Fire Doors Explained: What You Need to Know
From homes to commercial buildings to institutions, fire doors act as a critical line of defence to combat the potentially devastating effect of a fire.
Industry-certified fire doors save lives, property, sensitive materials, and other valuables every day. In this article, we discuss the key aspects of this vital emergency feature. We also look at the tighter regulations governing fire safety in the UK and how this may impact property owners.
What Is A Fire Door And Why Are They Important?
Fire doors are specifically designed to prevent the spread of fire and smoke within a building. Their primary function is to compartmentalise areas and create a barrier that limits the spread of flames and dangerous gases during a fire.
By serving as fire breaks and barriers, fire-rated doors allow time for the occupants to leave the premises by evacuation routes. A blaze contained behind an internal fire door poses less of a risk to lives and assets and is more easily extinguished.
Types Of Fire Doors
There are different types of fire-retardant doors and each serves a distinct purpose, based on the needs of the building and space.
- The standard fire door is designed to be fire-resistant and restricts the spread of both flames and smoke in the building space.
- A smoke control door is purpose-built to contain smoke within specific areas so that it doesn’t overwhelm people exiting stairwells and other evacuation routes. A smoke door has some fire-resistant properties but usually won’t contain flames for an extended period.
- An acoustic fire door combines fire resistance with sound insulation capabilities. These doors are commonly used in theatres, conference facilities, recording studios, and properties located in noisy environments.
Features Of Fire Doors
A fireproof door comprises a number of essential elements that work together:
Door frame – The frame is the structure into which the door is installed. It provides support, and stability, and helps maintain the fire integrity of the system.
Door leaf – The leaf is the main block or panel of the door. The thickness and composition of the leaf determine its fireproof rating.
Seals – Seals are an essential component of fire doors as they help restrict the passage of smoke and flames. Intumescent strips are usually used as seals. They are made of materials that expand when exposed to heat, creating a barrier that fills gaps between the door leaf and frame. A silicon-based resistant sealant may be used to ensure the leaf and frame fit flush.
See-through panels – Fire doors may also incorporate other features like vision panels made from heat-resistant glazing.
Hardware – Fire doors typically include a closing mechanism. This is a spring-loaded or hydraulic mechanism that forces the door closed in an emergency. The system also includes hardware like hinges, locks, latches, handles, and closers.
What Materials Are Used For Fire Doors?
Fire-rated doors are made from the highest quality materials that can withstand high temperatures for an extended time.
The most common fireproof doors are made from one, or a combination, of the following:
- Steel – Steel is the most flame-resistant material. Heavy-duty steel sheets and airtight seals make steel doors the superior option when it comes to resisting heat. However, steel is usually the most expensive option and not necessarily the most aesthetically pleasing.
- Timber – It may be surprising, but there is a large range of wooden fireproof doors on the market. The timber is treated with a fire-resistant sealant to achieve a protective barrier. Wooden-based doors are more affordable than steel and usually look more attractive.
- Glass compounds – Glass or ceramic glass reinforced with steel or other metals to increase its flame resistance is also used for fireproofing. Glass can also work well with the building’s interior design as it helps create a lighter, brighter space. The costs for a glass-composite door will vary depending on its style and makeup.
Fire Door Regulations
The Fire Safety Act 2021 was introduced following the devastating 2017 Grenfell Tower fire in London. It was created to strengthen the 2005 Order and officially came into law in January 2023.
The new regulations impose a legal requirement for more regular, robust checking and maintenance of all fire-fighting equipment in multi-occupied buildings. Fire-fighting equipment includes both internal fire doors and external doors.
For buildings over 11 metres, responsible persons such as landlords must conduct regular checks of stock fire doors. Fire doors leading to common parts must also be checked at least every three months.
The regulations are even stricter for buildings over 18 metres, demanding more regular checks of doors and equipment, up to once a month.
Proper fire door maintenance entails regularly checking that all parts, such as hinges and locking mechanisms, are working properly. Checks should also ensure that there are no obstructions that might hinder a door’s performance.
At MCFP, we have a team of BAFE-registered assessors who can assist property owners with the all-important fire risk assessments that save lives. We also provide solutions around all fire-fighting equipment, including supply, installation, and support.
How Long Do Fireproof Doors Last?
Flame retardant doors are given a rating based on how long they can withstand exposure to heat. The ‘certified core thickness’ is the main determinant of how long a fire-rated door provides fire protection. A tested and certified fixture should be fire-resistant for at least 30 minutes.
The fire rating of doors is graded as follows:
- FD30 – fire door certified to provide 30 minutes of protection
- FD60 – 60 minutes of resistance
- FD90 – 90 minutes
- FD120 – 120 minutes.
A block of flats with 250 residents should be fitted with at least FD60 internal fire doors and external doors to give the large number of occupants enough time to evacuate the premises. A small office of 10 employees will likely only need FD30 internal doors.
The UK has recently strengthened regulations around fire safety management. Flame retardant doors are a crucial component of fire safety.
It is always advisable that property owners consult with fire control professionals to benefit from informed risk assessments around fire prevention. This will ensure that the building’s fire doors comply with regulations, and are designed optimally and fitted correctly.
For further information on fire safety products and solutions get in contact with our expert MCFP team.
When are FD90 and FD120 fireproof doors required?
FD90 and FD120 fireproof doors provide resistance of over 90 minutes and are commonly used in high-value properties or strategic infrastructures like server facilities, archives, and flammable supply repositories.
What British Standards certification applies to fire doors?
To check your fire door for British Standards certification look for British Standard (BS) 476 Parts 22 and 31 or BS EN 1154 and BS EN 1634.
What is a responsible person under the Fire Safety Order?
The Fire Safety Order defines a ‘responsible person’ as anyone who has control or a degree of control over certain areas within the premises. This could include owners, property managers, tenant bodies, or employers.