How Do Fire Doors Work?

How Do Fire Doors Work?

July 5, 2024
fire door close up

Fire doors play a critical role in passive fire protection and overall building fire safety measures by resisting and containing the spread of fire and smoke in the event of an emergency. The role of fire doors is not to put the fire out, but rather to limit the speed at which it can move through a building to give occupants the time needed to evacuate safely. 

Without suitable fire door provisions, the risk of injury, fatality, and building damage is dangerously high as fires can spread quickly. Understanding how fire doors work is subsequently essential for ensuring safety and compliance in your building.  

Fire Door Components

To thoroughly answer the key question of ‘how do fire doors work?’, it is important to understand exactly how fire doors are able to achieve their purpose and contain the spread of fire and smoke. 

The answer to this lies in the different fire door components. To the average onlooker, a fire door may look similar to a standard door. However, the different advanced components of the door work together to help it stand firm, compartmentalise the building, and restrict the speed at which the fire can develop. The key fire door components are:

  • Door Leaf – The main body of the fire door, also known as the door leaf, acts as the first defence against the spread of fire. It will typically be made of timber or composite material and will sit inside a frame to maintain structural integrity at all times, including in the event of an emergency.
  • Door Frame – As with the door leaf, the surrounding frame shares equal importance with regard to maintaining the compartment within which it sits. Typically made of either softwood or hardwood, the fire door frame should be matched with the door leaf and is often overlooked for its importance. As well as structural integrity it also needs to be sealed between the frame and the structural opening to prevent the spread of smoke.
  • Hinges – All fire doors should have suitable hinges in place. The hinges on fire doors play a crucial role in how they work by withstanding some of the heat and pressure applied when a fire breaks out. This ensures that the door does not warp or give in and can contain the fire for as long as possible.
  • Intumescent strips – These heat-sensitive strips are a critical fire door component. Fitted around the edges of the door and frame, they protect against both smoke and fire. Intumescent strips work by expanding when in contact with heat, thus closing any gaps that smoke and flames could pass through. If designed to do so, they may also be fitted alongside additional smoke seals which further restrict the spread of smoke and gas.
  • Door closers – Fire doors only operate in the closed position and as such it is important to ensure they are kept shut at all times so that they are always providing a suitable fire defence barrier. Door closers are a fire door component key in making sure that this can happen as they shut the door automatically when opened. 
  • Glass vision panels – Many fire doors will also include glass vision panels, allowing you to see through the door into the neighbouring room and corridor. These vision panels are a critical safety feature themselves, as they help building occupants see what is on the other side of the door and know if it is safe to proceed. However, like the other fire door components, the glass used for these panels must have fire-resistant properties so that it does not warp or shatter and therefore diminish the effectiveness of the door in the event of a fire. 

Types Of Fire Doors

While all fire doors should have the critical components in place, there are different types of fire doors available depending on the needs and type of the building. For example, some fire doors may have glass vision panels whereas others will not. Typically the type of fire door is designed to operate in a way best suited to the design of the building and to allow all occupants to move around freely with high levels of visibility.

Other ways to categorise the different types of fire doors include single fire doors, double fire doors, and door and half leaf fire doors sometimes known as Hospital doors. There are many other design options available to allow for the specific needs of the environment which include PVC wrapped fire doors for hygiene purposes and soundproofing properties (acoustic fire doors). However, given that the main function of a fire door is to resist the spread of fire, the most useful and universal way to summarise the types of fire doors is by their fire rating.

In the UK, all fire doors have a specific fire rating which represents the number of minutes that the door is certified to stop the spread of fire and smoke. The most common types of fire doors are FD30 and FD60 fire doors, which can restrict fire spread for 30 minutes and 60 minutes respectively. The most suitable type for any given building will depend on the level of risk present in the building and should be determined by the building designed compartments and the fire risk assessment. This information can be used to support an effective and comprehensive fire door survey

Fire Door Regulations In The UK

As we have highlighted throughout this article, fire doors are an essential part of building fire safety. For this reason, a number of regulations govern fire door installation and maintenance in the UK, ensuring that they work as intended in the event of a fire. 

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 stipulates that commercial buildings and premises are, by law, required to install appropriate fire doors. These doors must be fitted by a ‘competent person’ with adequate knowledge, experience and training in relevant fire safety. 

There is no one set qualification which determines that an individual is suitable to act as the ‘competent person’ and install fire doors in a building. However, there are a range of accreditations that fire door installers can work towards, including the highly regarded BM Trada Q-Mark certification. Companies holding this qualification are held accountable to the highest standards of fire door safety. Therefore, choosing to work with a certified fire door installer to meet fire door regulations in the UK  will ensure that your fire doors are as safe as they should be and fitted correctly to meet the most recent rules and regulations.  

Fire door regulations also stipulate that fire doors must be adequately maintained by a ‘Responsible Person’. There is no set time after which fire doors must be surveyed and replaced. However, it is advisable to check all doors on a regular basis depending on their use (typically every six to twelve months) so that fire door maintenance requirements are met. 

If you require any advice about your fire doors or have additional questions about how fire doors work, do not hesitate to get in touch with the team at WGP Maintenance. As a BM Trada Q-Mark certified fire door installer, we are well-equipped to help you understand the importance of fire doors and meet your obligations both now and in the future. 

Want to know more?

Contact us

Contact Us

Get in touch with our friendly team to find out more

About yourself
Contact details
About Your Project

By submitting my data I agree to be contacted.