Fire doors are an essential part of any building. They are crucial in the event of an emergency, not only to provide a clear and safe escape route, but to also reduce the spread of flames and smoke. Fire doors can save lives and minimise the lasting damage to a building, so it’s important that they comply with the stringent health and safety regulations of any building.
There are many different types of fire doors available – from different materials to varying fire ratings and protection levels. The effectiveness of a fire door and the type required depends on its location in the building, and the type of fire hazards surrounding it.
Glass fire doors
It can be hard to believe that glass is an effective material used in fire protection, but thanks to advanced fire technology, it’s just as good as any. However, we’re not just talking about standard glazing here (as this would shatter under the pressure of heat) – it’s important to realise that glass fire doors must be made from fire resistant glass. This means that the glass has passed the appropriate fire tests and has been certified fire safe.
Fire resistant glass is given an E classification, meaning that the glazing will remain transparent once exposed to fire or heat, for maximum visibility and the passing through of light. It also means that the glass will only prevent the spread of fire and smoke, but does not prevent the transmission of heat. The time frame in which fire rated glass will effectively segregate areas and prevent fire and smoke from spreading, is indicated by the number following its E classification rating.
Toughened fire glass can withstand temperatures in excess of 1600°F, compared to just 250°F of standard glazing. Glass fire screens and doors can also provide performance up to 120 minutes integrity (how long the fire, smoke and flames will be contained) and insulation (protecting people in the building from the radiating heat).
Insulation and integrity is only present in certain classifications of glass, which is summarised below…
- Class E: Integrity only performance. Does not prevent the transmission of radiant heat, but does contain the spread of flames and hot smoke.
- Class EW: Integrity performance, with a slight ability to provide some heat resistance.
- Class EI: This is the highest level of protection from fire, smoke and heat, offering both integrity and insulation.
Fire rated glass doors and screens are usually given one of the following classifications…
E30 fire doors
Glazing that is given an E30 classification means that in the event of a fire, the glass door/screen will protect against the spread of smoke and flames for 30 minutes, giving a half an hour window for anyone in the building to find a safe escape route.
E60 fire doors
E60 is a stronger rating for glass fire screens and doors, meaning that the glass can withstand the heat and smoke for 60 minutes before it loses its integrity and stability.
E120 fire doors
The highest rated fire resistant glass is given an E120 classification, meaning it can last up to 120 minutes under the pressure of fire and smoke before its effectiveness is lost.
When choosing glass fire doors, it’s important to know that they have undergone sufficient testing and have been given the most appropriate fire rating needed to suit the building.
This is no different to the requirements of timber fire doors either, as these types of doors must comply with British standards when installed in any building. These are a list of documents outlined to ensure the safety of fire doors, with a series of tests on building materials and structures.
Timber fire doors are typically given an FD rating, provided by the British Woodworking Federation to specify the level of protection. Their Certifire fire door scheme gives fire ratings to doors, which is usually the number of minutes indicating their integrity, prefixed by the letters “FD” – e.g. FD30 would be 30 minutes worth of protection against fires, and FD120 would be 120 minutes.The ratings are given after the doors have undergone specific tests, specified in BS 476-22 or BS EN 1634-1 which expose them to similar effects that they would be subject to in the event of a fire.
These tests assess the efficiency of all aspects of the door, including the door frame and all hardware, as well as the door itself. The methods used in the tests include exposing the door to similar heat conditions as those of a fire, and observing the stability and integrity of the door. It’s important that fire doors are tested from each side, to best establish the loss of integrity and stability of the whole unit during the process.
- Integrity failure happens when cracks/openings develop on the door due to the pressure of the fire, which then starts to allow hot gases and smoke to pass through
- Stability failure occurs when the door starts to collapse due to the conditions
Two of the most common FD ratings of timber fire doors are…
FD30 fire doors
This states that the stability and integrity of the door lasts for 30 minutes, before it eventually starts to fail under the pressure and may start to form cracks or openings.
FD60 fire doors
Doors rated FD60 can remain fire resistant for 60 minutes before it is deemed ineffective. Typically, doors with a higher rating than FD60 would be used in areas where it’s important to preserve any important equipment/documents in the event of a fire, as opposed to being used to segregate escape routes or provide an exit for people in the building.
Certified fire doors
All fire doors that have passed the appropriate tests by the British Woodworking Federation will be given a BWF-CERTIFICATE, stating the rating of the door and confirming that the door has been properly tested and is safe for use. To ensure that fire door assemblies and doorsets have been correctly installed, it’s important to have this carried out by an experienced professional. BWF have their own Accredited Fire Door Scheme, in which they work with FIRAS installers to ensure that the doors are fitted to their standards. Fire doors BWF certified and installed by FIRAS will be given a label similar to the one below…
How do you know if your door is a fire door?
It’s important to know if your doors are fire rated or not, particularly if you’re thinking of making any modifications. Decorating or modifying certain fire doors in any way, can seriously impact their effectiveness and ability to perform well in the event of a fire. There are a few ways you can usually check if your doors are fire rated:
- Look for any fire labels which could be on the side of the door near the hinges, top or bottom of the door or embossed somewhere in the frame. Sometimes, labels may have been painted over previously, so check carefully.
- Fire doors will always have fire door closers (automatic closing devices) fitted, and it’s possible that they might have spring-loaded self-closing hinges too.
- You can usually tell if it’s a fire door or not by its weight. Hollow doors will not typically be fire rated, and fire rated doors will be heavier than standard doors – usually needed to be fitted with three hinges. Some, however, may have been allowed to have just two.
While there’s no simple way to immediately identify a fire door, they are just a few tips that may give it away, but it’s best to try and refer back to old documentation that was supplied with the door if possible, or look for written confirmation on the door itself.
No matter what fire door is used, it’s important to keep up the appropriate maintenance in order to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the door over time. Regular checks of the seals, locks, latches, hinges etc must be carried out as these things can wear over time and reduce the effectiveness of the doors.
For more information about our range of glass fire doors and screens, click here.