Are your fire doors doing their job?

  • Fire doors are a vital security feature of all properties
  • However, fires resulting from fire door failures are surprisingly common
  • We explain what you should do to ensure your fire doors are working as they should

Fires represent one of the greatest threats to your tenants and properties.

There are an average 162 building fires in the UK every day, with 80% occurring in homes.

Evidence suggests fire risk in social housing is greater than in private rented properties. Government figures show 25% of all fires in England are experienced by social renters, even though this group makes up just 17% of all households.

Fire doors, if fitted correctly, are a vital safety feature in social housing. However, they are not always used to best effect.

Here we look at some common challenges and explain what you can do to improve your fire safety.

Fire door failures are surprisingly common

Figures from the London Fire and Rescue Service suggest around a dozen fires each year in the capital are due to fire doors having been replaced, left open or fitted incorrectly.

Make sure you have a rigorous inspection regime for the fire doors within your properties. Inspection for faults and hazards should be carried out regularly.

Common fire door faults can include:

  • Wedging open of self-closing doors by tenants
  • Damage to, or removal of, self-closing devices (typically over-head closers)
  • Damage to the integrity of the door leaf – typically mechanical or malicious damage
  • Removal of fire-resistant glazing
  • Straining of hinges, preventing closure of the door
  • Movement/misalignment of the doorframe, preventing door closure
  • Removal/damage to intumescent strips and smoke seals

Other potential hazards can include – incorrect signage, unsuitable hinges, damage to the floor and a gap of more than 3mm between the door and its frame.

Our Fire Safety Management Guide has more details on some of the most common fire safety challenges.

Selecting the right fire door

Fire doors are given a rating based on the amount of time it takes for the door to perish in a fire. The most common ratings, as referenced in UK Building Regulations, are FD30 and FD60, although higher-rated doors such as FD90 and FD120 are available and offer additional protection.

Fire doors are also tested for limited smoke passage and a fire door with smoke protection requirements will be described with the suffix ‘s’, e.g. FD30s.

Find out more about how to choose the right fire door.

Challenges when refurbishing social housing

If you are refurbishing your properties, it is important you and your contractors understand how specifications, installation and alterations, such as glazing, could impact on fire door performance.

Manufacturers test their fire doors in laboratory conditions with suitable door hardware (such as locks, latches, hinges and door closers), which helps them understand the type of configuration in which the door may be used and the type of door hardware that may be fitted with it.

However, not all fire doors can be used in a double door configuration, or installed as double swing action doors. Additionally not all types and sizes of seals and hardware are suitable.

Make sure you check the door manufacturer’s installation instructions and data sheets to ensure you install the doors that will work best for individual locations.

Helping prevent major loss from fires

Fire doors are designed to prevent fires spreading and causing major loss. They can make a real difference to the impact of a fire, and tragedies have occurred as a result of a failure to ensure they have been installed and are being used correctly.

Door repair, maintenance and replacement should be carried out by a knowledgeable specialist who has the necessary expertise.

ASDMA has produced a Best Practice Guide to Timber Fire Doors for anyone involved in the specification, procurement, installation, use and maintenance of timber fire doors.