Building owners have always been required to have the right fire protection systems in place to safeguard tenants and occupants. However, in light of post-Grenfell reports, additional scrutiny and...Continue Reading
Building owners have always been required to have the right fire protection systems in place to safeguard tenants and occupants. However, in light of post-Grenfell reports, additional scrutiny and regulations have been implemented, leaving a high percentage of buildings that are no longer considered compliant with industry requirements.
Results gathered from recent fire safety audits conducted across England showed that only 66% were deemed satisfactory, with houses converted to flats sitting at 53%, and licensed premises at 59%. Clearly, additional work is required to raise the bar on fire safety standards.
Fire safety regulations can be somewhat difficult to navigate and rules surrounding fire doors are no exception. This is because they vary based on a number of factors, from the size of a building to its number of occupants and overall purpose (e.g., residential, or commercial). This article will break down what building owners need to know about fire door regulations so that their premises remain safe and compliant.
Understanding the different types of fire doors
Fire doors are subject to rigorous testing to determine their ‘rating’, which refers to the duration that they offer protection in the event of a fire. These ratings are issued by the British Woodworking Federation (BWF) and can range between FD30 (30 minutes of fire resistance) to a maximum of FD120 (120 minutes).
Fire door ratings will vary depending on the composition of the door itself. If indeed it is of hardwood timber construction, the thickness of said hardwood will determine its fire rating. For example, the timber used in an FD30 fire door will be 44mm thick and 54mm thick for FD60 (60 minutes of fire resistance).
Although timber is the norm, fire doors can be made from different materials depending on their requirements as part of a wider fire safety strategy:
- Glass fire doors: If a property owner decides to choose a glass fire door, they must ensure that it is made using fire-rated glass. Regular glass will shatter if temperatures surpass 120℃. In comparison, fire-rated glass doors can withstand temperatures of up to 900℃ and last up to 60 minutes without cracking or breaking.
- Steel fire doors: Although timber fire doors are the norm, there is a specialist market for steel doors in environments where doors must be able to withstand heavy impact. For example, some industrial settings (e.g. oil and gas or manufacturing) contain volatile materials and therefore may need doors to be blastproof or indeed where the usage of the building requires additional safeguarding such as train stations and hospitals.
Fire door regulations for frames
Regulatory compliance entails close attention to the finest details, with requirements outlined in Approved Document B (one of the main pieces of fire safety legislation for buildings in England) regarding the materials and methods used to fit fire doors.
Fire doors are only effective if they are installed with the frame and ironmongery that comes as part of the fire door set. A certified fire door frame should also be installed as per regulations by a qualified person. The supplier must be able to provide evidence in the form of relevant certification and product data sheets, as well as written assessments of fire performance and clear installation instructions. This will include the minimum sectional dimensions for the frame and the required density for framing materials.
The approved materials and installation procedures will differ depending on whether you are fitting a 30-minute (FD30) or 60-minute (FD60) fire door. Softwood may be suitable for FD30 door frames but hardwood will be required for FD60. This is because each type of wood has a different density (a critical performance factor as previously stated), and the respective frames will differ in thickness depending on the door’s fire rating. For example, while an FD30 fire door will have a softwood frame that is 32mm thick, an FD60 fire door will include a 44mm hardwood frame.
Should there be a gap in the frame of a fire door?
If there is a gap between the fire door and the frame, it should be limited to 2-4mm in size to remain compliant. This allows the newly fitted door with its intumescent fire and smoke seals to sit flush in its opening. In the event of a fire, the brush or rubber intumescent then expands and provides the necessary resistance.
Fire doors also have maximum allowances for lipping around the door leaf edges. Should a maximum lipping allowed not bring the gap tolerances back to a compliant measurement, then typically, should the requirement be for certification, it would require a new replacement doorset being fitted (this would be a door leaf and frame with certificated test evidence as a set). Lipping outside the allowed detail will prevent any certification from being given against the integrity of the fire door.
Fire door regulations for hinges
All installation materials must meet manufacturers’ requirements, or in the absence of any manufacturer’s details, they must at least be in line with BS8214 to support the fire door’s stability, integrity, and performance.
How many hinges should there be on a fire door?
Fire doors should typically be hung on a minimum of 3 hinges that are made of metal with a melting point above 800°C. The only exception to this is if a fire door exceeds 2.2m in height, at which point it should be hung on 4 hinges unless stated otherwise in the installation manual provided by the door manufacturer.
Single-axis hinges are UL Listed for fire door applications and are mostly used to install or convert doors in existing buildings to self-closing doors. This is a requirement in multi-occupancy buildings such as hotels and apartment buildings. Double-action spring hinges are used when a door needs to open both ways, which is typically the case in commercial and industrial environments. Both types must be CE marked and meet the requirements of BS EN 1935: 2002, which is the current European standard.
Fire door regulations for locks, closers, and ironmongery
Fire doors must be kept closed to be effective, therefore latches are required for compliance. Most fire doors are lockable, with the only exception being fire doors which cannot be lockable due to being positioned on fire escapes or communal, cross-corridor door sets.
