The fire service attends over 150,000 fires every year in the United Kingdom. Every property is at risk of fire, from residential apartment blocks to commercial workplaces. An effective fire safety strategy is the only way to reduce the threat to life and expensive building damage.
The importance of fire doors and fire-rated ironmongery
Fire doors are essential to a building’s fire safety strategy and can slow down and stop fire spread. Their functionality is simple and can be summarised easily: when closed, they form a barrier to prevent the spread of fire, and when open, they provide a means of escape. Slowing down a fire’s development will give building occupants time to escape while the fire brigade arrives and responds.
Ironmongery/fire door hardware is fundamental to a compliant fire safety strategy. However, not just any fire door or ironmongery will be sufficient. Reliable fire doors and ironmongery must be engineered, manufactured and rated to the correct fire standards to be certified as fit for purpose.
What are fire ratings?
When it comes to specifying and installing fire safety solutions, quality should never be compromised. Fire ratings determine how much time a passive fire protection system (a system built into the structure of a building to safeguard people, infrastructure and contents) can withstand a fire.
A fire door is a door which must have fire test evidence to prove that it is a fire door. For an ironmongery product to be used on a fire door, it should have fire test evidence that it has been tested on a similar construction of fire door. Meeting the standards of these rigorous tests and attaining fire-rated status ensures buildings stay compliant with current building regulations, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and British standards.
Fire door fire ratings
The main categories of fire doors are FD30 and FD60. These categories offer 30 and 60 minutes of fire protection, respectively. To attain an FD rating, fire doors are assessed to a rigorous test procedure specified in BS 476-22:1987 Fire Tests on Building Materials and Structures and BS EN 1634-1:2014 Fire Resistance and Smoke Control Tests for Door and Shutter Assemblies, Openable Windows and Elements of Building Hardware.
Tests can only be carried out on complete fire door sets (the fire door and door frame with all the requisite ironmongery hardware). The door will be exposed to very high levels of heat that increase over time, and professionals will observe the door’s stability and integrity throughout. British standards require all tests to be carried out with the upper part of the door under positive pressure to simulate real fire conditions.
The role of ironmongery in fire safety
Ironmongery components such as the hinges, closers, locks and latches are critical to making sure a fire door performs well in a fire. As fire doors cannot attain a fire rating without hardware, the type, construction and quality of the ironmongery is crucial to completing the full fire-safe assembly.
Hinges and latches are important in ensuring any door’s integrity. To pass fire rating tests, fire door hinges must remain adequately attached despite charring. If a hinge collapses, the seal around the fire door could be broken, and the fire will break through.
It is common to use three hinges on fire doors, and all should comply with EN 1935 to certify them suitable for fire/smoke resistance.
All dedicated fire doors (apart from those to locked cupboards and service ducts) should be fitted with a fire door closer. Door closing ironmongery fitted to a fire door should perform one of two functions, depending on whether the door has a latch.
For a fire door with a latch, the closer should shut the door in a controlled manner into a position where the latch engages. In the case of an unlatched door, the function is to close the door in a controlled manner into its frame and maintain this condition for a period during fire exposure until the heat-activated sealing system takes over.
Fire door closers should conform to BS EN 1154: 1997 Building Hardware – Controlled Door Closing Devices.
In order to provide an effective barrier to a fully developed fire, a door has to remain closed within the frame. In most cases, this requirement can be fulfilled by the door closer, followed by intumescent which can hold a door in the frame even when unlatched. Many fire doors have a latch, which will help prevent deflection. Fire doors without a closer, such as an under-stairs store cupboard, will require a lock and fire door keep locked signage. Apartment entrance fire doors have locks, often auto-throw multipoint locks. Lock and latch ironmongery on fire doors must be CE marked to BS EN 12209 and have demonstrated its suitability for the intended purpose by inclusion in satisfactory fire tests to BS EN 1634-1 or BS EN 1634-2.
In compliance with guidance from Approved Document B Vol.2 2006, any locked doors on an escape route should be openable by one hand. However, sometimes this can cause a conflict of security, and in these special cases, specialist escape devices may be required.
Only locks and latches that don’t affect the integrity and seal of a fire door should be installed.
Inexperience with a building’s layout can have severe consequences during an emergency. Exit door hardware is divided into categories depending on its intended purpose and application:
- Panic exit devices/crash bars
- Emergency exit devices (for use by trained personnel)
- Exit devices for use on fire-rated doors
- Accessories for exit devices
Any panic hardware intended for use by the general public should be CE Marked to BS EN 1125: 2008. Other emergency hardware for use by trained personnel should be CE Marked to BS EN 179: 2008.
Intumescent fire door seals should be fitted to the stiles and head of a doorset. The seal swells and seals the gaps between door and frame as the temperature rises. There are multiple types of seals, including low-pressure and high-pressure options. Fire door manufacturers or hardware experts should be consulted about seal type.
Ironmongery and fire door compliance
Before a building is handed over to the new owner/occupant, architectural ironmongers and specifiers work to ensure doors and hardware are compliant. Alongside the ratings mentioned above, the construction and installation of fire doors and ironmongery must also be compliant with the guidance in the following:
- Approved Document B – Volume 1: Dwellings & Volume 2: Buildings other than dwellings
- Approved Document 7
- Regulation 38: Building Regulations 2010
- BS 9999:2017
- BS 8214:2016
- Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs)
- Accessibility regulations — The Equality Act 2010, Relevant Approved Documents/Technical Handbooks, e.g. Approved Document M & BS 8300:1 and BS 8300:2 2018
- BS 8214:2016 Code of Practice for Fire Door Assemblies
Fire door hardware will eventually have 21 new EN Standards.
Why are fire ratings so important?
If a fire door assembly does not meet the necessary standards and ratings, it could have tragic outcomes in an emergency. By enforcing ratings and ramifications of failure to comply, contractors and property owners are more likely to follow the stringent guidelines and reduce the risk to life and infrastructure.
Choose Merlin Architectural for fire door ironmongery
Merlin Architectural provide a complete ironmongery service to complement your business without compromise. Our ranges of fire door hardware are fit for purpose and manufactured to a high specification to protect people and properties in an emergency as part of a complete fire safety assembly.