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September 24, 2020

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Fire doors in residential properties – what landlords need to know

Kevin Underwood, Technical Director, BWF

Fire doors which are fit for purpose can mean the difference between life and death in a fire, and even more so in residential properties where we sleep and spend most of our time. Kevin Underwood, Technical Director of the British Woodworking Federation (BWF) explores what landlords should look for when specifying a fire door, and how they can quickly and easily monitor its maintenance needs once installed.

The role of a fire door

As an effective passive fire product, fire doors form part of the structure that divides a building into individual fire compartments. Their role is to prevent fire and dangerous smoke from spreading into additional rooms and floors while allowing crucial time for occupants to evacuate and fire services to tackle the fire.

More than just a standard door, a fire door is a complex system of components – including the door leaf, frame, ironmongery and glazing systems – which must work and perform together to protect lives.

Selecting a fire door

The performance requirements of fire doors and their locations within a building are stated in national Building Regulations. Schedule 1 of the Building Regulations that apply to England and Wales lists the various requirements and is divided into parts, with Part B covering fire safety. Each part has an associated Approved Document that provides guidance on how to achieve the requirements. But how can you be confident that the fire door you are purchasing meets Building Regulations?

All fire doors must have the appropriate proof of performance for the ratings they carry. This proof is obtained by subjecting the door to testing to BS 476 Part 22 or to the European equivalent BS EN 1634 Part 1. The door is tested as a complete assembly, and can only be assured to replicate the performance if the tested design uses the correct compatible components, including door frames, seals and essential ironmongery.

The BWF has long championed the third-party certification of fire doors through its BWF Fire Door Alliance scheme. By selecting a fire door that has been third-party certified, landlords and residents can have confidence that the fire door will perform as designed in the event of a fire – but it’s important to be aware that correct installation and maintenance play a part too.

Third-party certification means that the fire door manufacturer or processer has been audited by an independent third party to confirm the product is tested appropriately and manufactured to a consistent standard. For example, at the BWF Fire Door Alliance this involves meeting the following specific criteria:

  1. The Fire Test: The fire resistance of a door assembly is determined by subjecting full-sized constructions to one or more tests in accordance with the appropriate fire test standard, BS 476: Part 22 or BS EN 1634-1 at a UKAS accredited test facility. The test results are used to generate the scope of certification.
  2. Auditing the Manufacturing Process: BWF Fire Door Alliance member companies are independently audited by their chosen UKAS accredited product certification body (via Warringtonfire Testing & Certification Limited trading as Warringtonfire for Certifire, or BM TRADA for Q-Mark). This ensures that appropriate management and manufacturing processes and systems are in place for manufacturing consistency.
  3. The Audit Test: The fire door is subjected to regular scrutiny on an ongoing basis, with frequent testing on sampled products to ensure that the test was not a one-off result.

To demonstrate that a fire door meets these strict criteria, each BWF Fire Door Alliance member fire door has a label with a unique number placed on the top edge of the door. The identification number allows access to important information including the fire door manufacturer and the certifications related to the door’s specification and production records.

Fire door inspection and maintenance

Specifying a fire door correctly is vitally important, but equally important is its regular inspection once installed to highlight any maintenance or replacement required. While full inspections should be carried out regularly by a qualified person, checking the condition of an installed fire door can be done by anyone – landlords and residents alike – using the Fire Door Safety Week Five Step Check. This involves:

  • Checking for certification: Is there a label or plug fitted on either the top or side of the door to show it is a certificated fire door?
  • Checking the gaps: The gaps at the top and sides of the door should be around 3 mm when closed. The gap under the door can be slightly larger – up to 8mm is not uncommon but if you can see light under the door, the gap is likely to be too big.
  • Checking the seals: Are there any intumescent seals around the door or frame, and are they intact with no sign of damage? These seals are vital to the fire door’s performance as they expand in contact with heat to ensure fire cannot move through the cracks.
  • Check the hinges: Are the hinges firmly fixed (three or more of them), with no missing or broken screws?
  • Check the door closes properly: Is the door easy to operate and does it close fully? Open the door about halfway, let go and allow it to close by itself. A fire door only works when it’s closed – it’s completely useless if it’s wedged open or can’t close fully.

If any issues are spotted, they should be reported and rectified immediately. In this circumstance, third-party certification is extremely useful as the original fire door certificate and specification allows the condition of the installed door to be compared against its original standard. The certification will also highlight the parts compatible with the original certificate and test requirements to ensure certification compliance is maintained.

Bodies with enforcement powers, whether this is for the Housing Act, the Building Regulations or the Fire Safety Order, will want to see evidence that the fire doors comply with the legislative requirements.  Compliance can be demonstrated through third-party certification that states the performance of the installed product and the specification of product conforms with the scope of the certification. This specification should be adhered to and only compatible components used, otherwise challenges can arise, and the fire doors might not provide the levels of fire resistance and smoke control that is required of them.

Fire door performance should not be left to chance and by working with a BWF Fire Door Alliance member, landlords and residents can be confident that their fire door will perform as designed to help save lives.

Find out more information from the British Woodworking Federation on fire doors.

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