In the second of our new series, we look at how not to come unstuck when doors let you down

Doors, it has to be said, are something we pretty much take for granted - until they stop working. Which is what happened to Claire O'Shea, owner of Barden Stores, Tonbridge, Kent, in February, when her sliding, electric door suddenly stuck fast.
As it was such a cold and windy day, the only way Claire could cope was to wedge it open half-way and then manually open it for buggies and wheelchairs.
Unfortunately, as the door broke on a Thursday it was Monday before an engineer could come out. After being initially quoted about £300 for the job, Claire was relieved that it cost only £100 to fix the sensors.
Claire is not sure what happened: "Maybe the sensors got damp, either from the wet weather or from the window cleaner who may have been a bit overenthusiastic."
However, Dave Taylor, owner of DT Fixings which maintains and repairs automatic doors for Budgens stores, says this is unlikely: "Sensors are waterproof so they should stand up to all sorts of conditions. The most common cause of doors breaking is customers banging them in some way, which can knock the doors off."
He says there's little you can do to stop this, but you can prevent problems through regular maintenance: "Automatic doors should be maintained at least once a year, or twice a year if the doors have medium to heavy use."
This advice applies to doors with any automatic closing device such as overhead or floor closers. "Maintenance should be done preferably by someone recommended by the Automatic Door Suppliers Association; it's not something an electrician can do," he says.
Taylor also recommends that retailers do a weekly walkthrough to test sensors and the safety mechanism. With good maintenance, and depending on usage, doors should last about seven to 10 years, he says.
According to Ian Hughes, retail manager at Layton Blackham Insurance Brokers, retailers won't have much luck in making an insurance claim as a stuck door would count as a mechanical breakdown. He says he's never come across it, but should the door get stuck at closing it would create real security problems: "The insurance will clearly stipulate that at the close of business certain security measures must be in place and therefore if the door could not be shut, someone would have to remain on the premises."