Are Your Fire Doors Up to the Mark?

Personal safety within the built environment is paramount and one of the most common dangers facing people within any building is that of fire. Public premises have long been the focus of attention for fire officers and building control inspectors, as a mass of people entering a building, whether it be an office complex, a department store, a factory or a hotel, has to be kept safe should a fire break out.

Doors used in many of these buildings have often been functional and as such the creation of fire resistant functional looking internal fire doors has long been established. However, more recently, the modern home environment has evolved and fire safety must be considered there as well. As land prices have risen, architects and developers have adapted their house designs to change the footprint of newly built houses. Three storey homes have become commonplace on new housing estates as developers have learned to use the vertical space to create living accommodation.

At the same time, apartment blocks and sheltered living complexes have led to buildings which are often multi-storey and interconnected. These multiple occupancy buildings require the highest standards of protection in respect of fire safety. When you take up residence in your new third floor apartment, you need to be able to get out of the building should your neighbour below forget to turn off the chip-pan!!

Quite rightly, building regulations are demanding that higher and higher standards are achieved to ensure that the occupants of buildings are kept safe, but at the same time, the people living in these multiple occupancy buildings desire more decorative doors within their homes rather than the more functional items that might be present in an office complex.

To the uninitiated, selecting an internal fire door and ensuring its compliance can be minefield. Just because a door feels heavy doesn't mean that it will offer protection in the case of a fire. The design and construction of a fire door is a science in itself. Often, the specification involved makes the door more expensive that might first be expected. This is particularly common when glazed fire doors are required. It is vital that appropriate fire glass is used within the aperture, but more than that there is a care of duty placed upon the developer of the building to ensure that any doors installed where fire protection is needed have been manufactured in the appropriate fashion and have been independently tested to ensure compliance.

The door itself is only part of the story as it is the whole assembly, including the door frame, which acts as a barrier to flames and more importantly smoke. The fire door is fitted with intumescent seals which expand in the presence of fire; the temperature at which the seals deploy is above the level of human survival. So, unless all of the assembly is fitted correctly the fire door will not work properly which may result in unnecessary harm to building occupants. Once the fire door assembly has been fitted it should be checked every six months to make sure the door can function correctly if required.

Fire doors should always be purchased from reputable suppliers who can demonstrate the correct certification for each door they supply and can offer advice about installation. One never knows if a fire door will work until there is a fire when it is too late to discover that it is not up to the job. Don't cut corners as someone's life may be at risk!


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