Nowadays, all modern buildings have to meet special precautions in order to prevent possible fire outbursts. As expected, this doesn’t include only fire extinguishing equipment and evacuation plans.
Traditionally, it’s imperative for residential and office buildings to have doors that allow fast and non-obstructive evacuation in a state of emergency.
Normal wooden doors aren’t as effective because they are usually made of materials that cannot withstand extreme temperatures and can sometimes exacerbate the fire and smoke even more. For this reason, fire-rated doors are specially-designed to fill in the niche of emergency doors.
As the name suggests, the main purpose of fireproof doors is to restrict or at least delay the spread of fire, smoke, and fumes in a particular compartment of a building. These doors are made of fire-resistant materials such as timber, metal, glass, gypsum, steel, and vermiculite, which are often mixed together.
The average time a fire-rated door can hold up to fire ranges from twenty to ninety minutes, depending on the quality of the door as well as other secondary factors. Apart from preventing a fire from spreading, what they basically do is to allow the residents to evacuate from the building safe and sound.
To provide further information about the exploitation and the perks of having a fire-rated door, below is a list of the most important features and advantages of fire-rated doors as well as the main requirements which have to be met in order to keep them operating properly.
Features and Advantages of Fire Rated Doors
As previously stated, the main purpose of fire-rated doors is to help facilitate the safe and quick evacuation and to minimize any possible damages to the property. Usually, fireproof doors are placed with the aim to protect the exit points of a building. This includes horizontal exits, stair enclosures, and exit corridors.
However, they are often used to divide buildings into compartments into a certain number of fire-safe areas. For larger constructions, fire-rated doors can be used for the compartmentalization into special evacuation areas where the residents or employees from different parts of the building can run to in a state of emergency along with any important assets that need to be saved.
Because of the efficiency they provide, it’s important to include fire-rated doors in every fire protection plan. They are not only crucial for protecting and saving the lives of the people living or working in the building, but they can also save material belongings such as office equipment or other important objects.
What’s more, fireproof doors can be crucial to maintaining the structural integrity of the building. For this reason, the door of choice should have the fireproof ratings possible so as to meet your specific needs. Whether you’re going for a fire door for domestic or commercial use, there are some key features that you need to take into consideration before choosing the door you’d like to buy.
Features of Fire-Rated Doors
- Material and function
Usually, fire-rated doors are made from a solid timber frame, which is completely fine because the wood used to make such doors is actually treated with various materials in order to be able to withstand extreme temperatures. Apart from that, some emergency doors are covered in fire-resistant glass.
In addition, the edges of the door are covered with an intumescent seal, which is specially designed to expand and seal the gaps between the door and the frame when temperatures rise beyond 200° C. This is particularly effective in preventing any harmful smoke or fumes from entering the fire-safe compartment of the building. Additionally, seals keep oxygen from entering the impacted area, thus preventing the hearth from spreading.
When talking about fire-rated door placement, it’s important to determine whether you’re going to need the door for private premises or for an office building. If you want a fireproof door at home, it’s best advised that you install it where there’s a higher risk of fire. For example, rooms with electrical devices or the kitchen.
If you’re willing to install a fire rated door in a non-domestic property, you should keep in mind that the responsibility of installing such doors lies on the owner of the property or the employer. Also, contemporary buildings need to meet special regulations that require certain doors to be fire-rated and each has its own particular place.
Since such doors have a life-saving purpose, they need to be kept in perfect condition in order to function properly. Of course, every component of a fireproof door is tested by a screening company. All components, including the hinges, doorknobs, and latch have to be run through fire resistance special assessments. Additionally, the different door partitions, also known as hearth partitions, are tested for combustion and hearth.
As a result, the fireproof door has to correspond to the certification requirements so as to be approved by the local, regional or national emergency regulations. This makes fire-rated doors highly-valuable and precisely-made entryways. However, it’s vital to understand the need to conduct regular risk assessments and seek professional help when needed.
Most importantly, you should know the differences between the various specifications. For example, the FD code represents the number of minutes a fire door can withstand fire. In addition, statistics show that approximately 42% of the house fire deaths are caused by the consumption of smoke. With this in mind, when looking for a fire door, its specifications list should include cold smoke seals which are usually within the intumescent seals.
How to Keep Your Fireproof Door In-Check
In order to be on point in a state of emergency, every fire rated door has to comply with the relevant local standards and regulations. This opts for a door specialist with thorough knowledge of the key parts of this type of doors which have to be assessed on a regular basis. This will ensure that the unit is operating properly and will serve effectively in times of need.
