The new NHBC requirement to install and seal all fire door frames at the pre-plaster inspection stage is a backward step for the industry.
NHBC dropped the news from out of nowhere in its November 2020 Technical Extra document, which includes any revisions and changes to the NHBC guidance inspectors and members and which came into force in January.
Within this, NHBC introduced the rule that all fire frames should be installed and sealed at the pre-plaster inspection stage to demonstrate the product has been sealed to the partition correctly.
Up until now, NHBC inspectors have visited properties at the pre-plaster stage, before wet plaster is applied to the internal walls, as the name suggests! The next time is when the house is pretty much complete, with all doors in situ and painted. This means that the second inspection is actually too late to verify the correct installation of fire frames, but the first is too early.
Unfortunately, due to cost, the NHBC will not add an additional visit to inspect the doors after the plaster but before the architraves are fitted.
The change is causing house builders and door set suppliers to raise concerns as it is now impossible to supply door sets that offer greater fire resistance, despite fire safety being in the spotlight more than ever and door sets widely being seen as the way forward to ensure compliance and improve safety.
Door leaf manufacturers insist that doors are not on-site during wet trades and high levels of moisture, as would be caused by wet plaster. Having door leafs onsite at the pre-plaster stage, as required by this new rule, will affect any product warranty and, potentially, their effectiveness at withstanding fire.
Stairways and other industry leaders are currently in discussions with the NHBC to look at finding some common ground on this issue. It is important that all stages of construction can be properly inspected, but the integrity of products, and so their effectiveness, cannot be compromised by blanket changes to rules that are unworkable. Unfortunately, the NHBC did not consult the industry before implementing this change.
We have spoken to a number of other insurance providers and they have no plans to follow suit.
Stairways will keep you informed as and when we have any updates.
Technical Manager (Doors Division)