Fire doors are a hidden saviour that often can be forgotten. They’re designed to make sure a doorway is well and truly sealed from smoke and fire passing it through it for at least 30 minutes, and yet at the same time still look and open as a usual doorway.
This is essential to stop fire and smoke spreading throughout a property and causing damage to both the building and people. Containing any incident just within one area can save serious harm and damage, and therefore is an important part of any assessment of fire risks and a big issue for parties like insurers with a liability.
In addition to there being any main entrance and exit doors at a property, fire doors can be littered throughout the property into separate rooms and floors, and even in the middle of long corridors.
The Fire Door Responsibilities
When considering what’s needed with them, think of this as in two forms.
The first is when the property is first constructed or refurbished, where requirements of, say, building regulations kick in to determine where these should be and what they should be like. This is a specialist area for any principle contractor, project manager, architect, or other construction professional.
The second is to ensure that whatever fire doors exist are then always kept checked and operational. It’s one thing to have them working at day one, but another to make sure they can do what they’re supposed to do on an ongoing basis into the future.
This second element is more under the banner of property management, with the main duty under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 for a suitable person to assess these as part of a Fire Risk Assessment and complete appropriate inspection and maintenance of these doors.
As they need to stand up to some serious heat and smoke, a more careful inspection is required of these, and it’s probably a case of an experienced and qualified contractor or professional doing this rather than the actual Fire Risk Assessor whose main role is to oversee lots of other issues affecting fire safety.
Frequency wise, the rule of thumb is often every six months for a formal inspection and check, with any ad-hoc quick ones in between. This of course depends upon the nature of the property and users using it.
The 8 Essentials Checklist of Checking Fire Doors
So when someone does inspect such fire dorms here are 8 essential factors to look out for. These are of course very general, and helpful to gain an overall understanding of what’s required, with a detailed one needing implementation by the right person.
You can access an easy to use 1-page checklist of all these 8 essential points for checking fire doors here
. This helps provide a summary of what needs checking of all the fire doors at any point in time. In addition to noting the verdict of each of these 8 factors for each fire door at the property, this can help identify specific action points and repairs being required upon them, and how these are completed before the next inspection.
But as above, this is just a quick method for a competant person to visually check these say on routine monthly building check, with a proper approved contractor or Fire Risk Assessor completing a full and detailed inspection say every 6 months or assessment.
1. Wedged Open
This is a simple one to begin with, and more to do with the way in which a door is being used rather than it’s condition. By the nature of them being fire doors to stop any fire or smoke spreading they must be closed when not in use, which may not be ideal from a practical perspective of regular use or carrying items through, but from a fire perspective is essential.
People therefore can prop open through wedges on the floor or more inventive ways such as fire extinguishers acting as a stop. These are all definite no-go areas, with more regular checking and communication to people being needed.
2. Closing Doors
Linked with the above point, they will need to automatically close in the most cases, the idea is that by default they close and are not left for people to remember manually. The main exclusion can be on any final exit door where the need is to keep it open to get people out of the building.
‘Self Closers’ are the devices often used to do this, either a large metal box and lever at the top of the door, or sometimes a hidden part between the door and frame. Whatever closer it is, make sure that it's the correct one, as sometimes the easier-to-fit chain ones within a door are not the correct ones.
Make sure these work OK, there are no obvious issues like oil leaks and loose parts, and though they are adjusted for just the right degree of closing (they can sometimes close either too quickly and slam shut, or too slowly and not have the momentum to latch properly). A good rule of thumb is around 8 seconds for the door to correctly close.
3. Hinges & Latches
Basic operational parts like this need to be checked and operating satisfactorily. So hinges have the correct amount of screws all tight, the minimum number of 3 hinges, and any oil stains or damage noted. Also, that they are actually the correct specification, and not just say a domestic-grade one for commercial properties.
On the latching side, the way in which the handle and lock then clicks in the frame needs clarifying.
4. Doors & Frames
An obvious one, but make sure that the actual door and frame around it is secured and working fine. Right from the frame not being loose against walls and ceilings, to the door itself not being warped or twisted.
Also watch out for any damage to these, often accidently over time. In addition, make sure it is actually the correct and original door, and which hasn’t been mistakenly replaced by a less chunky non-fire-rated door as part of some previous refurbishment works and just had a 'fire door' sign placed on afterwards.
Thsi includes no gaps, holes, or cracks that comprimise the intergirty of teh door and could potentially allow smoke and fire through. A classic example is where someone has retro-fitted a mortice lock with a typical key hole through the door, a definate no-no.
Whilst a lot of fire doors are solid, some will have glazing panels built in, which can act as a helpful window to look through in the event that there was an issue on one side.
So check that these are still satisfactory, with the correct secured beading around fixing them firmly to the door, and that there are no signs of damage or cracks.
Watch that they haven’t been changed for less superior ones, and that they have the right safety-glass specification, particularly for those towards the bottom of the door.
The gap between where the door settles in the frame is critical, as this will often be the part where smoke and fire can easily spread through. There naturally needs to be some form of gap in order for the door to actually move in and out of the frame of course, but there is a limit, often up to 5mm around the tops and sides, and under 8mm for the bottom with no obvious signs of daylight.
If it's a top-gap issue you may simply be able to re-hang the door slightly higher, as the gap at the bottom is less essential. However if at the side, you will need either a few door or correctly-fitted new frame padding (not extra 'strips' on the actual fire door).
In between the above gaps are a form of seal that will act as a barrier to any fire or smoke trying to squeeze past. They’re often in the middle of both or either the door and frame, and sticking out a little from the surface as a form of ‘brush’ or rubber strip.
You can get technical in knowing what these forms are, for example intumescent strips and cold smoke seals, with some expanding further with heat.
The gist of them is that they help cover this final gap of a few millimetres between the door and frame, providing a fire-sterile escape route, and therefore it is important to make sure that the right ones are in, and they’re all still correctly maintained. Over the years they can be mistakenly covered over with paint, parts of them worn down or missing.
8. Certification & Signs
This sounds grand, but basically boils down to the right label or plug stating that this is a legitimate and authorised fire door. They are often on the top or side, and even though there may be other signs on the main door these need to be correctly vetted as being fire rated.
In addition you may also have general warning signage either on the door itself or just above it or as part of emergency lighting
or fire exit routes.
The Essential Fire Doors Checks
Therefore whatever property you are involved with, fire doors will probably be involved to some degree, and therefore you need to not only make sure they are first correctly installed but then thoroughly inspected and maintained afterwards to always be ready to defend against any fire and smoke.
This of course needs implementing correctly, and any Fire Risk Assessor or other qualified person being able to formally quantify them, know what needs checking on them, and then implement a cohesive basis of maintaining them.