Will my fire doors work? Peace of mind from third-party certification

Fire doors have the potential to save lives and protect stock and premises. However, getting the specification, installation and maintenance of this specialist equipment right is extremely difficult, requiring expert skills, knowledge and competence. When dealing with high risk, it’s important to invest in extra peace of mind, which is why third-party certification is worth it.

What are fire doors?

Fire doors allow access to enclosed spaces known as fire compartments. These areas are designed strategically to contain a fire and delay its spread long enough to allow people to escape safely. For that reason, fire doors are technically complex and highly specialised. Their manufacture, fittings, installation and management are extremely important in the overall fire safety of buildings.

Fire doors can only delay the spread of fire and smoke if they are maintained and closed correctly at the time of the fire. In response to heat, intumescent seals fitted to timber-based fire resisting doors expand to close the door edge gap and hold the door in position to prevent fire and hot gases breaching the doorset. Generally, steel doorsets do not require intumescent seals as the leaves expand when heated, to lock in the frame, which in effect provides the same function as an intumescent seal.

Fire resisting doorsets (steel and timber) that are also required to provide a smoke control function must be fitted with a seal, which is designed to limit the smoke leakage around the door leaf at ambient temperatures. The function and performance requirements of a smoke seal are different to the intumescent seal and can be fitted in combination with the intumescent or within a separate carrier in the door leaf edge.

The door leaf, frame, glazing, associated hardware, intumescent and environmental seals, and any other components that make up the design, must all be tested together as a complete doorset to the relevant bench mark performance standard. The fire resistance test standards (e.g. BS EN 1634-1) evaluate the ability of the doorset to contain the fire (integrity), as well as limit the transfer of heat (insulation), and both are measured in time to failure. The smoke test standards (e.g. BS EN 1634-3) determine the leakage of cold air/hot gases from one side of a doorset to the other, representing a measure of the control of the passage of smoke in case of fire.

The level of performance required for the doorset will depend on the situation in which it is being used and is linked to building regulation requirements. It is worth remembering that a doorset may have other performance requirements, such as security and acoustic performance, depending on its location and use within a building.

In any case, the doorset must be constructed in accordance with the supporting documentation based on the test evidence. Changing the specification of the doorset to meet specific end use requirements, such as adding incompatible security hardware, can completely undermine the fire performance of a doorset.

Legal responsibilities regarding fire doors

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRFSO) outlines duties in regards to fire door safety and maintenance, including ensuring that fire doors always remain closed to help ensure a safe means of escape in the event of an emergency. Many people may be aware of their legal duties under the RRFSO, but they may be unsure of the complexity of fire door construction and how to properly conform to all guidelines.

For example, they must know that the complete doorset has passed the appropriate tests to back up their manufacturers’ fire-resisting claims, and that the one they have been sold is supported by sufficient and relevant test evidence. They must know that it has been installed correctly, and that it has not subsequently been damaged simply through wear and tear or unwittingly compromised by unrelated building works.

To achieve the highest level of assurance, allay fears, save time, and, in the context of the RRFSO, demonstrate due diligence, it is recommended to specify third party certified doorsets installed by third-party certified installers. You can also check that fire doors remain in good working order by employing an appropriately qualified and competent site inspector, and there are also third party certified maintenance schemes, such as the one operated by BM TRADA, for ongoing fire door maintenance.

Why use third-party certification for fire doors?

Third-party certificates set out a scope of approval that the product meets specific requirements or standards, and are issued by independent, UKAS accredited certification bodies such as BM TRADA. Although not a legal requirement, there are various third-party certification schemes available in the UK that assure of quality in manufacture, installation and maintenance so you can be confident in the performance of fire doors. Long-term, this assurance is very likely to be more cost-effective than doing without.

For peace of mind, people in charge of specifying fire doors should only stipulate third-party certified doorsets and ask to see the manufacturer’s certificate. Similarly, they should ask installers to demonstrate their competence by producing a relevant certificate. In both cases they should check that the certificate covers the use they intend, is in date, and is issued by a UKAS-accredited certification body.

Third party certification of fire resisting products, as well as specialist installers, goes beyond the minimum required by regulations and offers a greater level of assurance that the fire resisting construction product will be capable of providing its performance as originally tested. Third party certification helps to demonstrate due diligence and provides confidence that in the event of a disaster, the products will perform as intended, helping safeguard the occupants of the building as well as protecting property and business.

To contact an expert to discuss the Q-Mark scheme please get in touch