Skip to main content

By design, architectural doors are some of the most frequently used and abused building components in today’s construction. Not only do they need to provide design and aesthetic qualities, but they also must be rugged enough to withstand daily wear and tear from closing, opening and the occasional slamming, so building owners and architects expect them to have durable, high-quality veneers and finishes that last the life of the building.

Ask any architectural wood door manufacturer how they achieve this durability and performance, and most will tell you it’s the result of constructing the door in accordance with either the ANSI/WDMA I.S.1A Industry Specification for Architectural Wood Flush Doors or the ANSI/WDMA I.S.6A Industry Specification for Architectural Wood Stile and Rail Doors. Both of these standards contain all the information necessary to identify the desired performance duty levels, wood face veneer and finish systems for architectural wood doors, as well as the requirements they must meet accordingly. The standards also provide critical guidance for the storage and handling of the doors at the jobsite.

Selecting the Right Duty Level

The first consideration in selecting an architectural wood door that will ensure high levels of performance and durability for the lifetime of the building is knowing how and where the door will be used, so the proper duty level can be determined.

The standards set three duty levels and the requirements for each level:

  • Extra Heavy Duty: This duty level is intended for doors that will be subject to the most frequent and extreme usage, such as doors to classrooms, hospital patient rooms, public bathrooms and trauma centers. These doors are constructed to the highest performance standards.
  • Heavy Duty: This duty level is intended for doors that are not going to be used in high-traffic areas, but must still meet the standards for intermediate usage under moderate conditions. These would include doors leading to areas such as stairwells, mechanical rooms, hotel rooms, apartments and medical examination rooms.
  • Standard Duty: This covers the remainder of door usages reserved for areas within a building where usage is the least frequent, such as low-usage office spaces, private bathrooms, closets and storage rooms.

Proper Veneer Selection and Finish

The final aesthetics of the door are completely dependent on the species of wood, the cut of the veneer, how the veneer is matched on the door (book, random, etc.), and the grade of the veneer, which can vary from custom to premium.

Premium grade is the finest commercial-grade material and is intended for use in the most luxurious commercial, industrial and institutional buildings, where the quality of the finish must match perfectly with the door’s surroundings.

Custom is intended for high-quality work, where minor imperfections of the wood veneer are within specified tolerances that are acceptable to the architect.

Choosing the right grade and finish goes hand in hand with creating an aesthetically pleasing, well-designed door; it’s also recommended to add a protective coating to withstand the frequent use of commercial cleaning agents.

By using the guide specification checklist in the architectural wood door standards, specifiers and architects can select the pertinent information needed to assure the desired finish and veneer quality of the door is properly conveyed to the manufacturer.

Assuring Proper Storage and Handling

Once a door leaves the factory, nothing can be more damaging than improperly storing it on the job site. Some of the most common causes of a door warping or chinking are due to the product coming into direct contact with water or being stored in areas subjected to dramatic changes in temperature and humidity. By following the standards’ provisions for the proper storage, handling, and installation of the doors, builders can avoid damaging the doors and ensure that the product delivered maintains its integrity and beauty.

WDMA’s architectural wood door standards provide architects, specifiers, and builders with all of the information needed to ensure that the door specified meets the desired finish and performance. So the next time you grab that door handle, take a moment to appreciate the beauty and construction of an architectural wood door and take comfort in knowing that if that door was constructed using one of the two WDMA industry standards, you are looking at a wonderful piece of art that will last the life of the building.

By: Steven Orlowski

Sr. Director, Standards & Technical Activities | Window & Door Manufacturers Association

Complete The Form To Download The ANSI/WDMA Industry Standards For Interior Architectural Doors

Understanding And Specifying With WDMA’s Architectural Door Standards Webinar

The Understanding and Specifying with WDMA’s Architectural Door Standards webinar is designed to help architects and specifiers understand the architectural wood door standards, including performance duty levels, aesthetics, construction and finishes for architectural wood doors.

This free webinar qualifies for 1 AIA or DHI continuing education credit.

Learn More