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Commercial Fire Door Tips

Fire Doors in Your Commercial Building: What You Need to Know

Only in the event of an actual fire or emergency situation do most people fully appreciate fire-rated doors. Business owners, on the other hand, have a better understanding of the importance of fire doors. In the event of an actual fire, these doors can serve an important role in keeping flames and smoke from spreading to different parts of the building. They can also serve as a means of easy escape in case of an emergency.

What Is a Fire Door?

Fire-rated doors specially made to withstand the extreme heat of fires. These hollow metal doors and frames must have a closing device and latch. Fire doors should be equipped with hardware that is tested for both panic and fire conditions. Locks can be either fail-safe or fail-secure emergency exit locks.

Unless used on buildings with certain applications that allow delayed or controlled egress, they must allow free egress. Though they must meet certain safety standards, fire doors may be used for normal daily use at exterior entry points and interior locations within the building.

What Are Fire Doors Made of?

Fire door materials are carefully chosen to ensure that the doors can withstand high temperatures and flames in the event of a fire, thus helping to prevent the spread of fire and smoke. The specific materials used in fire doors can vary depending on the door’s fire rating, which determines how long it can withstand exposure to fire. Here are some of the common materials used in fire doors:

  1. Core Material: The core of a fire door is typically made from fire-resistant materials, such as mineral wool, vermiculite board, or solid timber. These materials have insulating properties and can withstand high temperatures, preventing the fire from spreading through the door.
  2. Door Facings: The outer surfaces of fire doors are typically made from materials like plywood, MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard), or metal. These materials help protect the core and provide structural integrity.
  3. Intumescent Strips: These are often applied around the edges of the door and in the door frame. Intumescent strips expand when exposed to heat, effectively sealing the gaps between the door and the frame, which helps prevent the passage of smoke and fire.
  4. Glass: Fire doors may have fire-rated glass windows to allow visibility. Fire-rated glass is specially designed to resist high temperatures and prevent the passage of flames and smoke.
  5. Hardware: The hardware components of fire doors, such as hinges, handles, and locks, are also designed to be fire-resistant. They are typically made from materials like stainless steel or other fire-rated materials.
  6. Seals and Gaskets: Fire doors have seals and gaskets made of materials that can expand when exposed to heat, providing additional protection against smoke and fire.


What Is a Fire-Rated Door Frame?

A fire-rated door frame plays a critical role in maintaining the integrity of a fire barrier or compartment during a fire. Here are the key functions of a fire-rated door frame:

  1. Fire Containment: Fire-rated door frames serve to contain a fire within a designated area.
  2. Structural Integrity: These frames are designed to maintain structural integrity during a fire, preventing the collapse of the door or surrounding structure.
  3. Smoke and Fire Seal: They feature intumescent seals that expand when exposed to heat, effectively sealing the gap between the door frame and the wall. This helps restrict the movement of smoke and fire.

What Is the Purpose of a Fire Door? How Does It Work?

Fire doors are required on many commercial buildings in order to protect occupants, block the spread of flames and smoke, and minimize the overall property damage. Because they close automatically when a fire is detected in the building, these doors are a key component of a building’s passive fire protection system.

Interior fire doors help block or delay the spread of heat, smoke and flames through hallways, stairwells and between sections of the building. They are also installed in corridors passing through fire barrier walls. Exterior fire protection doors are heat resistant and allow quick egress from the building in case of an emergency.

Lori Greene from iDigHardware recently recounted her daughter’s experienced when her university dorm was evacuated because of a small laundry room fire. In this example, the fire doors did their job to prevent the spread of smoke and flames:

“The fire was not serious – just a smoking dryer, but the laundry room doors were automatically released from their magnetic holders when the fire alarm was activated, and closed and latched properly. Because the fire door assembly functioned as designed and tested, the smoke did not spread.”

“Fire door assemblies play an important role in a building’s passive fire protection. Without these opening protectives, the walls compartmentalizing the building and surrounding critical parts of emergency cannot do their job,” Greene explains.

Where Are Fire Doors Required in Commercial Buildings?

