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Operable Wall Bottom Seal

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Architectural Advice Sheet - Operable Walls

Automatic Bottom Seals
Operable Bottom Seals


    Bottom Seal - The movable internal portion of the operable wall panel that, when it is in its retracted position resides within the panel at the lower horizontal edge and entirely within the panel. This retracted component spans the full width of the panel and upon actuation is lowered to the finished floor creating a light and sound seal while stabilizing the panel in its “in use” position. Bottom Seals can be either Fixed, Adjustable, Operable or Automatic.

    Automatic Bottom Seals -  internal Bottom Seal that is actuated (lowered) by the force generated by the panel being pushed against an immovable object. The internal “automatic” bottom seal is thus pressed back and down against the floor. If the floor condition is very level and consistent,  the panel will remain pushed against the immovable object. Subsequent panels in each wall will operate similarly with the previous panel being the immovable object.

    Pros of using Automatic Bottom Seals: When the wall is designed to be continuously hinged the automatic or adjustable bottom  seals should be used.

    Cons to using the Automatic Bottom Seals: If the floor is not perfectly level then the bottom seals will either not lock down causing the panels to roll back or the bottom seals will not fit securely. In order for the automatic seals to be activated the panel must be forced against the immovable object. Not all people operating the wall have the sufficient strength to activate the seal. Forcing the initial panel into the immovable object can cause damage to the immovable object (generally a permanent wall.) Once the automatic bottom seals have been activated and the panels are in their “in use” position the strength required to pull the panels apart can be daunting. Again, not all people operating the wall will have sufficient strength to unlock the “automatic” bottoms. The lead panel on “automatically” activated panels will have a “nose” on the initial panel that will protrude 5” or more from the bottom of the panel. Depending upon the position within the room, this can be a trip hazard or require a wider storage pocket. Automatic bottoms are also susceptible to more damage than operable bottom seals.

    Operable Bottom Seals - An internal Bottom Seal that is actuated (lowered) by the use of a removable handle placed in the edge of each panel. The internal bottom seal is spring loaded and will extend and retract with ease.

    Pros of using Operable Bottom Seals: Requires the least effort to place the operable wall into its “in use” position. Requires the least effort to retract the bottom seal and place the panels into their storage area. Even if the floor is not perfectly level the bottom seals will lock down and provide a tight sound and sight seal and also stabilize the wall against movement. Operable Bottom Seals can accommodate up to 3/4” difference in the floor level condition and still allow the panels to fit securely. No “nose” that protrudes beyond the panel edge. Maintenance can be provided from the panel edge. No additional cost over “automatic” bottom seals.

    Cons of using Operable Bottom Seals: Cannot be used with continuously hinged configurations. If the removable lever handle is lost or misplaced the bottom seals cannot be activated (however, the removable handles are cheap and plentiful and readily available.)

    Adjustable Bottom Seals - Internal bottom seals that are adjusted at time of installation to be semi-permanently fixed into position against the finished floor. The bottom seals will remain in that position and will constantly sweep against the finished floor.

    Pros of using Adjustable Bottom Seals: Can be set to accommodate varying floor levels. They provide good light and sound seals, especially at the final closure panels where the panels do not have far to travel. Minimal maintenance requirements. Can be used with continuously hinged systems. They are easier to use than automatic or operable bottom seals on final closure panels.

    Cons of using Adjustable Bottom Seals: The friction of the continuous contact bottom seal against the finished floor makes the panels more difficult to move, especially if they are to be moved a great distance from the stored position. Does not provide as much panel stability as the Operable Bottom Panels.

    Fixed Bottom Seals - Generally these are multi-fingered vinyl sweep seals permanently attached to the horizontal bottom of the panel.

    Pros of using Fixed Bottom Seals: If the floor is perfectly flat and level and fixed jambs are utilized on each end of the partition the setup and storage of the wall will be faster.

    Cons of using Fixed Bottom Seals: The friction between the floor seals and the finished floor surface will make the partition more difficult to move. This will require greater strength to place the partition. Fixed Bottom seals are typically only used on pass door panels or final closure panels.

    Summary: For Operable Walls that are designed to be either Individual Multi Directional configurations or Hinged Pair configurations the use of Operable Bottom Seals is highly recommended and the use of Automatic Bottom Seals is highly discouraged. The end user will benefit greatly from the ease of operation and minimal maintenance associated with Operable Bottom Seals. Automatic Bottom Seals should only be used with Continuously Hinged configurations and continuously hinged panels should only be used on walls where there will be less than 7 panels and the floor conditions are ideal (a level tolerance of less than 1/4” in 10 feet, non-accumulative.)

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