Door closer and proper closure
Obviously, a fireproof door needs to be closed in order to work as supposed to. Otherwise, it will be completely useless. In other words, the door must close firmly onto the latch without sticking on the frame or the floor. You can check if everything’s fine easily by opening the door halfway and letting it in order to see whether it closes itself properly. As mentioned above, all hardware related to the door must comply with the anti-fire standards.
The number of fire exits, alternative exits and door width
Depending on the occupants of the property and the distance from the nearest exit, the number of fire-rated doors may vary. As a general rule of thumb, there are usually at least two escape routes. Of course, exceptions can be made in cases where the distances are not so big. At least one escape exit is required for a building with 60 occupants and at least two if the number rises to 600.
What’s more, there’s a standard width which corresponds to the maximum number of persons of the building. For example, in the Approved Document B, the recommended width is 750 mm for a maximum of 60 occupants and 1050 mm when there is a maximum of 220 persons. If the number of occupants is higher than 220 people, then the width of the door rises by 5 mm for each person.
However, in the DCLG guidance, the standard width is 750 mm for a capacity of 100 people and a 1050 mm door for 200. When deciding which one to use, you should bear in mind that the Building Regulations apply to new builds and alterations while the DCLG guidance applies to the existing premises.
Basically, every fire rated door has a certification label. Usually, such labels or plugs are placed on top or on the side of the door. Without a certification mark, you can’t be sure that the particular door is really fireproof and therefore you should report the issue to the person responsible for the property’s safety.
What you can do to check whether a door is certified is to use the selfie function on your phone’s camera or a mirror. Ensuring your door is fireproof certified will prevent possible misunderstandings and incidents.
Vision panels for fire doors
Vision panels, or the small rectangular windows, are included for various reasons. They are not only used to add aesthetics to fire-rated doors but also to provide additional sight in states of emergency. Obviously, one of the vision panels’aim is to allow daylight through the fire door so as to be able to see and be seen by standing near it.
Probably one of the most important parts of a fire-rated door, intumescent seals are crucial to preventing smoke and fumes from entering the safe compartments in a state of fire. These seals, along with cold smoke seals, are able to resist the passage of fire and smoke.
Moreover, the latter are designed to expand at temperatures above 200° and thus seal any gaps between the door and the frame. In addition, acoustic seals may also be included. It’s important to make sure whether all intumescent seals are intact and there are no signs of damage
Securing Emergency Fire Exit Doors
As stated in the “Emergency Routes and Exits” article in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, “In the event of danger, it must be possible for persons to evacuate the premises as quickly and safely as possible”.
For this reason, in most cases, emergency doors should be opening in the direction of escape, whereas no sliding or revolving doors should be used as emergency exits.
Additionally, the emergency fire doors mustn’t be obstructed, e.g. locked or fastened in a manner in which they cannot be effortlessly and immediately opened. Although the RRO only applies to England and Wales, other regions of the UK also have similar legislation.
An essential factor, gaps around the top and sides as well as underneath the fire door should also comply with certain standards. The top and side gaps of the door should be consistent and shouldn’t exceed 4 mm when closed.
On the contrary, the gap underneath the door is usually slightly larger and can even reach 8 mm in some cases. It’s important to know that there shouldn’t pass any light under the door. Otherwise, smoke and fire could easily pass through the cracks.
Fire door retainers
A common problem among fire doors is the wedged or propped open doors. Such doors surely are heavy and often obstruct easy access through different parts of buildings. Moreover, they prevent the free flow of air. All these factors often tempt the residents of buildings with fire doors to prop them open, which is actually completely wrong and wedging a fire door open is basically dangerous and even illegal.
If you want to make sure a fire door is firmly fixed, then you should check the hinges. There should be no missing or broken screws. There should be three or more hinges that should be properly maintained at all times so as to ensure that the unit would hold back the fire long enough to prevent further incidents.
Generally, escape routes and emergency exits shouldn’t be locked. It’s advisable that there is only one simple fastening which allows operation without the use of a key.
However, in terms of security, locking devices are a necessity. In such cases, it’s a good idea to fit a lock only on the outside, whereas it can be easily opened without a key on the inside. Other, less popular ways of dealing with the issue are the use of glass bolts or electromechanical and electromagnetic locks.
However, these options require additional training and understanding of the mechanism in order to make it work effectively.
All in all, fire doors provide an effective and secure way of ensuring the safety of a building. Fire doors can help compartmentalize a building, prevent the spread of smoke and flames, and protect egress routes to allow for a safe escape. When properly specified, installed, and maintained they are the best option for providing fireproof protection.