A fire door is a purpose-built door that plays a crucial role in reducing fatalities. Fire doors are an essential part of a passive fire safety system. By limiting the spread of fire, heat, and smoke, they buy time for the occupiers of a building to evacuate.
Fire safety doors need to do two essential things. One, they must allow people to escape. Two, they must stop the spread of fire for as long as possible.
Despite the importance of fire safety doors in saving lives, in 2021, the Fire Door Inspection Scheme discovered that three-quarters of all fire doors in the UK failed to meet the required standard.
What Are the Requirements for a Fire Safety Door?
- A certification label. This should come from an independent testing body such as the BRE or UL and should cover every part of the door, including any ironmongery, door hardware, and door furniture.
- Signs. The door should be clearly indicated by signs such as Fire Door Keep Clear/Locked/Shut.
- There should be gaps of less than 4 mm around the top and sides. You can slide a pound coin into the gap to see if this is the case. The gap at the bottom should be between 8 and 10 mm.
- Intumescent seals. The door should feature intumescent strips or seals, a heat-sensitive material that swells in temperatures of 200 degrees Celsius to seal the gap.
- Hinges. Fire doors should have three hinges that aren’t broken or missing screws. If the door is over 2.2 metres, it should have four hinges. This stops the door from warping in the event of a fire.
- Fire doors should never be locked while a building is occupied. They must provide an obstructed escape route.
- Self-closing. The door should close itself firmly from a halfway position without sticking. Doors that weren’t properly closed reportedly contributed to the spread of the fire in the Grenfell Tower Fire in 2017. You can also get fire safety door retainers that hold the door open until a fire alarm goes off. These electromagnetic hold-open devices must be tested to BS EN 1155.
- Glass. Any glazing in the door shouldn’t rattle and should be fire-resistant for at least 30 minutes.
- Door furniture. Letterbox plates, door handles, and locks must all be fire rated and certified. Cat flaps are not allowed.
Fire Safety Door vs. Fire Exit Door: What’s the Difference?
A fire safety door is an internal door, typically found in stairwells, entrances to kitchens, and to boiler or storage rooms where there might be combustible materials or electrical devices.
A fire exit door is an external door. It doesn’t need to be fire-resistant. It just needs to provide a quick and easy escape to somewhere safe. Some fire exit doors feature push or panic bars and should always be clearly marked and unobstructed.
What Are the Current Fire Safety Door Regulations?
According to the RRO:
Fire Doors for Domestic Buildings
Any home with three or more stories must have a fire door for every door between a stairwell and a habitable room. There must also be fire doors between an internal garage and a house, and for loft conversions.
Fire safety doors are also legally required in residential flats and houses with multiple occupiers, aka HMOs.
Under these guidelines, landlords, building owners, or building managers have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their tenants and property. There must be a designated responsible person with a legal responsibility to ensure all fire doors in communal areas and to the entrance of flats are functioning. They can be criminally prosecuted if it emerges that they have failed to uphold their responsibility.
Fire Doors and Mixed-Use Buildings
For residential buildings that have a commercial area or vice versa, there must be a fire door to separate them.
Fire Doors for Non-Domestic Buildings
Fire safety doors are required by law to be installed in all non-domestic and commercial buildings, including businesses and public buildings.
The number and positioning of fire doors in non-domestic buildings depend on whether the designated escape route is vertical or horizontal. Vertical escape routes involve stairs while horizontal escape routes are those on the same level.
Approved Document B of the Building Regulations states exactly where these fire doors should be positioned. There you’ll find a table that states the minimum requirements for fire doors depending on the position of the door in the building. For example, a fire door in a compartment wall separating two buildings should have an FD60 rating. Fire doors affording access to an escape route should have an FD30 rating.
Essentially, fire doors should be used to section buildings off into compartments in a way that protects escape routes.
The responsibility for fire risk assessment in non-domestic buildings falls to the designated responsible person.
What About Fire Safety Door Frames?
There are regulations governing fire safety door frames as well as fire safety doors. Fire door frames should conform with the requirements stated on the door leaf’s datasheet.
This makes fitting new fire safety doors into existing frames difficult as the existing frame may not be compliant or compatible. Instead, it is recommended to buy frames that match your door leaves from the door leaf manufacturer, a company licensed to manufacture the door frames or a distributor.
Installing Fire Safety Doors
The ability of fire safety doors to impede the spread of fire is compromised if the doors aren’t correctly installed. Therefore, fire safety doors should always be fitted by a trained installer.
When supplied with a fire door, it should come with associated fitting instructions. Making adjustments to the door, such as installing glazed vision panels, risks undermining its fire-resistance qualities. Therefore, any modifications should only be done by companies approved to do so and must ensure the door still meets the relevant requirements.
In test procedures, fire doors are tested as complete units (door sets). This means the fire door, door frame, and any ironmongery are all tested. If an installer is installing a fire door to fit a different timber frame, the specification of the frame should come with the door. Otherwise, it can usually be found on the website of the relevant fire door certification scheme.
It’s crucial to ensure the frame fits this specification. Otherwise, there’s a risk that the fire door will no longer meet the necessary standards of fire resistance.
Maintaining Fire Safety Doors
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 makes it a requirement by law to ensure that all fire safety doors in non-domestic buildings are correctly maintained so that they are fit for purpose.
Therefore, fire doors should be checked regularly—at least once every six months, as recommended by the British Woodworking Federation, which organises the annual Fire Door Safety Week campaign.
It’s also recommended to check fire doors once a month or once a week if a building has a large volume of traffic or has been built recently.
Responsibility for organising fire door maintenance lies with the person who has day-to-day control of the premises—not the fire authorities. However, the authorities have the power to enforce this regulation and prosecute it in the event of breaches.
Everyone and anyone using the door should report maintenance issues as a matter of urgency to ensure any faults are quickly resolved. Fire doors should also be inspected by a trained fire door inspector, approved by schemes like FDIS (Fire Door Inspection Scheme).
It’s crucial that everyone understands what a correctly functioning fire safety door looks like and how to identify any faults. This awareness is currently lacking. 30% of those responsible for fire door safety said they didn’t fully understand their responsibilities under the Building Safety Act, according to a survey from the British Woodworking Federation (BWF) Fire Door Alliance.
Fire Doors: A Vital Addition to Many Buildings
As you can see, fire doors play an exceptionally important role in many buildings. It’s vital the correct fire doors are used in the correct circumstances, and to ensure this, you should engage a professional. We can advise on all aspects of fire doors and can also install them to the required standards. Why not contact us to talk about fire doors today?
Frequently Asked Questions About Fire Doors
In the UK, all non-domestic buildings need to have fire doors. These should be positioned to protect vertical or horizontal escape routes. Domestic buildings over three stories or with multiple occupiers also need fire doors, as do mixed-use buildings.
Fire doors are now mandatory in the UK for any new buildings and all non-domestic buildings, including mixed-use buildings. Fire doors are also mandatory in domestic buildings over two stories or HMOs (houses with multiple occupiers).
A fire door is a door that has been certified to prove that it can withstand extreme temperatures and slow the spread of fire, heat, and smoke. Certified fire doors must be self-closing, feature three hinges, intumescent seals, and have gaps of no more than 4 mm around the tops and sides. Any door furniture or glazing should also meet the necessary standards.