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. Public buildings and commercial facilities are required to have fire doors and smoke doors at different access points throughout their facility, both exterior doors as well as interior. If you’re considering installing them at your business, or need to replace old ones that aren’t up to code, there’s some information you should know:
What’s a Commercial Fire Door? And What’s it For?
When we say that a door is fire-rated, this means that it’s made so that, when it’s installed correctly, it resists catching on fire for a certain amount of time when it’s directly exposed to flames. There are several “levels” of fire doors (how long the door resists fire): a particular door can be rated for anywhere from 15 minutes to 90 minutes. The reason for such a range of options is because building codes differ with factors like the flammability of inventory, the size of the building, how many people are in the building on any given day, etc.
However, the rating is based on controlled testing in a lab, and is not a guarantee that the door will actually 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. No fire door is completely fireproof – even an insulated steel door will melt if a fire gets hot enough. They’re more meant to slow down the spread of fire and smoke, protecting property while the fire is extinguished and giving people in the building more time to escape.
Where There’s Smoke…
Sealing off an area from an active fire isn’t the only thing these doors are for; arguably, it’s just as important that they seal out smoke, 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 critical 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.
This is just one of many reasons that your facility’s exterior and interior fire doors have heavy-duty, reinforced frames and door hardware, and one of many reasons to have the installation, maintenance and inspections performed by trusted commercial door professionals.
Keeping Track of Your Facility’s Fire Doors
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. Stay mindful of the condition of your fire doors and their hardware – you don’t want an emergency push bar rusting and failing to open the door when a real emergency occurs.
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, but this is definitely one time where you’ve really gotta put safety over looks. After all, a fire can be devastating to your business, financially and personally, so if you’re looking to install new fire doors or replace your existing ones to upgrade them, consult your local commercial door installers. You need the best advice and skilled installation from knowledgeable professionals so you can limit your liability and vulnerability to a fire emergency as much as possible.