The specific requirements for fire doors in commercial buildings can vary depending on local building codes, occupancy types, and building use. In commercial buildings, fire doors are typically required in various locations to ensure fire safety and compliance with building codes and regulations. These locations include:

  1. Stairwells: Stairwell doors are crucial for fire safety as they prevent the vertical spread of fire and smoke, allowing people to exit the building safely via staircases.
  2. Fire Barriers: Fire-rated doors are used to seal penetrations in fire-rated walls and barriers, maintaining the integrity of these barriers and preventing the spread of fire.
  3. Fire Separation: In buildings with multiple occupancies or uses, fire doors may be required to separate different sections to prevent fire and smoke from spreading between areas.
  4. Fire Hazards: Fire doors are installed in areas with higher fire risk, such as storage rooms, mechanical rooms, and utility enclosures, to contain potential fires.
  5. Atriums: Large atrium spaces are often required to have fire doors that close automatically during a fire event to limit the spread of smoke and flames.
  6. Garages: Fire-rated doors are essential in parking garages to restrict fire and exhaust fumes from moving between levels.
  7. Hazardous Areas: In buildings with hazardous materials, fire doors can contain spills and fires within a designated area.
  8. Exit Passageways: Fire doors may be used in exit passageways to protect the exit routes from the effects of a fire.
  9. Critical Infrastructure: In facilities with critical infrastructure or sensitive equipment, fire doors help protect these assets from fire damage.
  10. Building Entrances: In some cases, building entrances and lobbies may have fire-rated doors to prevent the spread of fire from the exterior to the interior of the building.

How Long Does a Fire Door Protect You?

Fire ratings are specified in terms of minutes or hours, and they indicate the door’s ability to withstand exposure to fire and prevent its spread from one area to another. Common fire ratings for fire doors include:

  1. 20-Minute Fire Door: It can help slow the spread of fire and smoke, allowing people to evacuate a building safely. These doors are often used in residential settings or small commercial buildings.
  2. 45-Minute Fire Door: It provides additional protection compared to a 20-minute door and is suitable for various commercial and residential applications.
  3. 60-Minute Fire Door (1-Hour Door): It offers more significant protection and is commonly used in commercial and industrial settings, as well as in larger residential buildings.
  4. 90-Minute Fire Door (1.5-Hour Door): These doors are typically used in buildings with specific fire safety requirements, such as schools, hospitals, and large commercial structures.

Do Exterior Doors Need to be Fire-Rated?

Exterior doors typically don’t need to be fire-rated unless local building codes or specific circumstances require them to be. Fire-rated doors are more commonly used for interior locations where the goal is to compartmentalize fires within the building. However, in some cases, exterior doors, like those leading to stairwells or other fire escape routes, may need to be fire-rated to ensure safe egress during a fire. The specific requirements for exterior doors will depend on local building codes and the building’s use and occupancy. Always consult with local authorities or a building code expert to determine fire-rated door specifications for your particular situation.

Commercial Fire Door Requirements

Fire-rated doors are considered an important part of a passive fire protection system, and along with being a smart safety feature, they are also required by local, state, national and international building codes. The building codes enforced in your area mandate the fire resistance rating of the fire door assembly. Guidelines are based on the application of the commercial space and the maximum number of occupants within the building.

Handicap Accessibility

For accessibility requirements, the model codes reference ICC A117.1 – Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities; the ADA Standards for Accessible Design also apply to most projects nationwide. There may be additional state or local code modifications that apply to a particular location.

Review the related fire door assembly requirements in Pennsylvania.

Fire-Resistance Requirements

Unlike regular commercial doors, these must pass a series of fire-resistance tests carried out by specialized testing agencies. Doors that pass evaluation are classified according to their fire protection rating. This rating is measured in hours; .5, .75, 1, 1.5 and 3 hours are common classifications. The measurement represents the amount of time the barrier can stand up to exposure from heat and flames.

The amount of time that a door must withstand fire can vary depending on local building codes and location within the building, such as vicinity to an exit or the fire rating of nearby walls.

Fire Door Certification

Each fire-rated door sold on the market must include a permanent label showing the following information:

  • The door manufacturer,
  • Whether the opening is equipped with fire exit hardware,
  • Any temperature rise rating,
  • If it is a smoke door assembly, and
  • The length of time that the door is intended to resist fire.
  • The related hardware and frame must have similar labeling specifically stating the duration.

