Fire Doors – Your comprehensive guide to ensuring the utmost in safety

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Fire Doors – Your comprehensive guide to ensuring the utmost in safety

14/09/2015

Whether you are designing, constructing or maintaining a property, one critical area that can sometimes be considered an obstruction to the project is the legal requirement for compulsory fire doors. From a designer’s point of view, this is because traditionally, fire doors were ugly and cumbersome, with practicality far outweighing aesthetics. From a project management perspective, there is also the assumption that fire doors, complete with the necessary ancillary products, are vastly more expensive than standard doors, which isn’t ideal when working to a tight budget.


As Premdor’s stylish fire door range proves, the belief that fire doors are a design hindrance is a completely outdated view. The appearance and range of fire doors available for both domestic and commercial settings has improved dramatically in recent years, meaning that the inclusion of fire doors will not have any negative implications on the aesthetics of the interior.

To further dispel the myth that fire doors are a Building Regulation obstruction, Jon Walker, Brand Director at Premdor and a BWF-Certifire Committee Member says:

“If Building Control state that you require fire doors, it is not because they want to see you pay more for what may appear to be a standard door. They simply want you, and whoever else may reside or work within your building, to stay fire safe!”

Badly fitted fire doors don’t save lives

The most common misconception regarding fire doors, is that if they are present in a property then the occupants are protected from both smoke and fire, sadly, however this isn’t always the case. In an alarming amount of cases, fire doors are badly fitted without the necessary ancillary products and once installed, many are not correctly maintained.


Even though there are now strict Buildings Regulations in place, regarding where and how fire doors should be fitted, a frightening number of doors are installed on a daily basis that don’t meet these important requirements. The harsh reality is that these cut corners can result in fatalities.

With this in mind, this comprehensive guide to fire doors will give you all the information necessary to successfully install and maintain fire doors that will ultimately do their job and save lives and property.

How do fire doors work?

1. Fire doors slow down the escalation of fires.

2. Fire doors create a protected route to safety.

3. Fire doors withstand the attack of fire for a period of time.

4. Fire doors assist the fire brigade.

1. A properly fitted and maintained fire door can help to suppress a fire and restrict its initial development by limiting the amount of oxygen available to it. It will also create a sealed barrier against smoke and flames.

2. Before fire doors are fitted, exit points, and escape routes to these points, need to be identified. In accordance with Building Regulations, buildings are then to be split down into compartments to create protected escape routes via stairways and corridors. This will essentially buy the occupants time in the event of a fire, by halting the speed in which flames and smoke spread through the building.

3. When a fire door is closed, it will endure direct attack by fire for a specified period of time. The BWF-Certifire Scheme classifies fire doors with different fire ratings, which give an indication as to the level of protection, in time, a particular door will offer, ranging from 30 minutes to 60 minutes.

4. Once the occupants of the building have been evacuated, fire doors should continue to provide a degree of protection (depending on the fire rating of the door and how far the fire has escalated) for fire fighters entering the building.

Image supplied by FDIS

Where do fire doors need fitting?

Domestic Dwellings

Building Regulations specify that in homes over two storeys high, every door of a habitable room leading to a stairwell must be a fire door, although this does not apply to toilets or bathrooms. Fire doors are also required between the house and integral garage (if applicable).

Mixed Use Buildings

Fire doors are required at the joining points between business and habitual residences.

Non-domestic buildings

As non-domestic buildings vary so much in size and structure, there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach to fire doors. Fire door guidance is divided into two sections, based on vertical and horizontal escape routes.

Click here for the Building Regulations for Buildings other than Dwelling houses.

How do you identify a good quality fire door?

Doors come in all shapes, sizes and weights, and it is easy to assume that any big heavy door will provide adequate protection in the event of a fire. This, however, isn’t the case, and it is essential that you choose a specified fire door compliant with BWF-Certifire or BM TRADA’s Q Mark Scheme.

The days of fire doors being purely functional and, as a result, unattractive, are a thing of the past.

As fire doors are a necessity in nearly all types of buildings, it is important that as well as providing fire safety measures, they also meet requirements in the following areas:

  • Sound
  • Accessibility
  • Ventilation
  • Thermal Efficiency
  • Safety Glazing

According to Kevin Hulin from the Fire Door Inspection Scheme (FDIS), the following features highlight a good quality fire door:

“The door leaf should carry a third party certification label, such as BWF-Certifire or BM-TRADA’s Q Mark Scheme. These schemes are not mandatory, but most reputable companies are in one or the other, or both in some cases. The BWF-Certifire scheme also has component suppliers (suppliers of intumescent seals, ironmongery and glass) within its Technical Schedules”.

The importance of ancillary products

Aside from choosing the actual door itself, it is essential that all of the ancillary products are included as part of the installation. Essential ancillary products include:

To ensure that a fire door performs to the best of its ability, Kevin Hulin from the FDIS suggests the following:

“All the components - the door frame, door leaf, glass or glazing system, ironmongery, door edge seals and other essential components must be compatible as a system and have shown they can be used on a fire resisting doorset.”

Not so optional extras

We are all familiar with the concept of being convinced to purchase supporting equipment to enhance the performance of various items. However, when it comes to fire safety, these ‘additional features’, in the form of ancillary products, are part and parcel of what makes up a fire door, and ultimately essential to its successful operation. Where most people would see a fire door as simply a door leaf, the reality is that the frame, glazing, intumescent smoke and fire seals and ironmongery are all essential components to ensure that the door does its job.

