Are fire doors doing their job? – Ashleigh Mackay and Associates
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Ashleigh Mackay

Fires represent one of the greatest threats to tenants and properties, but fire doors can play a pivotal role in minimising losses.

There are on average 162 building fires in the UK every day, with 80% occurring in residential properties.

Fire doors, if fitted correctly, are a vital safety feature in buildings as they help to prevent the rapid spread of fire and are a legal requirement in a significant proportion of residential properties. However, they are not always used to best effect.

Here, we look at some common challenges and explain what you can do to help improve fire safety in properties.

Fire door failures are surprisingly common

Figures from the London Fire and Rescue Service suggest that in around a dozen fires each year in the capital, there are significant failures due to fire doors having been replaced, left open or fitted incorrectly.

Common fire door faults can include:

  • Wedging open of self-closing doors
  • Damage to, or removal of, self-closing devices (typically over-head closers)
  • Damage to the integrity of the door leaf – typically mechanical or malicious damage
  • Removal of fire-resistant glazing
  • Straining of hinges, preventing closure of the door
  • Movement/misalignment of the doorframe, preventing door closure
  • Removal/damage to intumescent strips and smoke seals
  • Incorrect specification/installation of fire doors/doorsets

Other potential hazards can include – incorrect signage, unsuitable hinges, damage to the floor and a gap of more than 3mm between the door and its frame.

Selecting the right fire door

Fire doors are given a rating based on the amount of time it takes for the door to perish in a fire. The most common ratings, as referenced in UK Building Regulations and Standards, are FD30 and FD60, although higher-rated doors such as FD90 and FD120 are available and offer additional protection.

Tip 1: Fire doors are tested for limited smoke passage and a fire door with smoke protection requirements will be described with the suffix ‘S’, e.g. FD30S.

Challenges when refurbishing properties

If you are refurbishing a property, it is important to understand how specifications, installation and alterations, such as glazing, could impact on fire door performance.

Manufacturers test their fire doors in laboratory conditions with suitable door hardware (such as locks, latches, hinges and door closers), which helps them understand the type of configuration in which the door may be used and the type of door hardware that may be fitted with it.

Tip 2: You should ensure you check the door manufacturer’s installation instructions and data sheets to ensure they install the doors that will work best for individual locations.

Helping prevent major loss from fires

Fire doors are designed to prevent fires spreading and causing major loss as they can make a real difference to the impact of a fire. Tragedies have occurred as a result of a failure to ensure they have been installed and are being used correctly.

As such, door repairs, maintenance and replacement should be carried out by a knowledgeable specialist who has the necessary competence and expertise.