Read more about the fire door inspection certification here.

Fire Door Inspection

These protective doors need to be inspected at least once a year by a representative from the local fire department.

The 2012 edition of NFPA 101 requires fire doors to be inspected annually, and references the 2010 edition of NFPA 80 – Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives, which lists 11 inspection criteria for fire door assemblies…In particular, facilities that receive funding from Medicare and/or Medicaid must have fire door assembly inspections conducted annually and documented, with any deficiencies repaired ‘without delay,'” explains Allegion.

Read more about fire door inspection here.

What Is the Average Cost of a Fire Door?

The average cost of a fire door can vary widely based on several factors, including the door’s size, fire rating, materials, and any additional features. Here are some approximate price ranges:

  1. Hollow Metal Fire Doors: The most common fire doors. On average, they can cost between $100 to $500 or more, depending on the size, fire rating, and other features.
  2. Wooden Fire Doors: Wooden fire doors can range from $200 to $1,000 or more. The type of wood and its finish can significantly affect the cost.
  3. Glass Fire Doors: Fire-rated glass doors, used for visibility and aesthetics in commercial buildings, can range from $1,000 to $3,000 or more.
  4. Specialty Fire Doors: Some specialty fire doors with unique features or designs can cost over $3,000.

Types of Fire Doors

There are a variety of types of doors available, with different fire ratings and made from different materials. The door assembly may also include fire-resistant doorframes, hinges, smoke or gas seals, hardware and glazing. Different styles of doors are available, which can either match the interior decor or stand out so they’re easy to notice in an emergency.

Fire Door Components

Fire doors are composed of several essential components that work together to ensure their effectiveness in preventing the spread of fire and smoke. Here are the critical components of a typical fire door:

  1. Door Leaf: The main visible part of the fire door that swings or slides open and closed. The door leaf is specifically designed and constructed to resist fire and smoke.
  2. Door Frame: The door frame is the structural component that surrounds and supports the door leaf. It is usually made of metal (e.g., steel) and is designed to withstand the intense heat of a fire.
  3. Intumescent Seals: These are heat-sensitive seals that expand when exposed to high temperatures, effectively sealing the gaps around the door to prevent the passage of smoke and flames.
  4. Fire Door Hardware: Fire doors are equipped with special hardware designed for fire safety. This hardware includes fire-rated hinges, locks, handles, and closer mechanisms. The closer ensures that the door returns to a closed position automatically after use.
  5. Fire-Rated Glass: In some fire doors, especially those used in commercial buildings where visibility is essential, fire-rated glass may be incorporated. This glass is specially designed to withstand high temperatures.
  6. Fire Door Labels and Certification: Fire doors are marked with labels or tags that indicate their fire rating and other relevant information. These labels are crucial for compliance and safety verification.
  7. Latching and Locking Mechanisms: Fire doors are equipped with latches and locks to keep them securely closed during normal use and provide a tight seal during a fire. These components are designed to release easily during a fire emergency, allowing occupants to exit.
  8. Smoke Seals: In addition to intumescent seals, some fire doors have smoke seals to prevent the passage of smoke from one side to another. These seals are crucial for maintaining visibility and protecting occupants from smoke inhalation.
  9. Thresholds: Fire-rated thresholds may be used to seal the gap between the bottom of the door and the floor, ensuring that smoke and fire cannot pass through this gap.

What Information Is on the Fire-Rated Door Label?

A fire-rated door label typically contains important information about the door’s fire resistance and compliance with safety standards. The specific details may vary, but a typical fire-rated door label includes:

  1. Fire Rating: The label indicates the door’s fire resistance rating, which is often denoted in terms of time (e.g., 20 minutes, 1 hour, 1.5 hours, 3 hours). This rating specifies the duration the door can withstand exposure to fire and still maintain its integrity.
  2. Manufacturer Information: The label includes the manufacturer’s name or logo, allowing for easy identification of the door’s source.
  3. Listing Laboratory: It specifies the name of the independent testing laboratory that evaluated and certified the door’s fire resistance. Common laboratories include UL (Underwriters Laboratories), Intertek, and FM Global.
  4. Certification Information: The label may provide a unique certification number or identifier to confirm that the door complies with the relevant standards.
  5. Installation Instructions: Some labels include instructions or guidelines for the proper installation of the door to maintain its fire rating.
  6. Date of Manufacture: The date of manufacture helps determine the door’s age and whether it’s still within its intended service life.

