How to achieve fire-compliant doors (that also look good) when standards are changing
It seems like fire regulations and standards are evolving at a head-spinning pace these days – and this is certainly the case for fire doors.
Following the terrible events at Grenfell Tower last June, and the ongoing investigations, it has become clear that changes to the building standards and testing procedures are urgently needed to improve safety and public confidence.
But with so much going on in the industry, how can specifiers stay on brief and maintain a desired aesthetic, while still achieving fire compliance? And how do you ensure that the choices you make today will still be suitable in a few months when it’s time to install the doors on site?
What are the changes to fire door regulation?
Following the publication of the independent review of Building Regulations and fire safety (also known as the Hackitt Report) earlier this year, various documents were issued by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).
These documents outlined areas for improvement and, most notably, included a circular letter that raised the question of symmetry and whether all fire doors need to be tested from both sides, even when completely symmetrical.
More recently, Secured by Design, the national police crime prevention initiative announced that from January 2019, all SBD internal entrance door sets must be dual-tested to meet both fire and security standards.
Mick Reynolds, SBD senior development officer, explained: “SBD has taken the pro-active decision for dual certification as an SBD requirement going forward.”
He indicated that SBD’s new requirements were in response to the MHCLG circular letter, and he described it as a “radical change” that removed “the ability for a door manufacturer to declare fire performance against a Global Fire Assessment or a one-off Fire Test report”.
In addition, Part B of the Building Regulations is under consultation until mid-October. Once the consultation is complete, a full-scale review of the existing guidelines is expected.
Achieving compliance: from planning through to installation
One problem we hear about a lot is that projects are designed and scoped long before products are installed. During those intervening months, regulations can change and specifiers may realise that their original plans are not compliant.
In order to achieve fire compliance with current regulations, and mitigate the risk of a product becoming obsolete, the first step is to ensure that your specifications really do meet existing guidelines. Simply put: if it’s not compliant today, it won’t be compliant tomorrow. It’s safe to assume that regulations aren’t going to become less rigorous.
The next step is to be aware of details that can cause problems with compliance and work to avoid those common pitfalls. For example:
- Details such as inset PVD sheets & inlays set into one side of the door face – While this design feature is eye-catching and can be complementary to the project and environment, it makes the door asymmetrical and requires fire testing on both sides.
- Fixings such as handles and escutcheons attached through PVD sheets & inlays – These can be problematic and require careful review.
- Concealed door closers – These can be problematic, particularly when require Secure By Design certification. Door closers are generally a considerable size and often require much of the door core to be removed to enable install. This presents a significant area of failure when door sets are tested, and later once installed.
- Free-issue ironmongery – Any modifications made to a door after it leaves the factory may not have been fire tested and, therefore, will not be included in the fire certificate. This includes the installation of any ironmongery. It is prudent to complete through due-diligence with your suppliers to ensure total compliance.
- Timber wall panelling – This is often associated with an adjoining apartment entrance door. Care needs to be taken when reviewing the span and specification, in particular towards the spread of fire.
Next, be sure to complete due diligence at the tender stages. Ensure your chosen manufacturer holds a compliant fire certificate (and a security certificate if applicable) before you include their rates in any bid. Otherwise, you may end up facing unexpected costs and delays later on in the project.
Finally, be sure to keep up with industry news and discuss any concerns you may have about compliance as early as you can with your door manufacturer.
But does compliance mean sacrificing aesthetics?
Short answer: No.
Longer answer: Not at all. Here at Stairways, we believe it’s absolutely possible to design attractive, functional & compliant internal doors suitable for the application in mind.
We offer a range of attractive doors and door sets, including SecurDor, ResiDor and Eco-Mercial. These have all been designed to meet all relevant existing fire and security guidelines, and we are continually working to ensure all of our products continue to be compliant as the regulatory landscape develops.
Help and support from Stairways
As one of the UK’s largest fire door and door set manufacturer, Stairways takes our responsibility seriously. We are committed to manufacturing high-quality, life-saving products that achieve 100% compliance in all relevant standards. We work hard to ensure our doors look great too.
We are members of the Fire Door Alliance (previously BWF Certifire) and we value our position in the industry. We regularly take part in task groups and works committees to help consult over standards reviews and provide improvements to current standards. We are invested in keeping our teams up to date with industry, legislative and regulatory changes. Recently our teams undertook the Fire Door Inspection Scheme (FDIS) qualifications, as well as actively building individuals professional development by participating in the BWF Woodworking CPD.
To find out more about fire safety and fire door compliance, please visit our Fire Doors Testing Service page. We are also currently developing a fire door set installation pack. This includes detailed installation instructions, along with fixing materials that have been tested with our door sets. This will help clients ensure doors are installed appropriately and provide reassurance that the finished doors are fully fire-compliant.
If you’d like to discuss fire compliance and your project in more detail, please get in touch with our technical team. You can also follow us on social media for further news and updates about this continually evolving topic.