With the revelation that the fire doors at Grenfell Tower did not hold back the fire for anywhere near the legal minimum of 30 minutes, it’s important to address the use and maintenance of fire doors.
Even if a door is fully tested and correctly built and installed, there are other factors that can cause it to fail. Fire doors can easily become damaged when they are in regular use.
In a previous blog, we covered the reason we need fire doors and the differences between fire doors and other doors. To recap:
- Fire doors are specially made and are required to be fitted with self-closers which can make fire doors feel much heavier than normal internal doors making them difficult to push open
- Fire doors need a seal around the edges which swells when heated to block any gaps
- If the doors are glazed then the glass and glazing system must be fire-resistant
- All ironmongery on the doors needs to be fire-resistant
Who is responsible?
The Responsible Person in a building is in charge of ensuring that fire doors are fit for purpose. In commercial properties, the Responsible Person may be the owner, landlord or occupier. In shared premises, there is likely to be more than one Responsible Person and these people must work together to ensure they meet all relevant requirements of the Fire Safety Order.
If the Responsible Person is concerned that they don’t know enough to do the job properly, they can employ a fire safety expert to advise or carry out a fire risk assessment.
How often should we check our fire doors?
Every six months or even every three months in a busy building. If possible, employ a registered FDIS inspector to check your fire doors. These are people that have achieved a diploma in fire doors and have had their competence and knowledge independently assessed.
What needs to be checked?
It must be a certified fire door. Check there’s a label or plug on the top or side of the door. Below is an example of a certification type you can look out for.
If the fire door is fitted with a self-closing device, open the door fully, let it go and allow it to close. Does it close into the frame without sticking on the floor or the frame or jamming on the latch or seal and without slamming too hard? Now open the door about 5cm and check that it still closes into the frame.
Ensure the door leaf sits against the door stop and is free from distortion. If you have double doors, check they close in line if opened and released together.
Check your gaps
The gap between the door leaf and the door frame should be between 2mm and 4mm. You can use a pound coin to check, as this is approx 3mm in width.
From door to floor the gap should be less than 10mm when the door is closed. As a rule, if you can see light under the door the gap is probably too big.
Door frames must be firmly attached to the wall and free from damage.
Fire doors must be fitted with intumescent seals. Make sure these are in place, well attached inside the groove in the frame or door leaf, continuous around the frame and free from damage.
Each fire door needs a minimum of three hinges, firmly fixed with all screws fitted. The screws should be the correct size and the hinges free from metal fragments and oil leakage. Make sure there are no broken screws.
Make sure this is correctly attached and free from damage and that it is adjusted correctly to close the door into the frame but without slamming too hard.
Hold open devices
If keeping your fire doors closed all the time is inconvenient, you can fit them with devices to hold them open legally and safely. These must release the doors to close when the fire alarm sounds.
If your doors are fitted with hold-open devices, test them weekly to ensure they are in good working order.
Fire doors can have a bit of a hard life. They are constantly being opened and left to slam shut or pushed open with feet, trolleys, beds and other heavy items. This means they can become damaged, which could reduce their effectiveness.
Check that all parts of the fire door are free from damage. Make sure any glass in the door is not cracked.
Fire doors cannot do their job if they are wedged open. If you spot any fire doors held open in this way, remove the wedge.
If a latch is fitted, make sure that it holds the door in place without rattling and that the latch and handle operate smoothly.
Fire safety is all about common sense. If you have a fire door that looks damaged or faulty, have it checked. It is advisable to ask a competent person to check your doors every six months anyway to ensure they’re in good working order. Regular maintenance will keep everyone safe.
Fire doors explained: a beginner’s guide
This blog has been edited since publish in 2018 to align it with current standards.
Need to get your fire doors checked?
Hi, do you have a repair service for units. I have two that will not hold the door open. They make all the correct start up sequences and when you open the door you can hear the claw latch, but the door will not stay in the open position. The dip switches are set for free swing mode.
How many year’s do fire doors last, I live in a flat constructed in 1966 most of the doors date from then ?
Hi James. There isn’t an ideal age of a fire door, it’s more a question of the condition of the door and whether it is fit for purpose. To ensure that they are, fire doors should be inspected every 6 months by a competent fire door inspector.
My mother-in-law own a retirement for the over 55 year old complex.the owners of the building are always trying to get money out of the residents know they want them to replace the fire doors.the building was converted in 1987 will the fire doors still be ok.
What is the legal requirement for the frequency of fire doors to be inspected /tested
Hi Steve. We do cover this topic in the blog. BS9999 Code of Practice for Fire Safety in the Design, Management and Use of Buildings, recommends that fire doors are inspected every six months. I hope this helps!
Hi – I want some of our employees to be trained and accredited as competent to carry out inspections and write reports to inspect fire doors.
Do you know who I can contact to arrange training for our employees in the North East please ?
Hi John. This is not a service that Fireco offers. However, the best place to start is here https://fdis.co.uk/. This is the official Fire Door Inspection Scheme. I hope that helps!
How often do hold open devices fitted to fire doors have to be checked and is it a proportion of doors or all of them?