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November 28, 2023

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Bringing certainty: A closer look at third-party certification of fire doors

Helen Hewitt, CEO of the British Woodworking Federation (BWF)’s Fire Door Alliance, discusses why certified fire doors and correct installation is the most important way to track fire door performance for building safety. 

Helen Hewitt, CEO of BWF

At this moment in time, in the year after the Building Safety Act became law, overall awareness of the benefits of fire door third-party certification has increased, new BWF Fire Door Alliance research has shown us. While hugely positive, this hasn’t yet translated into higher numbers of certified fire doors in use.

Under the new legislation, those with responsibility for fire doors and other fire safety systems in a building are held to a far greater level of accountability, putting greater pressure on to prove that fire prevention and protection measures will deliver.

Third party certification is a ready-made solution –ensuring compliance with the new legislation – and is the only way to be certain over a fire door or doorset’s performance in the event of a fire.


Further reading: Fire doors explained: A beginner’s guide


Awareness of third-party certification

Recent research from the BWF Fire Door Alliance found that awareness of third-party certification among those with responsibility for fire doors has increased since 2022, when the new legislation was first introduced. The primary reason that third-party certified doors are specified is to provide robust proof of performance. This was only the third priority when we last carried out research in 2022, highlighting a wider understanding of the role third party certification can play in achieving compliance.

Despite improved understanding over third certification and its benefits, other approaches – which don’t offer the same traceability and reassurance over performance – are still being adopted. An increasing number of those with responsibility with fire doors also look to fire test certificates as proof of performance, but these are simply one-off test results.

Why choose third-party certified fire doors?

Fire door third-party certification is a robust process which involves the fire door manufacturer or processor being audited by an independent party to provide evidence that the fire door is appropriately tested and produced to a consistent standard.

For members of the BWF Fire Door Alliance, this involves meeting the strict criteria of an initial programme of fire testing, and auditing of the manufacturing process and quality management systems, which are confirmed by regular, product testing and auditing. This provides vital evidence of performance and ensures that the initial tests were not a one-off result, giving specifiers, installers and building users peace of mind that the fire door will perform as designed.

For members of the BWF Fire Door Alliance, these specific criteria include:

  1. The initial fire testing: For each fire door type, one or more full-sized fire door assemblies are subjected to tests in accordance with the appropriate fire test standard (BS 476: Part 22 or BS EN 1634-1) at a UKAS-accredited test facility to determine their fire resistance. The test results are used to produce the scope of certification.
  2. The initial manufacturing process audit: Members of the BWF Fire Door Alliance are audited by their chosen UKAS-accredited product certification body. This provides reassurance and confidence that the correct management procedures, manufacturing processes and systems are in place to ensure consistency in the manufacture of the fire door.
  3. Audit testing: The fire door is subject to regular scrutiny, with frequent testing on sampled products to ensure that the initial test cannot be attributed to a one-off result.
  4. Manufacturing process audits: The management procedures, manufacturing processes and systems of the manufacturer or processor are regularly audited.

The importance of correct installation

A third-party certified fire door can offer many benefits, however if it’s not installed correctly, it will not perform as it’s designed to in the event of a fire.

Installation of a fire door is as critical as the product specification and should only be carried out by a competent trained individual. A fire door should always be supplied with installation instructions from the manufacturer that are specific to the product. This is important as installation methods and materials can vary depending on factors such as the installation environment and product type.

For those new to fire door installation, it’s vital to seek quality assured training provision so as to be able to demonstrate competence. The British Woodworking Federation in collaboration with the NOCN Group have developed an assured Fire Door Installation Awareness Course support best practice and improve appreciation of the factors involved in the appropriate installation of timber fire doors.

In addition to this, any individual who is on a Level 3 Apprenticeship in Site Carpentry & Joinery will have to undertake the mandatory BWF/NOCN Fire Door Installation Awareness Course or the City and Guilds Level 3 Award in Fire Door Safety as part of their apprenticeship.

This means we will see individuals who are entering the industry gaining knowledge and experience in timber fire door installation through a formal OFQUAL regulated route, developing their individual competence in this area.

While uptake of third-party certification has remained steady since the introduction of new legislation, it’s clear that those who are responsible for fire safety in buildings have a growing knowledge of what it offers. We’re very encouraged by this, as awareness is the first vital step to bringing about change.

We want to see a safer environment for building users across the UK and will continue our role in explaining the benefits of third party certification to play our role in making this a reality.

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