Fire rated doors are meant to be used as a barrier to the spread of fire, smoke, and other toxic gases. In the event of a fire, fire rated openings need to perform correctly to ensure that building occupants can exit the building safely, protect certain areas against fire, and allow time for emergency personnel to respond. Different openings in a building may have fire ratings of varying lengths of time. Here we will review two basic tips to follow when looking at fire doors.

Appropriate codes and standards such as NFPA 80 should be reviewed and followed to ensure the correct doors are used in the proper applications.

Tip #1: Basic Fire Door Hardware Requirements

Fire rated openings will require fire rated frames and fire rated doors. Even more critical, however, is the hardware. If the hardware fails to function properly, it won’t matter what the fire rating of the frame or door is. The basic hardware requirements for fire rated doors include:

  1. Approved hinges
  2. Approved self-latching device
  3. Approved self-closing hardware
  4. Smoke gaskets for smoke doors

Fire rated doors must have approved hinges that are made of the correct materials and tested to meet fire ratings. Generally, steel-based ball-bearing hinges are used.

Self-latching devices must be used to ensure that the door will latch and stay latched when it closes. If the door has push/pull handles or manually operated bolting hardware, it will not keep the door secure or prevent fire and smoke from spreading. Fire rated panic hardware must have a visible label indicating it is fire rated.

Fire rated panic devices are not permitted to have mechanical dogging capability.

Approved self-closing hardware is critical in closing the door and then keeping the door shut. Proper installation will be crucial for self-closing hardware. If the fire door does not close correctly, then the self-latching hardware may not engage and it will compromise the entire opening. When building occupants pass through the opening, the door will need to close itself behind them.

Generally, closers with hold-open devices are not approved for use on fire rated openings.

Finally, smoke doors will need gasketing to prevent the smoke and other gases from penetrating the gaps around the door. Often, fire rated doors are also smoke doors.

Tip #2: Fire Door Core Types

Hollow metal doors and wood doors will require certain core types depending on the fire rating to be used. Fire ratings are available in 20-minute, 45-minute, 60-minute, 90-minute, and 180-minute ratings. Doors will have a visible label indicating the fire rating it has been tested for.Wood doors are available with particleboard cores in 20-minute to 45-minute ratings. A special mineral core is available in 45-minute, 60-minute, and 90-minute fire ratings. The mineral core is not good at holding hardware fasteners so wood blocking is usually required for hardware mounted on these doors.

Hollow metal doors have many different core options and it is important to check the testing and approvals for each type of core. Typical cores that are rated up to 180 minutes include Honeycomb, Polystyrene, Steel-Stiffened, and Mineral cores.

Bonus Tip: Hollow metal frames are generally fire rated and labeled as 180 minutes so the door will determine the final rating of the opening. The lowest rated component on the opening will determine the whole opening’s rating. So, if the frame is labeled as 180 minutes and the door is labeled as 45 minutes, the opening is a 45-minute fire rated opening because after 45 minutes the opening will fail.