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Understanding Fire Doors: What You Need to Know

March 20, 2024

Fire doors play an indispensable role in protecting lives and assets by confining the escalation of fire within a structure. For those new to the intricacies of fire safety, this introductory guide aims to provide a foundational understanding of fire doors, emphasizing their significance and the key attributes that render them an essential element of any secure and compliant building structure.

What is a Fire Rated door?

A fire door is considered “fire-rated” when it is part of a tested and certified fire door set. This designation emphasizes the importance of the complete assembly in providing the intended level of fire resistance and safety in a building. A fire door set is a comprehensive system that includes not only the fire door itself but also its associated components and hardware.

Here are a few reasons why a fire door is not considered fire-rated unless it is part of a fire door set:

Design: Fire doors are designed to work as part of a system that includes a specific frame, hardware, and other components. The design and construction of the entire assembly, known as the fire door set, are tested together to ensure they meet specific fire resistance standards.

Testing: Fire doors and their components undergo rigorous testing to assess their ability to withstand fire and smoke. These tests evaluate the entire assembly’s performance, including the door, frame, seals, and hardware. The fire rating is assigned based on the collective performance of the complete fire door set.

Performance Assurance: The fire rating assigned to a fire door is a measure of its ability to maintain specific performance criteria (integrity, stability, insulation) during a fire. This assurance is valid only when the door is installed and maintained as part of the tested and certified fire door set.

Code Compliance: Building codes and regulations often require the use of tested and certified fire door sets to ensure a consistent and reliable level of fire protection within a structure. Using individual components that are not part of a tested assembly may not meet regulatory requirements.

What makes up Fire Doors?

Fire-Resistant Materials: Fire doors are meticulously crafted using materials subjected to rigorous testing for their capacity to withstand fire for specified durations. Commonly employed materials such vermiculite monolithic refractory core and metal reinforcements furnish the necessary strength and insulation to resist the detrimental effects of fire.

Door Frames: Fire-rated door frames are designed to complement the fire-resistant properties of the doors. They help maintain the structural integrity of the door system during a fire

Intumescent Seals: A distinguishing feature of fire doors lies in the presence of intumescent seals encompassing the edges. These seals expand when exposed to heat, establishing a secure seal between the door and the frame. This crucial feature prevents the passage of smoke and flames, enhancing the overall efficacy of the door.

Automatic Closure Mechanism: Equipped with a self-closing mechanism, typically in the form of a door closer, fire doors ensure that they remain closed under standard circumstances while permitting easy opening when necessary. The self-closing attribute is paramount in preserving the door’s fire-resistant properties.

Fire-Resistant Glass: In certain instances, fire doors may incorporate fire-resistant glass panels. Engineered to endure high temperatures, these glass inserts allow occupants to observe the surroundings and facilitate wayfinding during an emergency.

Strategic Installations of Fire Doors:

Fire doors find strategic placements within buildings to establish fire compartments, reducing the spread of fire and smoke. Common locations include:

• Corridors and hallways: Preventing fire spread between different sections of a building.

• Stairwells: Ensuring a secure evacuation route during fire emergencies.

• Fire-rated partitions: Dividing distinct areas to contain potential fire hazards.

• Service ducts and risers: Constricting fire from traversing through building utilities.

Compliance and Installation Standards:

Adherence to Australian Standards is imperative for the installation of all fire doors. Australian Architectural Fire Doors, a licensed and trained entity, offers expertise in Fire Door installation, ensuring full compliance with regulations and requirements.

Deciphering Fire Door Ratings:

Fire doors are assigned specific fire resistance ratings, typically denoted in minutes (e.g., 30mins, 60mins, 90mins). This rating signifies the duration the door can withstand exposure to fire while maintaining its structural integrity and ability to stop the passage of smoke and flames. The general FRL of a fire door is expressed as –/60/30: SA/INT/INS or Structural adequacy/integrity/insulation. As per AS1530.4 part 4 the expressed value is determined by the number of minutes in which there is no failure when tested, i.e.. each element for a fire door must passed the integrity criteria for at least 60 minute and pass the insulation criteria for a minimum of 30 minutes.

SA/INT/INS:

  • Integrity assesses an assembly’s capability to prevent the passage of flame and hot gases but does not consider smoke leakage.
  • Insulation focuses on a fire-resistant product’s ability to maintain a specific temperature on the non-exposed side, measuring the rise in temperature during a fire
  • *Structural adequacy refers to how well a tested assembly can bear a load or carry a specified load during fire conditions. This concept applies to wall systems, not door and frame systems, as the latter lack inherent load-bearing capabilities.

How to Determine if a Door is Fire Rated?

Tags, closers, hardware and signage:

There are various methods to identify a fire door, with the primary and most noticeable approach being to inspect the edge of the door on the hinge side. Every fire door is equipped with a metal identification tag, and while this tag might occasionally be painted over, its distinctive characteristics as an identification tag will remain discernible.

Additional signs to look for include the existence of door closers and panic hardware installed on the door. Certain fire doors may feature signage explicitly indicating that the door must be kept closed.

Gaps:

The space between a fire door and its door frame must be within the range of 2mm to 4mm. Typically, a 3mm gap is recommended for fire doors. You can assess this gap by using a $1 coin, which is approximately 3mm thick.

Additionally, ensure that the door frames are securely affixed to the wall and devoid of any damage. Ideally, no light should be visible from beneath the door.

Intumescent seals:

A fire door is equipped with an authorized intumescent strip seal that expands when exposed to heat, effectively sealing the spaces between the fire door and its door frame. These seals play a crucial role in preventing the dissemination of smoke and fire.

These intumescent seals can be installed either within the door frame or grooved into the door’s edge. To inspect, simply open the door and look for a slender strip on either the door or the door frame.

Hinges:

A fire door must have a minimum of three hinges, and any door with fewer than three hinges is not considered an efficient fire door according to fire regulations. The specified requirement is for fire doors to be equipped with three hinges, specifically 4-inch certified hinges.

In the case of fire doors exceeding 2200mm in height, four hinges are employed to counteract warping. Improperly fitted hinges or inadequate maintenance of the fire door increases the risk of it collapsing during a fire incident.

Overview

Beginning your exploration into fire safety involves recognizing the crucial role played by fire doors. These doors act as silent protectors, creating essential barriers against the destructive power of fire. Understanding the basics of fire doors empowers you to enhance safety in your living or working spaces. Make sure to consult with AAFDs fire safety experts for proper installation, maintenance, and compliance with local building regulations.

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