Modern homes boast safety features that were non-existent just a few decades ago, while new techniques and advances in home building have made construction more efficient, and have produced improvements in energy efficiency too. It’s our responsibility as homeowners to ensure that any changes we make to our properties are in keeping with modern safety and energy efficiency standards and that if we’re renovating an older property we do everything that we can to make that property compliant with current regulations.
One area that has attracted a lot of attention over the years is fire doors. These doors are easy to install, and while there is no rule that says that every door in a residential property should be a fire door, using them in certain areas of your home could well save lives.
What are fire doors?
Fire doors offer a form of passive fire protection that will reduce the spread of fire between rooms. In Europe, fire doors are made to comply with a new standard called EN 16034, which means they have a specific fire resistance rating and will withstand fire for a set period of time.
In the UK, Part B of the Building Regulations covers fire protection and the correct use and installation of fire doors in residential properties. These rules require that fire doors, rated FD30 or FD60 depending on the circumstances, are fitted into fire-resistant frames, with seals around the door to stop the spread of smoke.
Most fire doors are made from solid wood, and are indistinguishable from a standard door. Where they do have windows, the windows are fire-resistive, and are designed to cope not just with the heat of the fire, but also the impact of water from a fire hose. In some cases, the fire resistance is achieved using double glazing with liquid sodium silicate as a heat transfer mechanism.
How are fire doors rated?
Most fire doors (and all domestic fire doors) are rated FD30 or FD60. The number correlates with how long they will prevent a fire from spreading.
Doors that offer fire protection for longer – fire door ratings FD90, FD120 and FD240 – are generally only found in locations where the preservation of property is paramount – for example, where important documents are stored. Fire doors with such high ratings will generally be made of steel.
What are fire doors designed to do?
The fire doors themselves act as a barrier to stop a fire from spreading from one room to another. The doors themselves do not catch fire easily, nor do the frames that they are installed into. They should offer a minimum of 30 to 60 minutes of protection from the flames, although many fire doors are capable of withstanding flames and extreme temperatures for far longer than that. To ensure they’re still effective, the performance of fire doors should be checked every 6 months or so.
Smoke inhalation is a serious concern for people who are trapped in a burning building, and fire doors are designed to protect against this as well. The edges of the door usually have seals that are themselves fire resistant. The seals may be in the form of neoprene weatherstripping, gaskets that prevent smoke from spreading, or an intumescent strip which will expand to fill the gap around the door when it’s exposed to high temperatures.
When are fire doors required?
Fire doors are usually used to protect areas of a property where there is only one exit. For example, in a house with a single stairwell and multiple floors, people on the upper floors may have only one way out of the building – down that single stairwell. A fire that spreads to that stairwell could lead to catastrophic loss of life. Using a fire door to prevent any potential fire from spreading is a simple way of keeping people safe.
Building regulations are complex, and cover a number of different scenarios, including dwellings with multiple floors, commercial properties that adjoin onto dwellings, and garages with a door that leads directly to a living space. When choosing internal doors, if you’re unsure whether fire doors are required in your home, it’s a good idea to contact your local authority for expert advice from someone who is well versed in the latest legislation.
Why should fire doors be kept closed?
It’s important that fire doors are kept closed, because when open they offer zero protection against flames and smoke. Thankfully fire doors are usually designed to swing shut automatically, using door closers, so people don’t need to remember to close them. Do not get into the habit of wedging fire doors open with a door stop. Even a small gap will nullify the protection, and potentially allow smoke into the room.
In more advanced (typically commercial) installations, fire doors may be held open by an electromagnet, and if the power fails or the fire alarm is tripped, then the fire door will automatically close. This kind of set up is a safe and legally acceptable way of holding fire doors open, since it ensures the fire door can still do its job in an emergency.
It is vital that fire doors are regularly inspected, to ensure the door itself works properly and the whole door and mechanism is intact. If any part of the door, frame, hardware, hinges or windows are damaged, then the door is unsafe.
How much do fire doors cost?
Fire doors start from around £100, and go up from there. Some fire doors have tough safety glass in them, which tends to increase the price. These doors are still fully compliant with building regulations, and the glass is designed to withstand intense heat and fire for prolonged periods.
Fire doors are not mandatory in every part of a home, but they do have an important role to play in improving the safety of both domestic and commercial properties. If you’re planning a renovation that includes a loft conversion or something similar, then you should look at getting fire doors for your living areas. It would well be a decision that saves your life or the life of one of your loved ones.
View our range of internal fire doors here.