The devil is within the detail: why just fire testing doors is not enough

Stairways The devil is within the detail: why just fire testing doors is not enough

With there being so many different documents, certification bodies, test houses, news articles and inspectors around fire doors, it is no surprise to me, as a technical manager that there is so much confusion and misunderstanding.

However, it is vital that people fully understand the rules to ensure nothing is overlooked in their manufacture, fitting and testing.

A common misconception is that items that have been fire tested can be used on all fire doors. Over the years, I have so often heard things like: “Why can’t I use this? It’s been fire tested,” or: “Why can’t you use our product?” This is most commonly around door hardware, but is relevant in relation to all fire door components.

Many companies will test their item once, then market it as being fire rated. While technically correct, as this needs to be done for CE marking, the area is far more complex. In all cases, things that need to be considered include the door core type, the fire rating (FD30 FD60, FD90 & FD120), the size, shape, and position of the item, the material that the item is made from, and what intumescent was used. This is the level of detail that MUST be checked on every occasion.

Allied to this, do not be fooled into thinking that this level of information does not need to be checked if a product is listed as being third-party certificated. That is incorrect. It still needs to be checked in detail.

As an example, let’s look at a hinge.

A hinge manufacturer has a 75mm butt hinge, which is a grade 13 hinge, CE marked, with three fixings per blade, and all the bells and whistles. Perfect hinge you may think.

As a joinery company or door set manufacturer, you have been asked to use this hinge, as it is the one the architect would like to use.

In some cases, these hinges would be fitted as they hold the relevant CE marks, have been fire tested and the hinge manufacturer has said it is ok. No one would think anything different. So, what’s the issue you may think?

Remember, the devil is in the detail. On closer inspection of the fire certification for the door leaf, it stipulates, under the hinge rules, that the hinge must be 100mm +/-10% and should have four fixings.

Therefore, the proposed hinge cannot be used, no matter how much the architect likes it! it is irrelevant that the hinge has certification as the specific rule for that door states you can only use a minimum 90mm hinge and max 110mm hinge, and must have four fixings.

Due to there being differences in the door core material, intumescent types, frame material, and the like, you must be able to demonstrate that the item being used is suitable.

There are ways around this, for instance, to obtain an assessment from an independent fire certification company – but you do need that evidence to support its suitability. For example, the hinge manufacturer tested their hinge using the same door core, intumescent, and frame specification as you are using. This would demonstrate the suitability and allow you to obtain an assessment. An alternative route would be to carry an actual fire test to demonstrate the suitability of the product specified.

It is this level of detail within the certification that is critical in ensuring a door performs as it should. If not, safety could be put at risk and the required safety thresholds not met.

This attention to detail is not just relevant to specifying fire door. It is also critical when carrying out maintenance and purchasing fire doors, especially when you are going down the more traditional route of frames and doors separately, rather than a door set, to create a fire door. The certification of the door leaf MUST be read to ensure all parts that are being used are suitable. This is perhaps why more specifiers and contractors are choosing door sets. Most manufacturers will check the detail to ensure the product supplied is compliant.

So, the next time you carry out maintenance on a fire door, specify a fire door and its components, or install a fire door, stop to think: have I checked if the components can be used together?

Remember, a fire door is not just a door. It may, one day, save someone’s life.

Richard Kowalski
Technical Manager (Doors Division)
Stairways Midlands


Author: Stairways

Stairways, founded in 1989, has grown to become one of the UK’s largest manufacturers of carpentry and joinery products. Stairways now boast three state-of-art facilities that offer over 85,000 sq ft production capacity. Stairways goal is to raise their profile and brand awareness to become known throughout the industry as the UK’s leading staircase and door solution provider.

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As a highly reputable firm within the industry, Stairways are dedicated to meeting their client’s product and application requirements. All materials used are manufactured to the highest quality and meet the relevant standards achieving ISO9001, FSC®, and various product certifications, whilst their staircases and door solutions are manufactured with compliance to UK building regulations & legislative standards in mind. Using the knowledge, passion, and experience acquired across all team members over the past thirty years, Stairways aim to continue to be the best in what they do.


Stairways are continuously looking for opportunities to improve and expand their service offering; this includes the investment in new machinery to further enhance and innovate the manufacturing process, with the aim to shorten lead times and increase overall in-house capacity. The changes Stairways employ are always focused upon improving the customer experience, to ensure their process remains as efficient as possible from start to finish.


Privately owned and managed since it was founded in 1989, Stairways has grown to become one of the UK’s largest manufacturers of carpentry and joinery products. Starting as a small staircase manufacturer, Stairways now boast three state-of-art facilities that offer over 85,000 sq ft of bespoke and mass production capacity.