A Guide On Rules & Regulations Regarding Fire Doors
On a basic level, the purpose of any fire door is to prevent the spread of fire throughout a building and to allow easy access through the building to allow occupants safe exit.
The fitting of fire doors obviously offers advantages for private properties, but for commercial and non-domestic properties, strict regulations are in place to ensure that interior doors can stand the heat.
What is a Fire Rated Door?
A fire rated door consists of several elements, known collectively as the doorset. The door itself is usually a solid timber frame, although it can be glazed with fire-resisting glass if necessary.
Surrounding the door leaf is a intumescent seal, which is designed to expand at temperatures over 200°C, sealing the gaps between the door and the frame.
Logically, given that 42% of deaths in house fires are a result of smoke inhalation, most modern fire-resistant doorsets are also fitted with cold smoke seals, usually integrated with the intumescent seal. Fire doors also include a self-closing mechanism, and should never be propped open.
At manufacture stage, fire doors are subject to testing by a fire testing centre and given official certification alongside a rating.
The testing involves exposing the face of the door to intense heat conditions to establish how long it takes for either a combustible pad on the other side to ignite, or for the structural integrity of the door to be compromised.
The most common rating system is that of the British Woodworking Federation (BWF) that states the results of these tests in minutes, prefaced by FD. A door that can withstand 20 minutes would therefore be FD20. The most commonly used fire door is the FD30.
Fire Rated Door Function
Fire doors are designed to perform two functions. They provide a defensive barrier when shut to keep compartmentalised areas protected, crucially including the planned escape route from the building.
When opened, they provide a means of escape, and as such should be kept free of obstacles to allow people to open them easily.
As well as facilitating the safe evacuation of a building, fire doors also serve to protect property and reduce fire damage. Fire doors with a rating of FD60 or over are used where the protection of property is crucial, for example in data storage areas or where the removal of items in the event of fire would prove impossible.
In 2006, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 or FSO was introduced with the aim of simplifying the regulations surrounding fire precautions.
According to the FSO, the responsibility for fire risk assessment in all non-domestic buildings, including the common parts of flats and houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) lies with the ‘responsible person’ for that building.
In this order, a “responsible person’” is defined as:
“(a) in relation to a workplace, the employer, if the workplace is to any extent under his control;
(b) in relation to any premises not falling within paragraph (a)—
(i) the person who has control of the premises (as occupier or otherwise) in connection with the carrying on by him of a trade, business or other undertaking (for profit or not); or
(ii) the owner, where the person in control of the premises does not have control in connection with the carrying on by that person of a trade, business or other undertaking.”
The new regulations also stipulate that Fire and Rescue Authorities audit business premises to ensure that all necessary measures have been undertaken to meet the requirements. They can also provide fire safety information directly to businesses to identify any risks that may exist.
Where do I Need Them?
It is recommended to install a fire rated door in areas that are most at risk of fire, usually kitchens or any room with a significant amount of electrical equipment or flammable items. Modern domestic properties are subject to building regulations, stipulating when and where FD30 fire doors must be used. Most notably, they are required in buildings with three storeys or more for every habitable room off the stairwell, in two storey houses between integral garages and the main body of the house and to all loft conversions.
For commercial properties, a thorough fire risk assessment must be carried out and steps must then be taken to minimise or eliminate identified risks. The responsible person must plan an escape route, using fire doors to create a protected route through the house and ensure that a suitable fire detection and warning system is put in place.
The RP must also provide emergency escape lighting, firefighting equipment or explanatory signs and notices where required to ensure the safety of the occupants. All modern commercial properties are fitted with fire doors as standard, that are clearly identified and labelled. Extensive building regulations relate to the use of fire doors in commercial properties and are adhered to by those involved in construction.
Houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) are most simply defined as properties inhabited by three or more tenants who are not members of the same family. Large HMOs (which are three or more storeys high and have shared amenities such as bathrooms, toilets or cooking facilities and are occupied by five or more people) need a license from the Local Council Housing department to demonstrate the that the property is properly managed and meets safety standards.
As for commercial properties, the RP must carry out a thorough risk assessment, plan a protected route of escape and ensure that a fire detection and warning system is in place.
Licensed HMOs are required to have FD30 fire doors in place for all rooms leading off the
protected route, with the exception of WCs and bathrooms. In bathrooms that feature electric heaters or gas boilers a fire door may be required. Furthermore, the walls, partitions
and ceilings may need to be upgraded in order to ensure they can prevent any fire and smoke penetration for 30 minutes.
It is important that all fire doors are regularly inspected and maintained to prevent damage and allow them to perform at the expected level if required.