Why Are Fire Doors Important?

All of us who use or occupy any building have a right to expect that we will be safely protected should a fire break out. Sadly this is not always the case.  Something may fail within the fabric of the building, or with the fire safety devices and tragedy occurs, causing death or serious injury

Fire doors are part of a building's PASSIVE fire protection system, an essential requirement for public buildings, offices and factories.

They are also a requirement in certain domestic situations, depending on the country's local regulations, for example

  • in flats,
  • other  situations for example where a door leads into an integral garage, or
  • in dwellings where there is a second floor 'habitable' room, such as houses with loft conversions or a 'room in the roof'.

All rooms in any of these situations are separated from other rooms, or compartmented, in order to:

  • keep any fire in the compartment in which it starts
  • protect the occupants (and contents) of other compartments
  • provide a safe, protected route to allow the occupants to escape.

The walls, ceilings, entrances and exits are therefore designed to resist the fire for a specified period of time.

The simple purpose of a fire door in every day use is just as any other door. However, since a breakout of fire is never predictable, the fire door, unlike any other door, must then perform its prime purpose - to protect lives and offer protection to the remainder of the building and to other buildings.

 

Fire doors - the burning questions.

Q: How are fire doors different to standard doors?
Q: How do I know if I need a fire door?
Q: Can I choose any style of door as a fire door?
Q: Is there anything different about installing a fire door?
Q: How are fire doors tested?

Q: How are fire doors different to standard doors?

A: Fire doors are manufactured to withstand the spread of fire for a given period of time, normally a minimum of 30 minutes. This allows time for inhabitants of a building to escape. Fire doors may be of solid construction or made with a special core, often flax board or a wood composite material that is slow to burn. They are also made with special seals, fitted into either the door or frame, which seal the door on impact with heat, to stop the spread of fire and/or smoke around the edges of the door.

Q: How do I know if I need a fire door?

A: Fire doors are mainly used in commercial buildings, such as hotels and offices but are also mandatory in some domestic homes, depending on the country specific building regulations. You therefore need to check your building regulations. The majority of fire doors are fitted internally but in certain situations they may be required for external use, such as a sheltered passageway. The regulations are there to stipulate the legal requirement for fire safety.

Q: Can I choose any style of door as a fire door?

A: Many doors are available as fire doors, so there is a huge choice of designs including many finishes and glazing options. Fire doors are commonly sold as a complete 'set' including the frame and essential ironmongery, that holds the door in place in the event of fire. This is often a safer solution as the 'door set' should have been tested to ensure all elements are compatible.

Q: Is there anything different about installing a fire door?

A: Yes.  A fire door is a life-saving product and must be fitted correctly. The installation is critical to the door's performance in the event of a fire. Fitting instructions would normally be supplied with the door and it is essential to follow these instructions and to check that any elements used are compatible including the correct seals and ironmongery.

Q: How are fire doors tested?

A: There is a legal requirement for fire door manufacturers to prove that their doors perform as claimed. This is usually done with an independent third party testing company. A 'door set' is built into a suitable construction on a furnace and a real fire test is conducted to determine the period of resistance, 30 minutes etc. This test provides the evidence for this particular 'door set' construction. See example video of a real fire test.

Here is an example of fire door testing from the UK: