Preventing the spread of fire

Buildings are compartmentalised to delay the spread of fire from one area to another. These compartments are usually linked by fire doors to allow the flow of traffic around the building. Fire doors have two important functions in a fire; when closed they form a barrier to stop the spread of fire and when opened they provide a means of escape. 

A well designed timber fire door will delay the spread of fire and smoke without causing too much hindrance to the movement of people and goods. Every fire door is therefore required to act as a barrier to the passage of smoke and/or fire to varying degrees depending upon its location in a building and the fire hazards associated with that building. 

The main categories of fire doors are FD30 and FD60 fire doors which offer 30 and 60 minutes fire protection.

Components working together

The performance of a fire door is based on a number of components working together in a fire scenario. A door set may be called fire resisting if the complete design has been subjected to a full scale fire resistance test to one of the current test standards for non-loadbearing elements. BS 476: Part 22: 1987 BS EN 1634 -1: 2008.

The individual components should be fire tested in a controlled environment as a complete set to ensure their overall performance. As the doors on site display numerous defects and a collaboration of various types of ironmongery any remedial works carried out would not be a certified solution. Excessive gaps at the base of door leaves can be reduced by the addition of hardwood lipping to the bottom edge but this would be classed as a best endeavours repair. 

What are fire doors and why do they matter?

Fire doors are a really important element of your fire safety strategy. Used correctly, they stop fires from spreading through a building, giving people time to escape and the Brigade time to attend and potentially save your premises. Getting the right fire doors in place is an important responsibility.

Tradesman from Aran Fire Protection installing fire door
Fire door installation by Aran Fire Protection

Why do you need to supply fire doors?

They are specifically designed to withstand fire for a set period of time; usually 30 or 60 minutes. They are a legal requirement for flats which open onto communal areas shared with other tenants. This is to make sure crucial escape routes are protected if a fire breaks out. They are designed to automatically close behind you in the event of fire, holding flames back and stopping the spread of the fire and toxic smoke into escape routes, corridors and other flats in the block. Property owners are required by law (The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005) to make sure premises reach required standards of fire safety.

What's the difference between a fire door and a normal door?

If a fire door is properly made by a BWF certified manufacturer, with compatible parts, and certified by an accredited third party, it should hold back a fire for 30 minutes or more.

However, the components – hinges, seals, handles and glazing – are as important as the door itself. This is because, in a fire, doors can warp, move and allow smoke and fire through the opening. The seals and the gaps between the door frame and the wall are really vital too. They also stop smoke and fire spreading as quickly.

If a fire door isn’t properly installed, or you don’t use all the right seals and components like letterboxes that are fire-safe too, it can fail in less than 5 minutes.

London Fire Brigade recommends only accredited professionals install fire doors.

Tradesman working on fire door installed by Aran Fire ProtectionTradesman working on fire door installed by Aran Fire Protection

Who is responsible for fire doors?

If you are responsible for a property, you are responsible for the performance of the passive fire protection in the building to keep the people who use it safe, this includes fire doors. The types of properties this affects is almost all buildings, places and structures other than individual private homes. Property manager’s responsibilities include shared areas in houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), blocks of flats and maisonettes.