What is the best way to secure the side door?
December 1, 2015 7:56 AM   Subscribe

I'm the Churchwarden (basically, lay person responsible for physical plant) for an Episcopal congregation in inner-city Chicago. I need to replace a door. For this, I need the help of the hivemind.

So our church building has a side door. It looks like this. It is old. Very old. Older than you. Older than your parents. Almost certainly older than your grandparents. It is ready to die.

My plan is to have the current arched double-door entrance replaced by a single commercial-grade 36" glass door with pushbar & closer. (The sides and arch will be wood paneling to match the existing trim.)

Here's the big issue: security. So the building, in addition to hosting our congregation on Sunday mornings, has several weekly AA/NA groups; a homeless outreach ministry that operates three days per week; a Saturday lunch program run by a consortium of churches; various rentals for birthday parties, quinceñeras, etc. So I need a lock solution that will meet the needs of all the stakeholders.

Currently the door is secured by a deadbolt. About a dozen people have keys, give or take. Keys are not really a workable solution going forward as realistically anyone can make (and historically, has made) a copy if they have connections with locksmiths that don't care about making copies of keys that are labeled "Do not copy". So I have been researching keyless entry -- either mechanical or electronic.


--Needs to be secure. This also means I can't have a system that is easily tampered with from the inside, as some guests of our social programs are not necessarily trustworthy but do have relatively unsupervised access to the inside of the door during program hours.

--Needs to be weather-resistant. Did I mention that this is Chicago?

--Several users (myself, the director of the homeless ministry, AA group leaders) need to be able to put the mechanism in an unlocked position so folks can go in and out during program hours.

--When locked, the door should be openable from the inside (for fire code compliance).

--I need to be able to change the code (or to cancel access for particular codes, if there are multiple access codes).

--Needs to not be hideously ugly or industrial.

Would be awesome:

--I would like to be able to program and unprogram codes for onetime use (if this could be done remotely via smartphone, that would be great -- however the building does not have wifi). Not a requirement.

--Future integration with a home security system / cameras would be great, or remote opening via smartphone, so I can let someone in if they call me without having to be there personally. That's not strictly necessary, though.

Cost parameters:

--I have a hard $4999 limit for this project; if it costs more than that I have to go through a diocese-wide committee that meets rather infrequently and that is only an option as a last resort. I currently have a bid in hand for $4000 to replace the door so any lock solution needs to cost $1000 at the very most.
posted by tivalasvegas to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
I don't have personal experience with any of them, but Googling "commercial smart lock" revealed many possibilities. Some cursory browsing suggests this poetically named RemoteLock LS-6i for under $500.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:02 AM on December 1, 2015

For the outside groups, presumably the group person in charge has a code to get in. I would recommend NOT having that person actually unlock the door (by "dogging" (locking) the crashbar in the down position). Instead, have them tie down the crashbar with a strip of velcro you install for this purpose). I implemented this at a location that sees a lot of rentals to outside parties who were always getting stymied by the clunky mechanism for dogging the crashbar.

That said, I would hate to have you actually tear those historic doors out and replace them with glass. You're altering the character of the whole building and entryway if you do that. You can have those doors restored back to pristine and perfectly secure condition, within your budget. Any locking solution can be installed on the restored doors just as easily as on new glass doors. Please talk with your church historian and/or a historic restoration specialist before doing anything. You would not do this to your church's front doors — don't do it to the side door either.
posted by beagle at 8:48 AM on December 1, 2015 [11 favorites]

I volunteered at a church that was being used for similar purposes, and several of their exterior doors used by volunteers were opened via a keypad, with the combination being changed periodically and the lock disabled altogether after business hours. I do not know the exact model, but they were similar to this one.

Agree that, from a preservation and aesthetics standpoint, it would be nice to reproduce the existing doors if it's even remotely feasible (or if a similar set could be found via an architectural salvage firm like the local Salvage One).
posted by ryanshepard at 9:04 AM on December 1, 2015

You could do combo setup where, during business hours, people only need a key, but after hours, an electronic lock/deadbolt can be programmed so that a simple key won't just do it, they need the passcard.

My dad (retired LEO and former Senior Warden) says "you should check out Abloy locks - they require a special machine to even cut them which most locksmiths don't have." You should also look into restoring your door - it'll be worth doing that over having to patch the entry walls and other structures."
posted by ApathyGirl at 9:18 AM on December 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

Have you considered a type of RFID badge-reader entry system? The price might be out of your range, but they should have all of the features you're looking for, and a simple card reader on the outside is pretty discreet.
posted by that girl at 9:36 AM on December 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

What a beautiful door. It would break my heart (and perhaps also many members of your congregation) to have it ripped out and replaced with a standard commercial entrance. Please listen to what beagle and ApathyGirl say and consider an alternative plan to restore the door.

Especially with an Episcopalian church, it's not inherently a problem if the doors are "older than your grandparents." On the contrary -- a lot of people really appreciate that sense of continuity with the past. If the wooden doors at Santa Sabina in Rome have survived 1500 years, why can't this entrance in Chicago?
posted by crazy with stars at 9:54 AM on December 1, 2015

Please don't just throw out and replace those beautiful doors! They should be restored with modern hardware to resolve your security solutions. I know the committee is a pain, but this is a time when you should do the best thing for the building, not the most expedient.

For the hardware, there are plenty of solutions which will meet all of your requirements. Contact a hardware representative and talk through your specifics. Assa Abloy and Allegion are two big companies that represent a lot of manufacturers. Also, there may be resources at the diocese level that would help you know who has been helpful in the past. You'll probably want to match master keying for other locks in your building which may suggest one solution over another, even if the primary means of access is electrically controlled.
posted by meinvt at 10:31 AM on December 1, 2015

Nthing the Assa locks. I was property person for our church, many doors from many buildings, and everyone and their brother in law had keys.
We put in a "big kid" key system - Master/submaster. Master key works on every door on the property. Submasters work on selected doors of the above set. You can have several submasters, and even branch out further with sub-sub masters if needed.
The keys we got didn't need to be stamped "don't duplicate", as they are a different keyway and blanks are not available unless the locksmith is a licensed vendor.
To get a key for someone, I had to physically go to the hardware supplier/locksmith's shop, show them my state issued ID, and have my signature verified. I was one of two people authorized to get keys made.
Hardware supplier/locksmith had to change the hardware on every door that was to be under this system of course, it has been a while we did maybe as many as 8 doors for around 3K. Some of those doors dated from the 1840's, some were modern.
We did use the system to corral the AA people to the fellowship hall, some individuals had been roaming the building messing with things.
I agree on keeping/repairing/replacing in kind those old doors, beautiful.
And you have my heartfelt admiration, my position as property manager is why I eventually left the church. Some old timers didn't think fire codes applied to churches, and felt pretty good about squandering money on starting a low power radio station after having been repeatedly warned that the roof only had a few years left in it.
posted by rudd135 at 7:17 PM on December 1, 2015

I work with facilities that use a system like the one rudd135 described and it works well. Our system has interchangeable lock cores that can be changed by the master key, and we keep extras available.

Also yes, please restore the doors.
posted by sepviva at 9:30 AM on December 2, 2015

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