Photography by Mike McCaffrey.
Inspecting Your Fire Door
Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, fire safety is now at the forefront of our minds. Worryingly, safety checks currently underway on numerous multi occupancy buildings throughout the UK have revealed that many fire doors are in a poor state of repair and that in some instances fire doors are missing from compartments altogether.
It’s vital for anyone responsible for the safety of occupants to ensure that fire doors are regularly inspected and maintained in safe working order. These simple checks can assist you in determining whether your fire doors are in a good state of repair and will perform as required or whether you need to take action to correct any defects. We recommend that you seek professional advice from an accredited fire door inspector or fire door manufacturer.
Door Leaf & Frame
First, it’s important to determine whether the door in question is actually a certified fire door. If you are in the United Kingdom, check for a BWF-CERTIFIRE Fire Door and Doorset Scheme label.
Once you can be sure that the doorset is properly certified as a fire door, it’s important to check the door leaf and frame are free from damage to ensure the door set functions correctly in the event of fire. Look for dents, holes or chips, particularly at the edges of the door and frame. If a door stop is present, make sure that it is properly fixed in place and that the door leaf is free from distortion as its rests against the stop.
The frame should be securely fixed to surrounding structure and the gap between the door leaf and frame should be no more than 3mm.
There should be a consistent gap under the door that allows it to swing without touching the floorcovering. The gap should be in accordance with the door manufacturer’s installation instructions for the particular doorset design. If smoke seals are fitted, they should give an even contact with the floor but not interfere with the closing action of the door.
Check door lever handles for smooth operation and that they freely return to horizontal positions. If they don’t, there could be a problem opening the door in the event of an emergency, or the door closing correctly to maintain fire integrity. Check that pull handles are securely fixed.
If fire doors are on an escape route, they must be able to open without keys in the direction of escape and must be able to be easily operational.
Exit devices such as panic bars or emergency exit hardware must function correctly so that people can immediately exit through the doorway when required. Check that fixings are tight on the device, the bolts and the strikes and that the door opens freely when the exit device is actuated.
Hinges should be certified with a CE stamp or the BS EN 1935 grade 13 marking. All fire doors must have a minimum of three hinges per leaf and all screws must be tight and hinges should be free of metal fragments and oil leakage.
Locks & Latches
The latch or deadbolt should engage fully with the strike plate. If the door does not latch fully to the door frame, smoke and flame could escape around the door, which can cause visibility and breathing problems during a fire and potentially allow the fire to spread.
Check that the closer is securely fixed to the door and frame and that there are no visible signs of damage or leaking oil from the closer. The closer should hold the door firmly in the frame when unlatched.
Open the door to a 5-degree angle, or to 75mm, and release; the door should close fully into the frame and engage the latch. If hung in pairs, open both doors; they should close in line if they are both opened and released together.
Hold-open devices, such as electro-magnetic closers, are the only way fire doors can be held open legally. They should release the door immediately when the fire alarm is sounded and close the door fully into the frame.
All fire doors must be signed correctly so users know how they should be used. They should be clearly visible, easy to read and understand quickly, which is crucial in the event of an emergency.
As smoke spread is an even greater threat to life and property than flames, fire doors must be fitted with intumescent seals to stop the ingress of smoke around the door edges. The seals should be well-attached inside the groove cut into the door or the frame. Make sure that they are in good condition and specified to the fire rating and function of the fire door.
Glazing & Glass
Glazing in fire doors is an important safety measure as it lets people see potential hazards, but it can create a point of weakness. Make sure that intumescent seals attached to the glass and beading are continuous and free from damage, as it’s their job to hold the glass firmly in place and prevent fire and smoke from passing through. Safety glass must be used in glazing panels below 1500mm from the bottom of the door and if glass is at any time replaced it must be fire-rated. Make sure you check for a kite mark on the glass.
If fire doors do not meet all of these criteria, then they may not function correctly in the event of a fire. That’s why it’s so important to carry out these simple checks – they could help you save lives.
If you suspect that your fire doors do not meet the required standards it’s important to seek professional advice.