How to Install Panic Bar Door Hardware

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Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure

  • Panic bar (rim exit device)

  • Panic bar strike

  • Hacksaw

  • Drill

  • Hole saw

A panic bar is a type of door hardware used to allow occupants to exit a building quickly during an emergency. This device features a horizontal bar or push pad that releases the door's locking mechanisms with a single action. Rather than twisting levers to struggling with thumb turns or knobs, occupants can throw their weight into the device and release the door immediately. This type of device is useful in a panic type emergency, as it minimizes the risk of crowding or injury at the exits. It may also reduce the number of lives lost to fire or other emergencies.


Step 1

Measure the width of the door. For panic bars, you'll need the dimension from the face of the door stop (the bump-out part of a door frame) to the edge of the door where the lock is located. The panic bar should be about 1.5" shorter than this distance to provide operational clearance.

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Step 2

Choose your device carefully. Most panic bars are available in either 3- or 4-foot lengths. The majority can be cut to fit a door, though this depends on the design of the exit device. The touch pad or bar of the device must be at least half as long as the total width of the door to meet most fire safety and emergency egress codes.


Step 3

Select the function and trim. An exit device may have an exit-only function, which means it will have no exterior trim that can be used for entering the building. Others may have a keyed cylinder on the exterior, as well as pull handles or lever trim.

Step 4

Determine what type of strike you'll need. This decision is based on the top of door and frame you're working with, as well as on the trim and functional requirements of your exit device. Typically, you'll have the option to select the right strike for the job when ordering these devices.


Step 5

Remove the lock templates from the package and fasten them to the door. There will also be a template for the strike, which should be installed on the frame. These templates will indicate where the device will be installed along with the locations for bore holes and fasteners.

Step 6

Cut a hole in the door to accommodate the cylinder of your device, if applicable. Exit only functions do not require this hole. Use a hole saw to make this bore, or a bi-metal hole saw if you're working on a metal door.


Step 7

Pre-drill holes in the door and frame for fasteners as indicated on the template. For metal or solid wood doors, regular screws can be used to hold the panic bar in place. These screws are provided with the device. If you have a fire-rated mineral core door, or one with a particle core, you'll need to use thru-bolts rather than screws to keep the panic bar safely fastened to the door. These bolts are typically provided as an option with most exit devices.


Step 8

Place the panic bar on the door and fasten it in place using screws or thru-bolts. Add the end caps to either end and fasten them with the screws provided. Some end caps slip on without screws.

Step 9

Install any exterior trim or cylinders through the front of the door. Slide the tailpiece of the cylinder through the slot within the exit device, and align any connecting rods you see. Screw the trim in place from the interior side of the door using the provided fasteners.


Step 10

Fasten the strike to the frame and test the panic bar to make sure it works. Place wooden shims behind the strike as needed to bring it closer to the latch on the panic bar. The tolerance on these devices is fairly low, so you may need to adjust the strike a few times before it will operate properly.


Use extra caution when ordering panic bars for fire-rated doors. The device itself must have a fire-rating equal to the door, and must feature a label indicating its fire rating. You must order the panic bar to the exact size you'll need, as cutting into a fire-rated device voids its rating. You must also request that the door and frame manufacturer prepare the door and frame to receive this device. Installers may not cut a hole greater than 1" in diameter within a fire-rated door or frame without voiding the rating.


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