Fire doors are a great safety feature that can help ensure an individual’s safety. They provide an effective barrier against smoke and flames and give occupants sufficient time to escape danger. It is important to note that a fire door is very different from a regular door. Its internal makeup is what offers protection.
This article will explore fire-rated door requirements and how you can make the most effective choice for your home or business.
What is a Fire Door?
A fire door forms part of a passive fire protection system. Passive systems are an integral part of a building’s design and are designed to minimize the risk of fire spreading. They also inhibit the spread of smoke, which is actually the leading cause of death and injury in most fires.
How Do Fire Doors Work?
Fire doors form an effective barrier. This allows a building’s inhabitants to escape. They work in two ways:
- They are heat and flame resistant
Fire doors must be constructed so that they do not burn through easily when exposed to fire. You’ll normally find that fire doors are fairly heavy and substantial. How they are constructed is regulated.
Regardless of what a door is constructed from, eventually, it will burn through. The amount of time that this will take is expressed in terms of a rating.
- They Provide a Tight Seal
As we said, fire doors also protect against smoke. There is a good chance you’ve pushed open a fire door without noticing…
But you just said they should make a tight seal?
True. This is achieved by the perimeter of the door being fitted with a heat-sensitive (also called an intumescent) strip. As the door heats in a fire, this strip expands to create a tight seal between the door and its frame.
Certain types of fire doors use a simple heat-resistant rubber seal in place of an intumescent strip.
As part of a passive protection system, fire doors often have a few extra features. You will often find that they are held open by electromagnets in busy areas that have constant footfall. These magnets will deactivate, closing the door, in the event of a fire alarm being triggered.
This auto-closing system is one of the areas that should be checked during a routine fire inspection.
Where Can I Find Rating Requirements for Fire Doors?
The National Fire Protection Association can provide a wealth of information on the requirements for fire doors.
Their ‘master’ document detailing the requirements is NFPA 80, which is available to download for free on their website.
Where Do I Need to Use Fire Doors, and When Are They Required?
If you own a commercial property, then it is a mandated requirement that you must have fire doors installed. Fire door requirements are also usually specified in your state’s local building codes.
For residential properties, it is a good idea to strategically install fire doors according to a few factors.
They should be installed:
- In areas where there is a greater risk of fire occurring, such as a kitchen.
- Along areas that will form part of your escape route.
Assessing the risk and an escape route will take careful thought and planning, if you are in any doubt as to what is safe, it is a worthwhile use of time to contact a professional fire protection service.
How Are Fire Doors Rated?
Fire doors are rated in terms of time. Specifically, this is the amount of time that it will take for the door to burn through. The door should be labeled with this rating too.
Traditionally the door will be allocated a number rating in minutes. This could be 20, 45, 60, 90, or even 180 minutes!
Occasionally you will see fire doors that have been given a letter designator:
- A = 180 minutes
- B = 60 or 90 minutes
- C = 45 minutes
It isn’t best practice (or legal) to pick a rating at random. The required rating is based on several factors. Namely:
- Where the fire door is fitted.
- The type of structure surrounding the fire door.
It is interesting to note that a fire door should have at least ¾ of the rating of the surface surrounding the door.
If a wall is rated to withstand flames for an hour, then a minimum fire door rating of 45 minutes should be expected. It is also worth noting that doors with a rating of 20 minutes afford very little protection against flames.
What Should You Never Do to a Fire Door?
Here are some simple guidelines that must be observed on a property with fire doors fitted:
- Fire doors must never be locked! They are designed to aid escape, not hinder it.
- Fire doors must never be blocked! Fire doors tend to be situated along with points of egress. By blocking fire doors, you inhibit a rapid exit from the building.
- Fire doors must never be held open! Fire doors are designed to inhibit smoke and flames from spreading. If they are held or wedged open, then they simply are not doing their job! The only exception to this rule is when automatic latching systems are used as part of a passive fire system.
Aside from the risk to life, if fire doors are held open, it could invalidate your insurance.
Are Your Fire Doors Up to Standard?
Fire doors are a vital safety feature. They must be checked regularly to make sure they are compliant with the regulations.
Some areas that are worth checking include:
- Ensuring there is no damage.
- Ensuring that the doors are correctly aligned for both closing and opening.
- Checking that the doors can operate unencumbered.
- Making sure that the doors are suitable for where they are located.
This can be a time-consuming task unless you are properly qualified. And it can be a difficult call to make. One easy solution is to contact a professional company with extensive experience in every requirement of fire doors.