Tom Goodwin from Commercial Door Company, Inc. in Pomona, California, shares insights from his team's experiences installing SmokeShield® Elevator Doors, highlighting best practices for a successful project.
When our team at Commercial Door Company, Inc., Pomona, California, recently completed a large project that included 16 Cookson SmokeShield Elevator Doors, we ran into some unexpected issues.
During a fire, elevator shafts pull smoke through a building and feed flames with oxygen creating a dangerous situation. SmokeShield Elevator Doors effectively seal off hoistways, limiting smoke infiltration. They are pretty straight forward in design and easy to install, however – quoting the phrase, “If I knew then what I know now,” this install could have gone so much smoother.
We all know the process – win the job, answer the RFI questions, provide submittals, get approved submittals, and then wait for the green light to install the product. During this time, we check in periodically with the general contractor (GC) to make sure our scope is on track. We try to catch any issues early so that we can lay the groundwork for a smooth installation when it’s go time.
With regards to the SmokeShield Elevator Doors, we checked all of the boxes. We planned correctly and communicated openly with the GC to ensure they had the proper framing, support, and backing. We confirmed how the customer was going to close around our doors after installation to achieve their desired end finish look. That being said, we installed the doors fairly early on.
Their teams came in and did the soffit work and wall coverings. Everything went according to plan until the GC told us that they were ready for Alarm Testing. After installation, when the GC called for Alarm Testing and Certification to receive their Certificate of Occupancy, all doors performed perfectly, passing inspection. So the install was a success, right?
Not exactly. Here’s why: After the doors passed inspection, we assumed that since the building had permanent power, including back-up generators, our work was done. We left the doors up with clips off, ready to perform as designed. The problem? There were still several trade persons completing their work, and that meant continued alarm testing. So every time they tested the alarm, the smoke and fire doors would close. If the workers were leaving the elevator, the plastic SmokeShield curtain would become an obstruction, and they would often “push” too hard to pass, blowing the curtain out of guides. The curtains would sometimes get stuck and materials would shift while they tried to maneuver through the plastic. In addition, some of the wall finishers were touching up around the elevators getting debris, screws, and even mud in the guide openings, causing all sorts of issues that affected SmokeShield’s overall performance. All of this taking a toll on the doors.
So what would we do differently? After the SmokeShield Elevator Doors are installed, but before they are ready for alarm testing, we advise keeping the clips on the head box covers, holding the bottom bars up, and then taping off the guide openings. When ready for testing, simply remove the tape and clips, and complete testing. Afterwards, refasten the clips and re-tape the guide openings. Wait until the building is finally turned over to the end user, and at the very last possible second, remove the clips and tape. This process of removing the clips and tape literally takes only a few minutes per door, but will save hours and weeks of time (depending on how many doors there are) having to go back and continue to service, repair, adjust, and re-test the smoke containment doors.
You might be wondering if we received change orders for the extra work caused by others? Yes, but that is work that no one really profits from. If we could have avoided these issues, it would have been better for obvious reasons. Not only would we have fared so much better being proactive and prepared, preventing the need for clean-up and/or repairs, the product would have performed at optimum efficiency, with no surprises.