When it comes to fire safety and the fire protection ratings for the doors on your premises, time is crucially important, i.e. how long can they keep a fire on the other side for? On top of that is making sure there are clear fire escape routes with no obstructions. But what exactly is the law around fire doors: how many should you have, and what type? SSS Industrial Doors covers all you need to know in this helpful guide.
What is a fire door?
Firstly, it’s important to note the different types of fire doors out there. You can get single internal wooden fire doors for domestic, office and retail environments that typically provide a fire rating of FD30 (30 minutes of fire protection). With steel fire doors, you get a more robust combination of security and fire safety, with fire protection ratings of one, two, and four hours – ideal for larger premises, like industrial warehouses, schools, government buildings etc.
In a nutshell, fire doors act as efficient barriers against the spread of fire as well as a means of escape in the event of a fire. They need to be strong enough to contain fires for certain periods of time – 30 minutes to a minimum, maybe more depending on building size – and meet certain requirements to help contain and stop the spread of fires.
Fire door inspection
What might come as a surprise when looking into the law and requirements of fire doors is this startling statistic. In 2019, out of over 100,000 fire doors inspected by FDIS (The Fire Door Inspection Scheme), over three quarters of them were condemned as not fit for purpose? Very worrying results.
So, how did this happen? Well, there are quite a number of key features and requirements that make a fire door, like the ones you will have noticed with the blue ‘fire door’ signs on.
Requirements of a fire door:
- No excessive gaps: One of the main differences between a normal door and fire door is in the framing. Fire doors need certain sealing and should not have excessive gaps to keep the fire trapped in one area
- Intumescent sealing: Sealant or strips that expand and swell when heated to form another protected layer and seal gaps in the event of a fire
- Built to contain fires for a period of time: The most common fire door categories are FD30, FD60, FD90 and FD120 with each number indicating the number of minutes the door is engineered to provide fire protection for. The type of fire door often relates to the size of the building and how long you may need to evacuate people safely. SSS Industrial Doors also provides steel fire doors that can provide four hours of fire protection
- Self-closing mechanism: Fire doors need to be able to shut on their own and they should never be left open, obstructed or wedged open, which is why you’ll see ‘Fire door keep shut’ on those blue signs
- Fire-resistant glazing: If there are any panes of glass in a fire door, they need to be fire-resistant
- Ironmongery: Locks, latches, handles, hinges and door closers need to be tested and certified, making sure they are compatible with the fire door
- Where there needs to be more ventilation: Air grilles or intumescent fire grilles are required where more ventilation is needed. They are made to automatically close in the event of a fire
- For public access and emergency: For buildings with heavy footfall and where there are visitors or customers, you need to make sure you have fire doors that can be easily opened in the event of an emergency, allowing for an easier escape. Push bars and push pads work well here for fire exit doors
- Signage: For commercial premises, you must make sure correct signage is in place on all your fire doors. Signs need to be placed on both sides of fire doors, clearly indicating that they are fire doors as this helps reinforce the need for them to be kept shut, so they can do their job
Who needs a fire door?
In general, fire doors are needed for commercial buildings and domestic buildings with three or more storeys, or where there is shared housing. Fire safety regulations stipulate that for:
Domestic dwellings – fire doors are needed in homes more than two storeys high. A fire door needs to separate the stairwell from every habitable room (except for bathrooms or toilets). They are also mandatory for loft conversions and between a house and integral garage.
Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) – fire doors are legally required in shared housing buildings, especially for flat entrances where it leads to a shared or communal area.
Non-domestic buildings – you need to be carrying out regular fire risk assessments to make sure your premises are in line with The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Part of this is ensuring you can help stop the spread of fires and contain them, and fire doors help brilliantly here. As listed in the requirements of a fire door section, for commercial premises, signage is required to indicate which doors are fire doors and must be kept shut, and labels are needed on both sides of them. You must also make sure that you have enough escape routes and fire exit doors to accommodate your building’s capacity. There are no clear numbers on this, but, for instance, if you have several floors, you should make sure people on each floor can find an escape route as quickly as those on any other floor.
Fire-rated steel doors
Fire doors can come in a range of sizes and forms. You can have them with glass (fire-resistant of course), completely opaque, or made with steel or timber. It all depends on the building and size. But, for ultimate protection in the event of fire, steel fire doors are certainly more durable and stronger than timber doors. They can give an added layer of protection and security to the building whilst not being obtrusive. Thick smoke and fire will have a tough time getting through these rigorously-tested fire doors, and they ensure enough time is given to evacuate people to safety in the event of a fire.
Fire door certification and maintenance
You should make sure fire doors are bought from and installed by reputable manufacturers and installers who fit both fire doors and frames in-line with the standards for building regulations and the government’s fire safety approved document.
Third-party certification is there to ensure you’re doing it right. This means a process is in place to audit installers and manufacturers, as well as provide maintenance, testing and verification on how compatible and efficient the fire door is.
With this, your fire doors are also subject to routine scrutiny with regular inspections and testing to make sure they continue to meet standards. If you don’t have third-party certification, you could become complacent with your fire doors and may jeopardise your fire risk assessment. They need regular checks to keep them maintained and robust enough to help protect buildings and people against fires.
No matter what type of building you have, you should be well aware of your own fire risk assessments. However, for non-domestic buildings or buildings with shared occupants and more than two storeys, you need to include fire doors to help contain and fight off potential fires. Fire doors do save lives, but only if they are routinely checked, tested and continue to meet requirements. Make sure your fire doors are checked and suitable.