Hinges are hardware devices used to hang and swing a door. They are made from two connected metal plates known as leaves. The edge of each plate forms an interlocking barrel shape that connects to the adjoining leaf. A metal pin is placed through the barrel to connect the two leaves together. Builders can choose from standard or ball bearing hinge configurations when hanging a door, with each offering its own features and benefits.
Features of Standard Hinges
Standard, or plain bearing, hinges have barrels that are broken down into two, three or five connecting sections. The sections, known as knuckles, interlock like teeth to wrap around the hinge pin and connect the leaves. There is no buffer between each knuckle of the barrel. This tends to wear the hinge down over time as the sections grind against one another. Plain bearing hinges are almost always noisy or squeaky, even on lightweight doors.
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Features of Ball Bearing Hinges
Ball bearing hinges may also have two, three or five knuckles. They differ from plain bearing hinges in that they have a steel ball bearing, or buffer, in between the knuckles. Standard weight ball bearing hinges have bearings only at the top and bottom knuckles, so a five-knuckle hinge would have two bearings. Heavy-duty ball bearing hinges have bearings between every knuckle. These units tend to be durable, better performing and less noisy than standard hinges.
Standard hinges should be used only on residential and light-duty commercial applications. They are usually not the best option for an entrance door or for any openings that are used frequently. They work well on temporary doors or lightweight storage and closet doors. For commercial applications, ball bearing hinges are almost always the best option.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), all hinges used on fire doors must be ball bearing. This helps ensure the door can be properly operated over time, as a fire door must be closed completely to function as intended. Standard bearing hinges may be used on fire doors only when they are part of a packaged assembly labeled for use of fire-rated openings. The plain bearing hinges must also be tested to operate successfully for 350,000 cycles.
When comparing different types of hinges, buyers must consider not only upfront costs, but also the cost of maintenance and replacement over time. Ball bearing hinges cost more than standard units but will almost always last longer and require fewer repairs. These hinges are also available in a much wider variety of styles, colors and finishes.
Emily Beach works in the commercial construction industry in Maryland. She received her LEED accreditation from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2008 and is in the process of working towards an Architectural Hardware Consultant certification from the Door and Hardware Institute. She received a bachelor's degree in economics and management from Goucher College in Towson, Maryland.