We are all familiar with fire doors in office buildings, shops and other public buildings, but they are actually more common in our homes than we might realise. You may have removed a fire door without even realising it was one or are in the habit of propping your fire door open because it is inconvenient. It is worthwhile knowing what makes a fire door important, when we need one and what standards are required.
A fire door is usually put in place to compartmentalise a building, preventing the spread of fire and/or smoke throughout a building. It will slow down any fire, allowing people to make a safe exit from the building. They will also prevent damage to the rest of a building if a fire breaks out in an area protected by a fire door. There are different levels of fire door depending on where in the building they are placed and what level of fire resistance is required. Some will be expected to resist the passage of smoke while others will stop fire and smoke.
A fire door is usually made of wood with a solid board as its core. Sometimes they are made of steel. If the door is glazed then the glass must be fire resistant to a FRG30 level and will be etched with the British Standard 476.
When installing a fire door it is important to make sure it is certified and self-closing. Using a fire door, but removing the hinge so it doesn't self close will mean that your insurance could be compromised and your safety. There are three types of door closers available; either surface mounted, overhead mounted or concealed. A fire door is there for a reason and it is never a good idea to to tamper with the way that it works.
Fire doors will only operate correctly if they are hung within a frame with intumescent seals. These seals will swell when heated and provide a barrier to smoke around the edges of the door. Many doors which are ready-made will come with the intumescent strips included. If you are building a new fire door you will need to upgrade the frame to include the strips into a groove made around the door frame.
A fire door should be fitted snugly within the door frame and good quality hinges with a high melting point must be used. Nylon hinges are not suitable. Also ensure that you use the smallest lock possible, as any hole cut into the door will reduce its effectiveness.
In a domestic setting fire doors need to be a minimum FD20 level of resistance. Broadly speaking this will mean that it will stop a fire for 20 minutes. A fire door needs to be used in the following circumstances:
- In a home with three or more stories fire doors should be used on openings leading to staircases, escape routes and communal areas.
- In all cases a fire door should be used between a garage and the main part of a house, if the garage is attached.