Peter Johnson, Managing Director of Vicaima UK and Chairman of the BWF-CERTIFIRE SCHEME, discusses the importance of choosing the right fire door.
When things become difficult in the economy, quality and performance often take a back seat to cost savings and a ‘good enough’ mindset can start to emerge. Although this is perhaps understandable in some instances, it is inexcusable when it comes to safety. Fire doors are one example where second best can have truly damaging consequences both to property and, of course, lives.
The Building Regulations contain full details of minimum requirements of fire resistance for doors depending on their location within any building – be it 30 minutes (FD30) or 60 minutes (FD60). As is well known, smoke often kills more people than fire itself and the Building Regulations also specify where fire doors are required to restrict smoke leakage at ambient temperatures – such as on a protected stairway. Combined smoke and intumescent seals fitted to the top and sides of doors expand to 5-10 times their original size, sealing the gaps around the door and providing an effective barrier to both smoke and fire. The Building Regs also describe the situations in which fire doors need to be fitted with an automatic self-closing device.
Some may feel that Building Regulation waters have been slightly muddied by a recent official ruling* concerning fire doors in a 223-bed hotel built in the 1980s. This determined that the hotel owner was not required to upgrade three quarters of its bedroom doors which had no intumescent strips or smoke seals. The hotel successfully argued that the cost of upgrading the doors would be disproportionate to the risk, given that there were other fire prevention and protection measures in place. However, it should be made clear that this is a one-off ruling, relating to one particular set of circumstances and building owners need to guard against believing that it’s OK not to maintain or upgrade their fire doors.
This need for vigilance is reinforced by a recent survey of 17 hotels carried out by the UK’s Fire Door Inspection Scheme (FDIS). The survey identified problems at almost every location, including ill-fitting doors in frames, damaged fire doors and incorrectly fitted and damaged fire/smoke seals.
So, having studied the Building Regulations and assessed the requirements for your building where do you go to find your ideal doors? In the current economic climate this is where things can often prove difficult, with a multitude of manufacturers’ test claims and an influx of uncertified or self-certified imports flooding the UK market. Sifting through the many assertions to avoid the risk of fitting fire doors without true third party accreditation can be a daunting task.
The one thing you can trust of course is your own eyes! Simply looking at the edge of any legitimate fire door reveals all you need to know. They should all be fitted with a tamper evident and fully traceable BWF-CERTIFIRE, BM TRADA or Chiltern Q-Mark label that guarantees that the door has been third party accredited and audited. This means that these doors have been subjected to rigorous test exposure on each side of the door every five years or every 250,000 doors produced. The label clearly states the fire rating, and carries the manufacturer’s name, contact telephone number and certificate number. If the doors are glazed, they should also carry certified labels to indicate factory fitted fire glazing and tested frames where applicable, together with a TRADA plug, which verifies testing in a UK certified laboratory.
Whilst fire safety is therefore a crucial consideration in any building, gone are the days when design had to be sacrificed to performance. Now you can have the best of both worlds. Companies such as Vicaima produce fire doors, kits and sets with full third party accreditation using a range of designs, veneers and finishes that enhance the design of the spaces they occupy.