Fire doors are often ignored and misunderstood at properties, but have become progressively more important over time. In short, they’re designed to help stop fire and smoke passing through a building for at least 30 minutes, something that is critical to stop a fire spreading at a property whilst, for example, the emergency services attend, preventing further harm to both people and property.
We have a resource here on some of the nuts-and-bolts of checking these which is one of the action points of ongoing property management services. Once they have been correctly installed or assessed, then it’s important to make periodic checks that these still do what they say on the tin - be a door to stop fire (and smoke) getting past.
Taking a step back, here are 3 types of fire doors that you can find at properties, particularly those which are multi-let and you’re considering the communal areas of, say, an apartment or office block. These are very rough ways of categorising them into 3 types that can then infer different levels of maintenance and checks, and not necessarily the exact specification of the door.
They of course will still need assessing individually, however this 3-stage way of looking at them can help start to focus on what’s needed.
1. Main Entrance Doors
Typically people think of the main entrance door to the whole property when they think of fire doors, which allow access out of the main property outside. They’re usually chunky doors, with fire-exit signs above them, and an obvious door to check.
However in actual fact these can be the least compliant doors to consider, on the basis that at this point people need to be getting out of the property rather than trying to stop the spread of fire outside. It’s actually doors within the property that are important fire-doors to stop the spread of flames and smoke from within the property.
Therefore things like self-closers, door seals, and even signage may not be essential for these main entrance and exit external doors, although of course still have this all assessed in detail. You also tend to find that these fire measures tend to go against practical day-to-day use of these doors, so for example self-closers can stop doors being left open for access – although saying that, they can help with security and keep doors automatically closed or locked.
2. Inner Doors
As you get inside the property, these are the ‘hidden’ doors that go into communal or private areas. Two typical examples are doors along a communal corridor that split into two sections, and another for storage cupboards under stairs or along walls for, say, utility meters.
These are the bread-and-butter ones to consider when risk assessing communal areas. They’re there for a purpose; to stop fire spreading along the corridor and for it reaching out of, for example, an electricity cupboard when sparks have ignited things.
Before launching into the regular checks, make sure these are all correctly logged and are correct specification. Check that no retrospective ones have been installed which in actual fact could be not fully-compliant fire doors, even though someone may have placed a fire-door sign on them.
3. Occupier’s Doors
These are doors going into people’s own business or residential areas, and can end up being a grey area.
Often the ultimate responsibility for them is with each owner or occupier, but check any leases and documentation to clarify this. Even if this is the case, and not the strict liability of a communal assessment, it is good practice to communicate any obvious issues to them as this can have a knock-on effect for the rest of the property and occupiers.
So watch for any new doors suddenly cropping up, which may well look the same or even better, but maybe a poorer fire-resistance.
And spot even smaller changes to an existing door, for example a letter box fitted afterwards or new mortice locks with a keyhole right through the door – all causing potential holes and loss of essential fire resistance to that home or business.
Taking A Step Back
Therefore when you’re faced with the task of understanding what fire doors you have at a property and how then you need to assess and maintain them, by going through the above 3 types you can begin to see where they will lie. A quick inspection of the property can then start identifying how many you have of each type, and therefore what degree of assessing and servicing you and others require.
This should then lead to a full inspection and analysis, rather than relying upon this as the final verdict – you can check out our fire-door check-list here.
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