To highlight this point, we will illustrate what can happen without these features:

Intumescent seals – When exposed to heat, intumescent seals expand to several times their original size, sealing the gap between the door and the frame, and ultimately helping the containment of the fire. Properly maintained seals can reduce smoke penetration to almost zero, until the door assembly reaches the point when it can no longer withstand the fire (as per the designated fire rating time limit).

Why are they essential? When exposed to heat, intumescent seals expand to several times their original size, sealing the gap between the door and the frame, and ultimately helping the containment of the fire.

Fire-tested ironmongeryIronmongery intended for use on fire doors includes latches, locks and handles, as well as hinges and overhead door closers. With this in mind, all ironmongery needs to be certified and compatible with the fire door that it is to be used for, as fire doors are tested as a complete assembly. It is essential that you seek expert advice when selecting ironmongery for your fire doors, as often door leaves and ironmongery are sold separately, which can result in customers unknowingly purchasing incompatible products.

Why is it essential?

Fire doors can only be tested as complete assemblies. The specific ironmongery may only be reliable and compatible with the particular fire door assembly with which it has been tested.

CE Marked Hinges – It is recommended to have at least three CE marked hinges on a fire door, positioned as directed by that particular door’s fire certification. In general, hinges should be fitted so that doors open in the direction of emergency travel.

Why are they essential? If a hinges are not fitted or positioned correctly, the fire door is prone to twisting and will not be fit for purpose.

Door closing devices – These could be in the form of overhead door closers or as floor springs. Both devices will ensure that the door closes reliably and remains closed. In some instances, latches or locks can be used to effectively keep the door shut.

Why are they essential? In order for the intumescent strips to react and expand accordingly in the outbreak of a fire, the fire door must be closed and hung snug within the frame. Door closers ensure the door automatically closes after use.

Signage – Within commercial premises, correct signage is required on all fire doors. Signs should be placed on both sides of the door, to clearly indicate that it is a fire door.

Why is it essential? If a fire door is open, it offers absolutely no protection against smoke or flames. Therefore, it is imperative to use signage to indicate which doors are fire doors so that they can be kept shut, and ultimately do their job in the event of a fire.

This video, courtesy of the BWF shows exactly what will happen if fire doors aren’t correctly installed.

Fire Door Safety Week

The third annual Fire Door Safety Week is now upon us, generating increased awareness of the importance of having properly installed and maintained fire doors. The aim of the campaign is to enforce changes in the law, to make it clear who is responsible for fire safety.

Ultimately, FDSW will highlight how the correct usage of fire doors (from formally maintaining them to simply ensuring that they are properly shut and not wedged open), can save lives.

Dave Paxton, Premdor’s Technical Director is a huge supporter of Fire Door Safety Week:

“At Premdor we are proud to support Fire Safety Door Week as there can never be too much awareness when it comes to saving lives."

He goes on to share his frustrations about how fitting standards need to match up with the quality of the product.

“Whilst we can manufacture the highest quality fire doors and offer advice regarding compatible ancillary products, if they aren’t correctly installed or maintained then the door simply won’t perform. As a manufacturer, I want to be sure that once a Premdor product leaves our hands, it will go on to successfully serve the purpose it was designed and constructed for.”

Where does the buck stop?

At every stage in the selection, installation and day-to-day use of fire doors, there are several measures that can be put into place to ensure that they can perform to their optimum ability. The question is, who is responsible for what? With this in mind, the BWF has devised a Circle of Responsibility, to highlight exactly what each particular individual in the process is responsible for.

How do you spot a dodgy fire door?

With the best will in the world, a professionally fitted fire door is only going to perform to its optimum ability if it is used and maintained correctly. Once a fire door has been fitted, it is essential that it is properly maintained and the BWF recommends that fire doors are checked at least every six months, more if the door is in constant use.

Fire Door Safety Week suggests this 30 second check to help identify any faults:

  1. Does the door close soundly against the frame?
  2. Are the seals (intumescent or smoke seals) present and in good condition?
  3. Is the edge of the door or frame damaged?
  4. Does the latch engage properly?
  5. Are there any gaps larger than 3mm between the frame and the door?
  6. Can you see light through the gap at the bottom of the door?
  7. Are there a minimum of three hinges and do they look in good condition?
  8. Does the door have signage on it?
  9. If there is glazing in the door, does it look in good condition?
  10. Is the door wedged or stuck open?

Speak up for Fire Doors

By investing in high quality fire doors, and ensuring that they are properly fitted and maintained, you will be doing far more than ticking Building Regulation specifications. You will also be taking responsibility for the safety of all the occupants within the home or workplace, and ultimately preventing any unnecessary fatalities in the event of a fire.

Rather than just sitting back and observing FDSW, Jon Walker encourages everyone to take positive action:

“Fire doors save lives and property and are fundamental to most fire strategies for buildings. This week, take the opportunity to familiarise yourself with Approved Document B and its requirements, to ensure that you, and your contractor, are fully compliant and of course, safe.”

Premdor is offering free fire door guidance and advice throughout FDSW. For further information, call 0844 209 0008 or alternatively, visit www.premdor.co.uk.