Door Hardware Grades Explained

By Brian Rhodes, Published on Jan 13, 2013

How can you tell high quality hardware from junk? Unlike other industries, where 'buyer beware' dominates equipment selection, security door hardware is often tested on how well it actually performs. In this note, we take a look at these ratings, examine how they are applied, and help readers understand how to use them to select the right hardware.

Checking for These Ratings

Typically, ANSI/BHMA Grades will be prominently listed on the data sheets of door hardware products. The image below shows a sample of these:

International Standards

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA) have a joint standard for evaluating door hardware performance, named 'Series A156'. The 35 part standard evaluates the range of door hardware components and attributes, including electronic access control devices such as:

The general purpose for each standard classifies hardware, locks, and security components into three 'grades' with grade 1 being the best and grade 3 the worst. For example, electromagnetic door locks fall into these categories based on cycle performance capability:

  • ANSI/BHMA Grade 1: Specimens must complete 1,000,000 Cycles without breaking. This class of hardware is most costly, and is usually used in heavy-duty commercial applications.
  • ANSI/BHMA Grade 2: Specimens must complete 500,000 Cycles without breaking. This hardware is usually used in low-duty or light-duty applications - office doors, hallway openings, and side entrances.
  • ANSI/BHMA Grade 3: Specimens must complete 250,000 Cycles without breaking. This hardware is considered 'light-duty', and is typically employed in residential applications but avoided in commercial use.

However, if a product carries no grade, this is, at least, a yellow flag that indicates the product failed or has not been submitted to testing at all.

The individual test routine varies based on the type of hardware being evaluated, covering the range of lock/unlock cycles, force (strength) ratings, and even plated finish quality.

For example, maglocks fall under the A156.23 standard, which means units "have passed an independent static pull test, and a dynamic impact test for holding force." Each hardware type is subject to different tests, each involving it's own range of testing fixtures. The image below shows two test fixtures used to grade electric strikes:

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

Generally a certification is awarded based on an 'example production' item, and once evaluated the manufacturer agrees that all subsequent items will be manufactured in the same manner, with the same materials, and with no changes to design. However, to maintain BHMA Certification, hardware items are periodically (5, 10, or 15 years) re-tested and evaluated to meet ANSI/BHMA A156 standards.

Not Required, but Globally Recognized

Not all hardware products are 'grade rated', and testing is not mandatory in order for a product to be sold. While 'type rating' is often a specification listed in bid documents and RFPs, many door hardware products (especially those in the aftermarket/maintenance market) do not feature any BHMA ratings.

This does not always mean this hardware is 'not quality', however it does cast doubt on why a given product lacks a rating. Most 'world-class' commercial security products manufacturers, including ASSA ABLOY, Ingersoll-Rand [link no longer available], and Stanley widely adopt the grade scale and use it to globally rate products. Even outside the US, the ANSI/BHMA scale is the 'defacto standard' for expressing hardware quality.

Be Careful

Likewise, some manufacturers only selectively rate portions of an assembly, or make 'equivalent to' claims for hardware ratings. For example, take note of the details in the promotion image from Kwikset's SmartKey Lock below:

The 'ANSI Grade 1' rating applies to the unit's deadbolt, which is a removable segment and can be used in a variety of products, but the lock itself is not Grade-1 rated. Despite only a portion of the assembly being 'Grade 1' rated, an unsuspecting buyer may assume the entire assembly has qualified as 'top quality', when it has not.

Also, when a product claims 'Equivalent to BHMA/ANSI Grade x' or 'Compliant to Grade x Standards', this indicates that a manufacturer has produced hardware similar to a 'rated' product, but has not submitted a specimen for actual testing. The manufacturer may employ a range of testing to internally evaluate a product, but an item can only become truly 'type certified' when submitted to an outside evaluation lab.

