All About Fire Doors

Last updated on June 27th, 2016 at 03:37 pm

Fire doors might look like any ordinary door, but they offer extra protection and fire resistance which can save lives. They help to contain a fire within a building and stop the spread of harmful smoke. They can be installed in public places and in the home, but it’s important that they are fitted and maintained with care for effective protection.

By Samuel Heath & Sons plc - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
By Samuel Heath & Sons plc – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

What Are Fire Doors?

Fire doors are simply doors that are fire resistant, usually there to prevent the spread of fire. Fire doors can be made from a few different components such as: glass, Gypsum, steel, timber, vermiculite-boards and aluminium.

Fire doors have to be checked every 6 months, although sometimes checks are advisable on a more frequent basis if the doors are used a lot. When they are checked, certain things need to be looked at for example: the door leaf, door frame, hinges, door closer, the door strip and cold smoke seals, glazing, locks, leaves/handles, the hold open device and the gaps around the doors.  

When Should Fire Doors Be Installed?

Fire doors should be installed in places like hotels, blocks of flats, schools and other public buildings. Fire doors are required to help save buildings and lives, as they will hold off the fire from spreading for a short while, so people can escape without injuries.

If you’re concerned about fire safety in your home, you can opt for residential fire doors which usually offer around 20 minutes of fire protection. These are usually made of fibreglass or wood with a metal core. The best places to install fire doors in the home are between areas that a fire is likely to break out such as the place the heating unit or water heater is housed.

Fitting & Maintaining Fire Doors

Fitting a fire door is a very important and if one factor is altered, the fire door will not be as effective as it was originally designed to be.  This is why the job should be done by someone who knows what they are doing and have successfully completed the job before. Before the door is fitted, there are a few things that need to be fitted, such as: the label on the door and frame, the instructions on the door, the frame specification, the building regulations, apertures only from Licensed converters, the gap between the door and the frame, the voids between the door and the frame, the certifier approved and CE marked ironmongery and the correct certifier approved seals. The correct installation is fundamental to the door’s overall performance when in the event of a fire.

Fire doors will need to be maintained and checked often so that if they have to come into use, they will do their designed job.  When fitted, the fire doors must be closed at all times, especially when the building is unoccupied. If the door has a door closer, this should be easy to do although, there can be a few reasons why the door is not fully closing. For example, objects may be in the way of the path of the door, smoke seals may be incorrectly fitted or may be damaged, the latch may need altering, all of which can be quite easily identified and fixed. If none of these are causing the problem, the closing device will need to be looked at, and may need altering, this needs to be done very carefully and the door needs to be checked after. If the door needs to be opened with undue force, the job hasn’t been done properly.

The seals should be checked regularly, at least every six months. If they are damaged or are missing, they need to be replaced as soon as possible. The replacement seal should be the same, brand, size and type, although, if this is not possible one of the same type and size will be suitable. The gap between the door and the frame is recommended to be between 3 and 4mm. There needs to be a gap between both of the sides and the top.

Painting Fire Doors

Photo by Alan Cleaver
Photo by Alan Cleaver

Fire doors usually come in quite bland colours and there can be a bit of confusion around painting them. These specific doors can be painted with standard normal paint, although there are a few things to know before you get started redecorating. Smoke seals should not be painted as the coatings of the paint can get in the way of the door closing fully, which is a danger. Also, due to the paint, the seal could be damaged. A benefit to painting fire doors is painting over the intumescent seals as then they are less likely to absorb moisture. Although, there is a limit to how many layers of paint that can be applied, if too many layers are applied then this can affect the way it works. The limit is recommended to be five layers of paint, if the seals are damaged by the paint, they will need to be replaced. Also, after painting, the correct stickers need to be put onto the door.

How Do Fire Doors Work?

Fire doors have special seals that prevent hot gas from passing through the small gaps between the door and frame. Fire door seals fit into the groove in the frame and shouldn’t get in the way of the door closing, if it does, the seal will need replacing. There are also seals for the hinges and locks or latches on the door. The other defence fire doors offer is a door closer, which lets users open the door but then pulls the door back after the resistance from the person leaves the door. Ensuring the door stays closed makes sure that the seals and doors are preventing the spread of fire from room to room.

Fire doors can be locked though they are only usually locked if the property they are installed in is empty. An exception to this is hotel fire doors, which need to be locked for guests’ privacy. These doors are full of components that have been tested and put together to provide a specific wall to block not only the fire but the harmful smoke too.

Fire doors usually open outwards. This is so when people are escaping, they can run straight out of the door, rather than having to pull the door back. In places like hotels and blocks of flats, fire doors can save lives and buildings. They will hold back the fire for as long as they have been designed to, as long as they have been fitted and maintained properly. Therefore, while the door is doing its job, the firemen are arriving at the property, starting to put the fire out, which wouldn’t have spread much due to the door. Also, the other residents in the building are able to escape out of harm’s way.

Fire doors have to use three hinges mainly because of how heavy the door is, compared to a normal average door. Also, if the door has already been tested, the hinges and everything else that has already been placed on the door have to stay in the same position and place. The door is otherwise known as ‘unsafe’.

To make sure your fire doors will work properly, it is important to get everything right and not to miss steps when maintaining or fitting. Skipping steps or opting for the easier way can take lives and ruin property, so be sure to pay the right care and attention to your fire doors to ensure you receive the benefits they have to offer.

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