The End of Bare Naked Springs?
© 2002 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Fall 2002
Author: Tom Wadsworth
The End of Bare Naked Springs?
Is this the beginning of the end for non-coated oil-tempered springs?
Several spring-makers report that most of their sales now come from coated springs. In the last 18 months, spring manufacturers have stepped up efforts to promote their new coated springs at Expo and in industry publications.
To learn more about this new trend, we talked to ten manufacturers in the spring industry to collect their different perspectives on this issue. We focused our discussion on garage door torsion springs, the most common type of spring used in our industry.
Different Coats for Different Folks
For most of the last 50 years, oil-tempered torsion springs have been the standard counterbalance mechanism for sectional garage doors. The product has endured the test of time and proven itself as effective and durable.
Due to an apparent growing interest in improving the interior appearance of a garage door, more spring manufacturers are covering up their springs. Actually, all interior components of our products are gradually beginning to look as finished as the outside.
Some major door manufacturers, such as Wayne-Dalton and Overhead Door, now provide springs that are hidden inside an attractive tubular covering. But most spring manufacturers are dressing up their springs by using a coating on the spring wire.
The type of coating has varied, but all coated springs offer the primary advantages of improved appearance, cleaner handling for the installer, and greater resistance to rust. Most of the coatings feature an attractive black finish, while a few manufacturers offer a "silver" galvanized spring.
In 2001, several manufacturers, such as Collier, Fehr Bros., Iowa Spring, and Service Spring, all began offering black springs with an Egyptian coating.
"This process helps to keep the springs cleaner and free of machine oils," says Fred Smith, U.S. and Western Canada sales manager at Collier Springs, "and the appearance is more pleasing to the end user." He adds that coated springs are growing in popularity throughout the world.
Tim Bianco, vice president of sales and marketing at Iowa Spring, noted that the Egyptian coating process "provides us with greater efficiency, giving us the ability to coat large volumes at one time."
A few manufacturers provide a similar black coating, but without using the Egyptian process. Jodi Olson, general manager of Industrial Spring, says their black, thermal-dipped coating is similar to Egyptian and offers the same advantages. In 2002, due to the success of the product, Industrial Spring expanded their coated spring products to offer longer lengths.
Ron Swayne, director of engineering services at Windsor Door, says they've been coating all their residential springs for four or five years, but they don't use the Egyptian process either. "Windsor uses a black acrylic primer coating," he says. "Our springs are dip-coated after winding and stress relieving."
Even earlier, in 1992, Raynor began offering a coating that is neither paint nor an Egyptian process. Called the EnduraCote System, the coating is an upscale option applied to all hardware on their high-end doors. Pat Kennedy, Raynor marketing manager, says they use a Tiger Dryloc powdercoat, applied to the springs and torsion bar in a glossy black finish. Other hardware, such as hinges and track, are white.
Galvanized: It Can Be Done
Our spring industry has advanced beyond Henry Ford's idea that, "You can have any color you want, as long as it's black." A few manufacturers, such as Martin Door, Clopay, Collier, and Iowa Springs, produce galvanized springs, while Sivaco Wire Group manufactures galvanized spring wire.
Historically, some manufacturers have had difficulty with the galvanizing process, since the process can negatively affect the temper and durability of the wire. However, others have found ways to overcome this difficulty.
Martin Doors, for example, pioneered the use of galvanized springs in 1984. After years of perfecting the coating process, all of their doors are now supplied with hot-dipped galvanized springs as standard equipment.
Ken Martin, president, says Martin springs "feature metric wire sizes, an exclusive process achieving longer life, a cleaner look, a 20- to 40-year spring warranty, and unique spring charts." Supplied with all their doors since 1987, Martin's "Zinc-Tempered" springs have become one of the trademarks of a Martin door.
In 1996, Collier began working with Sivaco Wire Group to develop the Sivaco 9001 galvanized springs. John Cary, U.S. sales manager for Sivaco, says their galvanized wire offers the spring manufacturer "shop-floor cleanliness, increased tool life due to wire surface lubricity, and safety, due to elimination of spring-loaded wire coils."
Earlier this year, Clopay began to offer galvanized springs with their premium products. Steve Lynch, vice president of marketing, says they have been testing and regionally distributing internally developed and produced galvanized springs for at least two years with excellent results.
Lynch says the key benefits of galvanized springs are "longer cycle life, cleanliness, and improved appearance." In December 2002, Clopay will offer galvanized springs as standard equipment on their entire residential door line.
What's Behind the Coating Craze?
