Fire-rated doors, also known as fire-resistant doors or simply fire doors, can help contribute to your safety and peace of mind, and in some commercial settings are mandated by building codes. If you’re considering installing them at your business, here’s some information you should know.

When we say that a door is fire-rated, this means that it’s made so that when it’s installed correctly, it should resist catching on fire for a certain amount of time when it’s exposed to flames. So a particular door might be rated for 20 minutes, say, or 90 minutes. Such a rating is based on controlled testing in a lab, however, and is not a guarantee that the door in question will resist combusting for the full amount of time for which it’s rated; it may hold out a shorter time depending on the intensity of the fire. A fire door is not necessarily completely fireproof – even a steel door will melt if a fire gets hot enough – but it will slow down the spread of fire and smoke, protecting property while the fire is extinguished and giving people in a building more time to escape.

Where there’s fire…

That “and smoke” part is important, since smoke inhalation kills more people in fires than the actual fire does. This means that while proper installation is important with any commercial door, it’s especially so with a fire door. If careless installation leaves gaps between the door and frame, for instance, this will compromise the door’s effectiveness in blocking the spread of smoke.

A certified fire-rated door or frame comes with a permanent label containing information about the product, including the manufacturer and how long it is rated to resist catching on fire.

Fires doors need to have a closing device and latch, and some are equipped with panic hardware (an emergency exit device such as a push bar to allow fast and easy exit without needing to turn a turn a key or push a lever), or emergency exit locks.

A fire door should never be blocked, locked or propped open. Doing any of these can be dangerous, and may violate fire safety codes. And because fire-resistant door assemblies are tested and rated as complete units, you’re limited in the modifications you can make to them once they’re installed.

Fire doors should be inspected regularly, at least once a year, as their rating may drop over time. They are available in a variety of styles to fit into different surroundings.