How to Install a Fire Door?

Installing a fire door should be carried out by professionals who have experience and knowledge of fire door installation. It’s crucial to ensure the installation is done correctly to maintain the door’s fire resistance and safety. However, here is a general overview of the steps involved in installing a fire door:

  1. Assess the Location: Identify where the fire door needs to be installed. It should be placed at strategic points along an escape route or where fire compartmentalization is necessary.
  2. Choose the Right Door: Select a fire-rated door that meets the specific requirements for your building, considering factors such as fire rating, size, and style.
  3. Check Regulations: Familiarize yourself with local building codes and regulations related to fire door installation. Ensure that the door, frame, and associated hardware meet these requirements.
  4. Prepare the Frame: The door frame should be square, level, and plumb. Any voids or gaps should be sealed with fire-rated materials.
  5. Install the Frame: Secure the door frame in the opening, ensuring it’s properly aligned and securely anchored to the surrounding structure.
  6. Attach the Door Leaf: Hang the fire door on the hinges or install it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Be sure to maintain the clearances specified by the manufacturer to ensure the door functions correctly.
  7. Install Hardware: Attach fire-rated hardware, including a closer mechanism, latching and locking devices, handles, and intumescent seals. These components must also meet fire door specifications.
  8. Seal Gaps: Install intumescent seals and other fire-rated sealants to fill any gaps between the door frame and wall, ensuring a tight seal to prevent the passage of smoke and flames.
  9. Fire-Rated Glass (if applicable): If your fire door includes glass panels, ensure that the fire-rated glass is installed correctly, maintaining the door’s fire resistance.
  10. Test and Inspect: Once the door is installed, it should be inspected to ensure it functions correctly and meets safety standards. This may include checking that the door closes automatically and latches properly.
  11. Label and Certify: Attach the appropriate fire door label or certification tag, which provides information about the door’s fire rating and compliance.
  12. Maintain Records: Keep records of the installation process and any inspections, including documentation related to the door’s fire rating and compliance.
  13. Regular Maintenance: Fire doors should be regularly inspected and maintained to ensure they continue to function correctly and provide fire protection.

Remember, this is a general overview, and the specific steps and requirements for fire door installation may vary based on local building codes and the manufacturer’s recommendations.

What to Know Before Installing a Fire Door?

Before installing a fire door, research local building codes, understand the required fire-resistance rating, and ensure the door is certified and labeled appropriately.

Fire Door Checklist

Regular inspection and maintenance are essential to meet safety standards and keep your fire door in optimal condition. Here’s a concise checklist for what to check on your fire door:

  1. Visual Inspection: Regularly examine the door for visible damage or issues.
  2. Clearance Gaps: Ensure the gaps around the door meet safety standards.
  3. Door Frame: Check for holes or damage in the door frame.
  4. Hardware Operation: Test handles, locks, and hinges to confirm they work properly.
  5. Seals and Gaskets: Verify seals are intact to maintain fire resistance.
  6. Self-Closing Mechanism: Ensure the door closes automatically and latches.
  7. Hold-Open Devices: If used, check that they release in case of fire.
  8. No Unauthorized Hardware: Remove any additional, unauthorized hardware.
  9. No Unapproved Modifications: Confirm there are no unapproved changes to the door.
  10. Signage: Ensure proper signage is correctly attached.

How to Test If a Glazed Door Is Fire-Rated?

  1. Check for Labels: Look for a label on the door or frame indicating its fire rating.
  2. Contact the Manufacturer: If there’s no label, contact the manufacturer or installer for the door’s fire rating.
  3. Review Building Plans: Check building plans or documentation for fire rating information.
  4. Consider a Professional: When in doubt, consult a fire door inspector for an accurate assessment.
  5. Identify Unique Features: Fire-rated glazed doors may have features like wired glass or special framing.

Who Is Responsible for Fire Door Maintenance?

