The Important Role Of Fire Doors In Building Safety

by | Jun 30, 2023 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

Fire doors aren’t one-size-fits-all. They vary in material, configuration, components, and ratings. But there’s one thing they all have in common: they save lives.

In this blog post, we’re taking a deep dive into the world of fire doors, exploring how they work, how they’re constructed and how they prevent the spread of fire and smoke to protect building occupants and property.

What is a fire door?

To the untrained eye, a fire door might not look like anything special. To some, it may just look like an ordinary door.

But fire doors do so much more than divide spaces or add privacy and security. Fire doors are specially engineered safety devices, designed to save lives and prevent damage to your premises.  

Why is a fire door important?

Fire doors are a crucial component in the safety of a building. They always have been. But in recent years, since the devastating Grenfell Tower fire, the focus on fire doors and their importance has intensified. And rightly so.

Following the fire that took 72 lives, a series of investigations and inquiries (some ongoing) took place. The findings led the government to enforce Regulation 10 in January 2023, requiring Responsible Persons for multi-occupied residential buildings in England to undertake quarterly checks of all fire doors in common parts and annual checks of all flat entrance doors.

Despite this spotlight on fire doors, however, our research conducted with figures from AJM Fire Safety Limited shows that 85% of fire doors failed to meet required standards.

The fact is, fit-for-purpose and regularly inspected fire doors save lives. If a fire door is properly made by a certified manufacturer, and installed as a complete, compliant and compatible system, it can hold back a fire for either 30, 60, 90 or 120 minutes.

How do fire doors work?

Fire doors work on the principle of compartmentalisation. Compartmentalisation works by dividing large spaces into smaller, fire-resistant compartments to prevent or slow the spread of fire and smoke within a building.

A significant benefit of compartmentalisation is that it allows for what is known as a ‘stay put’ policy in the event of a fire. This policy advises residents to remain in their flats unless directly affected by heat or smoke. The underlying principle is that if a fire occurs in one compartment, it would be contained within that area, allowing the rest of the building’s occupants to ‘stay put’ safely.

However, the effectiveness of a ‘stay put’ policy is heavily reliant on effective compartmentalisation. In the Grenfell Tower fire for example, failed compartmentalisation contributed to the fire’s rapid and uncontrolled spread, rendering the ‘stay put’ policy ineffective and leading to devastating consequences.

Different types of fire doors

There are many different types of fire doors on the market, but timber is one of the most common materials used. This is because it has a very predictable char rate of 0.5mm/min for hardwoods and 0.7mm/min for softwoods.

Timber fire doors are also more readily available, cheaper, easier to fit and replace, and a good environmentally friendly option.

You’ll also find composite fire doors, which offer excellent fire resistance. Or steel fire doors, which you’ll most likely see in commercial or industrial environments like hospitals, warehouses, and kitchens. 

To determine which one is best for your building, the Responsible Person in a business or organisation should carry out a thorough risk assessment. This risk assessment will help the organisation decide what fire doors are needed, where they should be located, and what fire rating they should have.

What are the different elements of a fire door?

A complete fire door installation is made up of many different elements. As well as the door leaf, you have the door frame, hinges, door closers, smoke seals and intumescent seals. Unless, of course, the fire door is made from steel. In this case, you won’t need intumescent seals as the steel expands in a fire. They also use rivets for fixings rather than screws, including for signage. Less commonly, you might find spy viewers, letter plates or air transfer grilles on fire doors.

Perhaps surprisingly, the components of a fire door are just as important as the door itself. This is because most fire doors (in the event of a fire) can warp, move and allow some fire and smoke through the gaps.

That’s why it’s crucial that components are compatible with the fire door system you’re installing, as well as fire rated. The installation of incompatible components will invalidate the door’s certification and place lives and property at risk.

Inspecting and maintaining your fire doors

It’s vital that fire doors are regularly inspected and maintained. Over time, fire doors and their surroundings can be altered or become damaged. Regular inspections will ensure the fire door is still fit for purpose and performs as it should in the event of a fire.

On a new build project, an inspector will generally be called in to confirm that the new doors have been fitted correctly. On another job, you could be inspecting doors that were installed 30 years ago in a social housing complex.

Either way – whether the fire door is old or new – the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 makes it a legal requirement to ensure that fire-resisting doors are correctly installed and adequately maintained so they are fit for purpose. And Regulation 10 requires that checks of all fire doors in common parts are carried out quarterly.

How you record or present your fire door inspection is entirely up to you. There is no official standard or form that you need to use. However, you must ensure you follow these four principles:

  • Your investigation should be thorough (including the door frame, door leaf, gaps, hinges, glazing, self-closing device, and the lock/latch).
  • The information must be accurate.
  • Any points of non-compliance must be accompanied by suitable remedial action.
  • Your inspection report that you present to the client must be able to be shared electronically, e.g. a Word or PDF document.

Installing a fire door correctly

Article 18 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires the building’s Responsible Person to appoint one or more competent persons to assist in undertaking preventative and protective measures.

A competent person is defined as someone who has sufficient training and experience to assist the Responsible Person to meet some of their duties. So, in this case, fire door installation is a job for a competent person.

It’s crucial therefore that fire door installation is carried out by a skilled installer who has undergone comprehensive fire door training.

A fire door’s role in building safety

Fire doors are crucial components in building design and fire safety. They are specially engineered safety devices that, when used correctly, save lives and protect property.

By keeping fire or smoke in the ‘compartment’ in which it started, occupants have time to escape or seek refuge, while emergency services have a chance to control the fire.

But fire doors certainly aren’t straightforward. Installing and maintaining them can be complex. And the laws and regulations around fire doors can be confusing.

That’s why we’ve developed our latest blog series. Taking you through everything from fire door ratings and certificates to the fundamentals of fire compartmentalisation, the blogs will help simplify the world of fire doors and demystify some of the complexities.

Keep an eye on our blog page for new articles or sign up to our newsletter to be the first to hear when a blog post goes live. 


Jonny Millard

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