Locks and latches must be made from a material with a high melting point of 800ºC for a 30-minute door and over 900ºC for a 90-minute steel door. The fixings must not create a thermal bridge through the door materials. They also cannot leave voids, compromise frames and seals or contain any flammable materials. All locks and latches must be CE marked to BS EN 12209: 2016 (or approved by a third-party certification body) and installed by an experienced specialist.
Fire door signage requirements
It is the responsibility of the fire door installer that fire doors have all the required signage based on the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 (HSR). These regulations stipulate that:
- A fire door sign is placed on every fire door to signal it must be kept shut at all times. This is a blue circular sign that either reads “Fire Door Keep Shut”, “Automatic Fire Door” or “Fire Door Keep Locked”
- This sign should be placed at eye level to make them as visible as possible
- This should be installed alongside fire emergency wayfinding signs to guide people towards safety routes and away from fire doors
- These signs must conform to the BS 5499 Part 4:2000
Fire door regulations for residential properties
Every landlord’s legal obligation is to comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) for residential properties. This encompasses all of the required measures to take for blocks of flats and other domestic dwellings, including fire door regulations. The regulations apply to loft conversions, between houses and attached garages, and between business and residential areas in mixed-use buildings.
The FSO also states that all residences that exceed two levels must have a fire door where each floor meets the stairwell and leads to a habitable room. This will protect adjacent floors from the spread of fire and offer a suitable escape route for everyone in the building. They must be kept unobstructed at all times so they are accessible to all tenants and don’t impede evacuation.
Commercial fire door regulations
Firstly, each commercial premises must be subject to regular and thorough Fire Risk Assessments (FRA). A ‘responsible person’ may be appointed to conduct an FRA, providing that they have the requisite qualifications. Otherwise, they can be carried out by an independent contractor.
This assessment must include evaluating the overall level of risk, with preventative steps such as using fire doors to create a clear path of exit from a building. Consult our guide to fire safety regulations for an in-depth look at FRAs and fire risk surveys.
The assessment should also note any instances where fire protection measures have been neglected or misused. For example, it’s not uncommon for workers in commercial properties to wedge fire doors open to provide easy access throughout the building. This will compromise the door’s ability to provide adequate fire protection. In 2018 it was estimated that 68% of buildings visited by the fire service had fire doors wedged open.
The type and placement of a fire door in a commercial property depend entirely on the building’s layout and evacuation policy. There are two means of evacuation policy from commercial buildings – ‘horizontal’ and ‘vertical’, which are determined by the number of people expected to evacuate. The amount of time expected to fully evacuate the building will depend, in part, on the doors’ fire resistance ratings.
What are the requirements for inspecting fire doors?
Due to their role as a measure to protect life and property, fire doors should be subject to regular inspections, especially if they have been altered or included in a refurbishment. This inspection should include checking:
- That the fire door, hinges, latches, frame, and ironmongery are CE marked.
- Whether the doors close easily and fully, leaving a gap no greater than 4mm between the door and the frame or floor.
- If there is any damage to the door frame or detachment from the wall.
- The condition of intumescent seals, especially that they are in place and properly attached to the inside groove in the frame or door leaf.
- That there are 3 secure and undamaged hinges that are certified, marked accordingly and made from the correct materials
- If the door closer is undamaged and correctly adjusted to close the door firmly and securely.
- That there is no debris or clutter to prevent the door from closing.
How often do fire doors need to be inspected?
Previously inspections were typically carried out every six months so that your property complies with the fire door rules and regulations. These rules changed in January 2023 – now all communal fire doors will be expected to be inspected every 3 months, and FEDs will be expected to be inspected once a year at a minimum.
These will cover various factors, such as ensuring that dedicated fire doors within a building are ‘certified’ – indicated by a label or plug on the top marked with a CE. Furthermore, fire doors must fully close without any dragging or coming into contact with any obstacles that impede their closure, such as the floor or frame. This includes double fire doors, which must close in line with each other.
All fire doors must be fitted in a suitable door frame (with seals and hinges) that is free of damage. Familiarise yourself with all the appropriate checks for fire door inspections to ensure that you don’t miss anything crucial.
Fire doors are built to last, but it’s essential to check and maintain the door’s condition to confirm its safe operation. There are things that we can all do to make sure each fire door is looked after well. Keeping the doorway clear, checking hinges, and inspecting the frame and hardware integrity can help keep your fire doors working efficiently for longer.
What are the risks of non-compliance?
Aside from the immediate risk to the well-being of a building’s tenants and occupants, there are high penalties for failing to meet fire safety regulations. Fines of up to £5,000 and even prison sentences of up to two years can be issued to landlords who fail to comply with the regulations depending on the extent of the situation.
Tesco was fined £95,000 in 2007 when the London fire brigade reported a breach of fire safety regulations due to fire doors being wedged open. London letting agent Douglas and Gordon Limited faced a £100,000 charge after audits were carried out following a fire in one of their residential buildings. Inspectors found that fire doors did not self-close, failing to operate effectively.
CLM Fireproofing are experts in passive fire protection and are committed to raising standards on best practice within our industry. As part of this, we offer fire door maintenance and remedial works, so that our clients remain compliant with the latest rules and regulations. Contact our specialists to find out more.