Comments : Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Wyze Smart Door Lock Test on Jan 14, 2020
Wyze's inexpensive cameras have grabbed the attention of many in the consumer...
K7 Wall Mounted IR Temp Gun Tested on Jun 26, 2020
The original K3 model was missing a number of important features but the...
Door Fundamentals For Access Control Guide on Aug 24, 2020
Doors vary greatly in how difficult and costly it is to add electronic access...
Hikvision DS 2nd Gen Intercom Tested on Dec 12, 2019
With its newest IP intercom, Hikvision proclaims users can 'get full control...
Multipoint Door Lock Tutorial on Jan 23, 2020
Despite widespread use, locked doors are notoriously weak at stopping entry,...
Glass Doors and Access Control Tutorial on Nov 21, 2019
One of the biggest access challenges are locking and securing glass...
Axis Door Station A8207-VE Tested on Aug 07, 2019
Axis newest door station, the A8207-VE, claims to deliver "video...
Dahua, Hikvision, ZKTeco Face Mask Detection Shootout on Jun 19, 2020
Temperature tablets with face mask detection are one of the hottest trends in...
BICSI For IP Video Surveillance Guide on Feb 11, 2020
Spend enough time around networks and eventually someone will mention BICSI,...
HID Fingerprint Reader Tested on Oct 09, 2019
HID has released their first access reader to use Lumidigm optical sensors,...
IP Camera Mount Shootout - Axis, Bosch, Dahua, Hanwha, Hikvision, Vivotek on Nov 04, 2019
Which manufacturers offer the best or worst mounts? We bought and tested...
Fail Safe vs. Fail Secure Tutorial on Oct 02, 2019
Few terms carry greater importance in access control than 'fail safe' and...
Uniview Deep Learning Camera Tested on Jul 14, 2020
Uniview's intrusion analytics have performed poorly in our shootouts. Now,...
China Bems Temperature Measurement Terminal Tested on Sep 22, 2020
Guangzhou Bems (brand Benshi) is the manufacturer behind temperature...
US GSA Explains NDAA 889 Part B Blacklisting on Jul 31, 2020
With the 'Blacklist Clause' going into effect August 13 that bans the US...

Recent Reports

Panasonic Presents i-PRO Cameras and Video Analytics on Oct 19, 2020
Panasonic presented its i-PRO X-Series cameras and AI video analytics at the...
Augmented Reality (AR) Cameras From Hikvision and Dahua Examined on Oct 19, 2020
Hikvision, Dahua, and other China companies are marketing augmented reality...
18 TB Video Surveillance Drives (WD and Seagate) on Oct 19, 2020
Both Seagate and Western Digital recently announced 18TB hard drives...
Watrix Gait Recognition Profile on Oct 16, 2020
Watrix is the world's only gait recognition surveillance provider IPVM has...
Intel Presents Edge-to-Cloud Ecosystem for Video Analytics on Oct 16, 2020
Intel presented its processors and software toolkit for computer vision at...
Best Manufacturer Technical Support 2020 on Oct 16, 2020
5 manufacturers stood out as providing the best technical support to ~200...
Microsoft Azure Presents Live Video Analytics on Oct 15, 2020
Microsoft Azure presented its Live Video Analytics offering at the September...
Worst Manufacturer Technical Support 2020 on Oct 15, 2020
4 manufacturers stood out as providing the worst technical support to ~200...
Clorox Announces, Then Pulls, Fever Camera on Oct 15, 2020
For almost one week, Clorox was marketing fever cameras. The booming...
Faulty Hikvision Fever Cam Setup at Mexico City Basilica and Cathedral on Oct 14, 2020
Donated Hikvision fever cameras (claiming screening of 1,800 people/min. with...
Directory of 209 "Fever" Camera Suppliers on Oct 14, 2020
This directory provides a list of "Fever" scanning thermal camera providers...
Avigilon UMD / UAD Tested on Oct 14, 2020
Avigilon's Unusual Activity Detection and Unusual Motion Detection claim to...
Longse Promoting Hikvision Partner Fullhan Chip Based Cameras on Oct 14, 2020
With Huawei HiSilicon production being shut down at TSMC, camera...
Meridian & Goodview (BEMS Relabeller) Temperature Screening Tested on Oct 13, 2020
A lot of temperature tablets look exactly alike and that is because they use...
Monitoring Alarm Systems From Home - Innovation or Danger? on Oct 13, 2020
Remote monitoring by alarm companies since COVID-19 is bringing cost savings...