Even though oil-tempered springs are still common, the coated look is beginning to spread throughout the industry. Digging deeper, we asked our spring-makers for their insight as to why this trend is taking hold. Several theories circulate, but the trend may be a part of a gradual interest, from homeowners and dealers, to improve the interior appearance of the garage.
Pat Kennedy at Raynor said the demand for their coated hardware began in 1992 when they were beginning to sell product in Japan. Their Japanese customers felt that plain galvanized track and hardware had a cold, barren appearance, and they asked for something that looked better.
Raynor responded with their powdercoat system, which they began to offer domestically. Since then, the interest in coated product then began to grow.
Several spring-makers said the interest in coated springs sprang from dealers and installers who reported handling problems. Mike McAlear, president of Service Spring, says, "The demand came from dealers who desired springs that are clean and provide a finished look, like the other door components." When installers' hands get black and greasy from oil-tempered springs, smudges inevitably appear on the door.
Dirty hands and smudging aren't the only messy problems of oil-tempered springs. Fred Smith of Collier mentioned the occasional problem of oil dripping from these springs directly onto the front or back surface of the door.
Several of our spring specialists said the drive for coated springs came from the problem of rust. This problem can be exaggerated, but rust is a legitimate problem that can reveal itself even before the spring is installed.
"There has been demand for coated springs as far back as I can remember," says Bob Miller, vice president at Fehr Bros. "Installers often leave replacement springs in their trucks or outside, and they get rusty before they are installed." Even though these springs are new, their rusty appearance can prompt homeowners to accuse a dealer of selling them "used springs."
Oil-tempered springs will eventually rust simply because they lack a protective coating. However, the new coatings do not prevent rust, but they do considerably delay the rust process.
Galvanized springs may actually offer greater rust-prevention qualities. The galvanized coating is generally applied before winding, allowing 100 percent of the surface to be covered.
We wondered if the coated protection against rust is a short-lived advantage because of the constant rubbing of the spring wire during operation. Some of our experts admitted that this happens, but the problem appears to be minimal.
"There is probably not as much rubbing as you would expect," says Bob Miller of Fehr Bros. "When a torsion spring is wound on the shaft, its diameter decreases and its length increases … creating space between the coils."
Mike McAlear of Service Spring adds, "Any breakage caused by rust usually results from pitting on the outer wire surface, and not between the coils."
Other manufacturers of painted or dipped springs noted that the area between the coils is not actually coated because the coating process takes place after the spring is wound.
Ken Martin says that the zinc coating on their galvanized springs does not rub off. Further, one of the reasons they first tried galvanized springs was that, on painted springs, "the rubbing of the coils ground the paint into a fine powder which sprinkled down onto the door, streaking it with powdered paint."
Resistance is Futile?
Even though we didn't ask for prices from our spring experts, it became clear that some form of coated spring could cost the dealer less than a dollar per door. Surprised at the nominal additional expense, we wondered why more dealers don't make the upgrade.
"I think that low margins and competition are the main reasons," says Tim Bianco of Iowa Spring. "On the other hand, why not use coated springs as a selling advantage?"
"Most companies choose to stay with the lowest cost option available in what has become a predominantly price-driven market," adds Jodi Olson of Industrial Spring. "Hopefully, our industry at large will continue to look toward value-added product improvements on all door-related items."
The Inevitable Future
In spite of price concerns, a strong majority of our spring-makers feel that coated springs represent the inevitable future for the garage door industry. "Dealers are accepting coated springs enthusiastically," says Mike McAlear. "Generally, they stay with coated springs once they've tried them."
Sivaco's John Cary believes that galvanized springs should attract the industry spotlight. "Being recognized as a 'better mouse-trap,'" he says, "galvanized wire sales are increasing rapidly and should eventually represent a significant share of the overall market."
Whether black-coated or galvanized, "A protective coating of some sort, for all garage door springs, is inevitable in the future," affirms Tim Bianco of Iowa Spring. "The added benefits outweigh the additional cost."
Coating the springs is one solution. But enclosing the entire spring, as is done by Overhead Door and Wayne-Dalton, may also become the dominant trend. Says Pat Kennedy of Raynor: "I think a completely encapsulated spring is the inevitability."
Any way you slice it, the trend is clearly toward improving the appearance of the interior of our products. As our products continue to advance toward higher stages of evolution, the ugly spring appears to be a key component targeted for improvement.
We believe that this trend can only strengthen our ongoing battle to draw more attention to our products and demand recognition for garage doors as a product of higher value for the home.