The responsibility for fire door maintenance typically falls on the building owner or manager. They should schedule routine inspections, address identified repairs, maintain inspection records, and conduct regular testing.

Implementing Fire Door Safety

Many business owners and property managers have questions about how fire doors should be used day to day. Here are clear answers to some common concerns.

Do fire doors need to be closed at all times?

Some companies have interior fire doors that typically remain open between departments during the normal business hours, but they will automatically close in the event of an emergency. If the door is not equipped with an automatic closing device, do not prop it open. While it can be convenient to put a wedge in to keep a fire door open creating an easy exit or to let in a breeze, an open door can defeat its fire-protection capabilities.

Should fire doors be locked?

Don’t block it or lock it. Chaining the doors shut or blocking them in any way is dangerous and may be a violation of fire safety codes. Using anything other than fire-rated, fail-safe or fail-secure hardware can lead to injury or even loss of life in an emergency requiring quick evacuation. Finding the doors blocked can be a significant safety hazard and cause further panic for an already scared crowd.

Can we make changes to the door frame or hardware?

Because fire-resistant they are tested as complete door assemblies, permitted onsite modifications are limited.

When do fire doors need to be replaced?

The overall fire resistance and rating of a fire door may deteriorate over time. To ensure that the door is well maintained and still ensures adequate protection, these doors must be inspected yearly. Follow the recommended maintenance and repair schedule. The need for replacement will depend on the wear and tear that it experiences.

Do fire doors need to open outwards?

Fire doors don’t necessarily need to open outwards. The direction in which a fire door opens, either inwards or outwards, depends on various factors, including building codes and the door’s location and purpose. While some fire doors open outwards to facilitate quicker evacuation during emergencies, others may open inwards to comply with specific regulations or design considerations.

Commercial Doors & Hardware

Great Valley Lockshop can help your company find the fire doors that are right for your building and budget. Since 1973, we have had a strong commitment to residential and commercial service. Call our store at 610-644-5334 or get a free estimate online.

FAQs About Fire-Rated Doors

Are fire doors required?

Yes, fire doors are required in many commercial and public buildings to enhance fire safety and protect occupants in the event of a fire. Building codes and regulations, including those established by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and other relevant authorities, specify when and where fire doors are necessary.

What is the fire code for doors?

A widely recognized standard for fire doors is the NFPA 80 – Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives, developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). This standard provides comprehensive guidelines for the installation, inspection, testing, and maintenance of fire doors, including their frames and hardware, to ensure their proper function in the event of a fire. 

Can glass doors be fire-rated?

Yes, glass doors can be fire-rated. Fire-rated glass doors are specifically designed and tested to withstand the spread of fire and smoke for a specified duration, typically ranging from 20 minutes to 3 hours. These doors are equipped with fire-rated glass and framing systems to maintain the integrity of the opening during a fire, allowing occupants to exit safely and aiding in firefighting efforts.

Do fire-rated glass and frames have the same fire-rating classification?

Fire-rated glass and frames may have different fire-rating classifications, and it’s important to consider both components when evaluating the fire resistance of an assembly.

Fire-rated glass is tested as a standalone component and is assigned a fire rating based on its ability to resist fire and smoke spread for a specified period, such as 20 minutes, 45 minutes, 60 minutes, or more.

Fire-rated frames, on the other hand, are tested separately and are rated based on their ability to maintain the structural integrity of the frame during a fire.

What is the difference between fire-protective doors and fire-resistive door assemblies?

Fire-protective doors are designed to prevent the spread of fire and smoke for a specified, often shorter duration, typically up to 90 minutes, offering basic fire containment. In contrast, fire-resistive door assemblies provide a higher level of fire resistance, enduring fire exposure for more extended periods, often up to 3 hours, and are used in critical fire containment areas. The choice depends on a building’s specific fire safety needs and design.

Can you turn a normal door into a fire door?

Fire-rated doors are engineered and tested to specific standards to ensure their fire-resistant properties. Converting a non-fire-rated door to meet these standards would typically involve substantial modifications and require expertise to ensure the door can effectively resist fire and smoke.

If you need a fire-rated door, it’s recommended to purchase one that is already certified and designed for fire protection.

To find the fire doors that are right for your building and budget, contact Great Valley Lockshop today.

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