doors have to be what we call a “labeled” door.  The label will rate the duration of the burn time of the door.  The reason for the labeling is that the manufacturer guarantees the doors will not burn through and into a common area for the rated amount of time.       

Astragals are also required. They have to self-close and self- latch.  They have to have a stop on them, but door-stops are not allowed. You can’t have those on a fire door.  Those doors have to remain closed 24 hours a day, or they’re part of the fire system, which means when the fire system goes on, the power dumps — the power goes off, and the magnets release and self-close the doors with hydraulic closers.    

Generally speaking, trash doors will not be part of the magnetic system. You don’t want to see your trash room doors in the open position. But, they must self-close and latch, to make them fire rated. That’s just part of the code.  

The fire department probably came in and saw that they were new doors and looked for the label, which is usually on the hinge side of the door.  When we order doors like that, we call it in to a door supply company that calls in the dimensions to the manufacturer. The manufacturer then jigs the doors for you. If doors are fire rated, they don’t want you cutting into them in any way for any reason. They are special-ordered and pre-hung. All you need to do is mount the hinges and hardware.  

Now there are wooden doors that are fire-rated, but they all have a label on them. So that’s how the fire department got involved, because your doors weren’t tagged.  

Unfortunately, I see this all of the time in this industry. We see wrongly installed doors by people unaware of the codes.  With cases like this, you, as the contractor, will have to make good on the doors and will have to eat the job. Again, it will require all of the hydraulic closers, the astragals, and all of the hardware necessary to make the door fire-tight. Since the fire department has probably already cited the HOA, they will be back to revisit the job and you’ve probably got a 30 to 60 day period of time in which you need to conform.

Hi Robert,
I read your article on medeco locks. We bought our home about one year ago, which has Medeco locks that came with two keys, but one was lost so we are down to one key.  I can’t find who I can get to make some new keys for us.  

I went to a locksmith and he says he doesn’t know whose key it is. So how do I go about getting new keys without having to send my key to the midwest, which will leave me with no key?  How do I find out who has this key? They are very strict with these. The locksmith I went to was not helpful at all and just said it was not his key and doesn’t know where to take it.  
Raquel S.

Hi Raquel,
My recommendation would be go to Flam’s in the San Fernando Valley. He’s one of the best locksmiths in the industry and will be able to tell you whose keyway it is and from there, you can go to the original locksmith.  

He’s the locksmith that I mentioned last week that works with the FBI, etc., and has been around for 40 years and is highly respected by Medeco.  

I’ve shown him keys in the past and off the top of his head, just by looking at the key, he was able to tell me what locksmith cut that key.  

If push comes to shove, you may have to replace the core. Keep the Medeco body, but purchase new cores and keyways.  You can then sign a new card, which will allow you and only you to get new keys cut in the future from that locksmith.  They are very strict about this and there is no other way. Otherwise, Medeco will pull the locks from the locksmith who may be illegally bootlegging keys.  

Medeco is one of the best locks out there. A few years ago I had an incident where the fire department had to get into a home and they literally had to take an axe to the door because they could not break the lock.  

Hi Robert,
I’m sure you have answered this question in the past but I have Hunter ceiling fans that are unbalanced and rattle at various speeds but cannot seem to find anyone interesting in coming out to repair.... is there a way to balance the fans (also all of the fans have lights ... if that makes a difference). Any info you can provide will be appreciated. Thank You.
Del H.

Hi Del,
Rattling could be due to a loose box, loose screws in the fan or light or it could mean that the blades are unbalanced.  All three of the repairs are easy to address.

To check the box, remove or have an electrician remove the fan assembly and check the integrity of the box. If the box and screws of the fan and light are tight, then the problem is with the balance of the blades.  

The repair is easy but time consuming. You can purchase fan weights that are attached to the blades.  

Place the weight on each of the blades, one at a time, and determine if the rattling or wobble is better or worse.

After testing all of the blades, put the weight on the blade that showed the most improvement and move it along the length of the blade until it spins smoothly. Then permanently attach the balancing weight as per instructions.
We have designed a custom, full-color The Signal/Your Home Improvements T-shirt we will give you if we answer your question. The T-shirt is available to be picked up at our office.

Robert Lamoureux has 25 years experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contacting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor, after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Send your questions to


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