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Focus on fire doors

Fire doors are among the main bulwarks against one of the most significant hazards facing UK businesses, so what can you do to ensure that yours are…

Fire doors are among the main bulwarks against one of the most significant hazards facing all UK businesses and public sector organisations, so what can you do to ensure that your fire doors are compliant in anticipation of an inspection?

Tight fit

Effective fire doors ensure rooms are compartmented, to help keep fire and smoke in the area where they start. There are two types of fire resisting doors: 

  • Fire door keep shut (FDKS) is used to provide protection where the door has to allow free movement for people around the building, so must have an effective door closer fitted; and
  • Fire door keep locked (FDKL) is a door to a room or cupboard that is accessed for short periods only, for example to store materials or to maintain services, which must be locked immediately after use and kept locked.

In a compartment wall that separates buildings, the fire door must match the fire resistance period of the wall containing the door, with a minimum period of 60 minutes. In all other situations, a 30 minute fire door is allowed.

See for yourself

There are checks you can complete in-house to help ensure your doors are in good condition. But this is not a substitute for the professional inspection services of a qualified competent person.  Unless the correct number and type of hinges are fitted — timber doors usually need at least three hinges fixed with minimum 30mm screws — the door may drop and bind on the floor or door frame. Rising butt hinges should not be fitted to fire doors. Check the hinges regularly for wear.

Fire resisting doors are usually required to be self-closing to meet building regulations. Door closers also need monitoring because heavy use can weaken them. When it is functioning correctly a door closer should be able to (a) close the door leaf reliably from any angle to which it has been opened; and (b) overcome the resistance of a latch or seal fitted to the door.

The latch or lock is the final piece of door furniture to check. If the lock or latch is unsuitable or the corresponding strike plate in the door frame is installed at the wrong angle, the door may not close properly.

Seal watching

Intumescent seals must be fitted to all fire doors. These seals will expand in a fire and seal the gap around the perimeter of the closed door to help hold it in place and restrict the passage of fire and smoke.  Smoke seals must be in full contact with the door edge and frame. If you can see daylight between the smoke brush or blade and the door edge or frame, then it needs fixing urgently.

Though the seals should have no gaps, gaps around the edges of the door itself are very important to ensure correct performance of the intumescent seals in a fire. Best practice guidance says there should be a 3mm gap between the door edge and frame around the perimeter and 8mm to 10mm maximum at the bottom (the threshold) or 3mm where smoke protection is required.

See through

Fitting a glazed vision panel to a fire door, to meet Equality Act requirements, for instance, is definitely a job for the experts. It can have a huge effect on the integrity of the fire door, so you should seek advice from a competent person. Once installed you should check the door regularly for damage to the glass, the beads and the glazing gasket. 

If you inherit a building that has glazed fire doors with unwired glass, look for a mark in the corner of the vision panel confirming the type of glass and manufacturer’s details. If there are no marks, you’ll need to investigate further. 

If your preliminary oversight suggests you need an expert or to back up your interim monitoring with more thorough checking.  The fire door standard BS9999 recommends six monthly inspections.  The inspector (preferably with the with the industry recognised qualification DipFD) should report on the suitability and condition of the doors, advise of any repairs or improvements required and recommend appropriate maintenance to prolong service life.

Lack of attention in this area is neglecting a vital safeguard to protect lives and property.