When is an external fire door NOT an actual fire door?

For a fire door to be an actual fire door it has to be a fire rated fire door, with a proven a fire rating that is at least as high as the rest of the building’s structure. Many external fire doors are not actual fire doors, but instead fire exit doors with push bar handles.

However a fire rated fire door is required for example when the walls and stairwell of a property are designed to resist fire for 30 minutes. In such circumstances it a permitted under current Building Regulations to fit only a 30 minute fire rated door. However if the walls and stairwell are designed to resist fire for 60 minutes, the England and Wales Building Regulations Document B state that a 60 minute fire rated door must be fitted.

As both the Grenfell disaster in 2017 and subsequent building fire inspections in Camden have shown, fire rated fire doors are vital for occupants safety. Shockingly, over 1,000 internal wooden fire doors were found to have been removed from 5 blocks of flats in Camden alone during subsequent refurbishments, which for those who live in these multi-occupancy buildings was a revelation that has caused much anxiety, as frankly properly specified and installed fire rated doors (that are kept closed and not propped open) can mean the difference between life and death.

External fire rated fire doors are usually either made of timber or steel and any glazing within them needs to be made with glass that is fire rated. There are a number of specially modified toughened soda-lime glass types available for fire-resistant applications in very specific framing systems. Steel fire rated fire doors doors are highly specialist, expensive and should only be fitted by properly trained and accredited fire rated steel door installers. Likewise wooden fire doors should be fitted by accredited contractors with a proven supply chain,

A fire door to most home owners tends to be an internal wooden one whose purpose is to enable an escape route through a property in case of a fire and help to compartmentalise a fire, preventing the spread of smoke and flames.

Here in the UK a fire resisting doorset should be subjected to either a British Standard Fire Test BS 476 Part 22 1987, or a BS/EN 1634-1 2000 test. The results are recorded by an accredited test agency and provided in a report which detail such things as constructional details, distortion data and pressure readings. A fire door is not just the door leaf or sash, it is in-fact the entire door assembly comprising the door frame, any glazing, intumescent fire and smoke seals and all the door furniture, such as hinges, door closers, latches and locks. Every fire door to be legal must be third party tested and certificated with all its tested and approved components in place.

Fire exit doors on the other hand are not fire rated doors and tend to be fitted with push bars to permit rapid evacuation of a building and can be made from aluminium, composite, steel, timber and UPVC as amazingly enough do not have to be fire resistant. This is not to say fire exit doors cannot be fire rated, as they can be, it is just as things stand at the present they don’t have to be.

Fire exit doors should be well signed and illuminated, so can be easily located in a blackout situation. Fire exit doors should open out towards the best place that offers means of escape. Fire exit doors can also be opened from the outside if for example a panic bar with a keylock override is fitted. Fire exits and fire exit doors must never be obstructed.

Hazlemere Windows have been supplying and fitting bespoke fire exit doors fitted with special push bars to allow rapid escape for years in both aluminium and UPVC, both as single leaf doors and French doors. Their Commercial Division are often asked for fire rated doors as part of larger window and door projects, and Hazlemere also supply and fit timber fire rated doors as and when these are a requirement of the Building Regulations, such as when required between a new conservatory and a garage in order to comply.


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