First things first: What is a “pre-hung door”: A basic door is comprised of several elements: the frame, the sash (door panel), and the hardware (hinges etc.) that holds it together and allows it to operate (open and close). A pre-hung door is one where the sash has been factory-installed (hung) into the frame prior to installation on site. When you think of ‘stock’ type doors you would buy at your local Home Depot or lumber yard; these are typically pre-hung doors that you place in a framed ‘rough opening’ and off you go…
Effective December 20th, 2013, Section 9.7.4 of the BC Building Code requires that all doors, windows and skylights conform to a new harmonized performance standard: AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/I.S.2/A440-08, NAFS North American Fenestration Standard/Specification for windows, doors and skylights known in the industry as NAFS.
Technical jargon aside, what does this mean for our industry?
The implementation of NAFS is a game changer for the custom exterior door industry. Our West Coast Architecture uses doors; particularly front entry doors; as a focal point in design, with custom doors commonplace in new houses.
Historically, doors were not performance tested to the same degree that we would do so with windows. The logic: typically doors were installed in more protected locations where the effects of wind and rain were less severe.
Since the implementation of the BC Energy Efficiency Act a few years back, almost all windows in the marketplace have to be factory tested for air leakage, structural integrity and rainwater penetration in the factory prior to sale. These window products are rated against a performance standard (formerly CSA A440) with published performance data required in order to sell. Most doors (short of high performance exterior products) on the other hand were typically not tested.
With the new NAFS standard, doors are required to meet prescriptive performance levels. While the standard does recognize that locations such as front entry doors should not have to meet the same performance levels of an upper storey exposed window, they have to meet a basic standard nonetheless. This means that door manufacturers have to factory test and rate their products prior to sale, which is no small cost for door manufacturers.
This standard was supposed to be effective on July 2, 2013, but in anticipation of this pressure, the deadline was extended to December 20th to allow the manufacturers additional time to comply. Despite the extra time, we are still seeing the pinch leading up to December 20th with a noticeable lack of NAFS compliant doors on the shelves.
The biggest challenge lies with custom doors. In a basic sense, to test and rate a custom door requires you to build two. One you can pay to have tested (and possibly ruin), and one you can sell. When a custom door can approach $10,000, this becomes unpractical very quickly.
While we don’t immediately go searching for loopholes, there is an exemption from NAFS compliance for “site-built” doors which is quite interesting. For the purposes of this exemption, ‘site-built’ doesn’t necessarily mean you have to get out your fine woodworking tools and build yourself a door, but in the simplest form a site-built door is one where the sash is hung in the frame on-site.
Why is this any different?
A ‘door’ is not a ‘door’ until it is hung in a frame. Until that point it is just door parts (sash, frame, hardware etc.)
So, in a very long winded round-about way, we can question whether this is the end of the pre-hung custom door. Stock door manufacturers will eventually have their products tested and rated, but it is hard to imagine compliance within the custom door industry.
We shall wait and see…