Building owners have always been required to have the right fire protection systems in place to safeguard tenants and occupants. However, in light of reports post-Grenfell, additional scrutiny has...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 reports post-Grenfell, additional scrutiny has been placed on whether these systems comply fully 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%. It is clear that 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 partially 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 ‘grade’, which refers to the duration that they offer protection in the event of a fire. This grade will vary, based on the materials used to manufacture the door.
The British Woodworking Federation (BWF) is a major organisation issuing fire door ratings. Ratings are assessed using four main integrity levels and vary from FD30 (30 minutes) to a maximum of FD120 (120 minutes).
The average fire door grade in residential buildings will be 30 or 60 minutes (FD30 or FD60). In contrast, fire doors in commercial buildings may install doors of a higher degree (FD60 and above) based on the presence of high-risk materials or items that are of particular value to an organisation.
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.
Wooden fire doors
Popular in residential properties, wooden fire doors provide the same protection level as glass, ranging between 30 to 60 minutes. Most wooden fire doors will have a solid core made from timber, flax board, magboard or particleboard.
Steel doors are arguably the best choice in commercial buildings as they are solid and durable, offering maximum protection above FD120 (120 minutes). They are often used in buildings like hospitals and professional kitchens.
Fire door regulations for frames and hinges
Regulatory compliance requires close attention to the finest details. For instance, here are some of the requirements outlined in Approved Document B (one of the main pieces of fire safety legislation for buildings in England) for any hardware used to fit fire doors:
- All materials and products used in fire doors (such as frames, handles and hinges) should be both Certifire approved and, if required, CE marked. This means that they adhere to European health and safety legislation as well as being vetted by an independent third party.
- Any gap between the fire door and the frame cannot exceed 4mm in size. This helps to block the passage of smoke between rooms protected by fire doors.
- Fire doors must be hung on a minimum of 3 hinges, which must be made of metal with a melting point above 800℃. They must also be CE marked.
- Any fire doors with a required fire resistance of over 30 minutes must be fitted with intumescent strips. These expand when exposed to high temperatures to prevent any smoke from escaping.
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 include installing fire doors in 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 allocate a ‘responsible person’ whose job it is to conduct a thorough Fire Risk Assessment (FRA). 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 in 2021 for an in-depth look at FRAs.
The assessment should also note any instances where fire protection measures have been neglected or misused. For instance, 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 depends entirely on the building’s layout and escape plan. There are two means of escape plans 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 in turn dictate which door rating (FD30 or FD60) is necessary.
How often do fire doors need to be inspected?
To ensure that your property complies with the fire door rules and regulations, inspections should be carried out every six months. 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 its 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 with seals, hinges, door closure and hold-open devices, fitted in a suitable door frame and 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 ensure 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, visual checking of the hinges, and checking 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 wellbeing 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 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.