The latest changes to fire door regulations is set to come into force on the 23rd Jan 2023, following the golden thread reports issued after the grenfell Tower disaster.
If you are a landlord, 'responsible person' as identified under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, or have any dealing with fire door inspection and/or their maintenance, then you should take note of these changes and ensure to avoid any legal issues.
I have added a link to the end of this blog summary of the changes if you wish to read in full from the HM Gov web site.
In summary the main thrust is for all multi-occupied premies with sleeping accommodation units, across England and Wales that are over 11m in height to the lowest floor, but also any building which is below 11m and has two or more separate dwellings that lead onto a common escape route, then these regulations apply.
This will obviously affect landlords and housing associations across England and Wales.
The regulations state under article 24 of the Regulatory Reform order the responsible person will
- undertake quarterly checks of all fire doors (including self-closing devices) in the common parts
- undertake – on a best endeavour basis – annual checks of all flat entrance doors (including self-closing devices) that lead onto a building’s common parts.
The regulations will also require responsible persons to provide to residents of all multi-occupied residential buildings with two or more sets of domestic premises (that have common parts) information on the importance of fire doors to a building’s fire safety.
The reason for these changes:
The Grenfell Tower Inquiry in the Phase 1 report noted that “Fire doors play an essential role in preventing or inhibiting the spread of smoke and toxic gases and in preserving the effective compartmentation of buildings.”
The Inquiry noted that the fire doors in Grenfell Tower did not, through damage and/or disrepair, act in the way that they should so that they prevent smoke and gases from spreading.
Prior to the Fire Safety Act 2021, flat entrance doors in multi-occupied residential buildings may not have been routinely considered as part of the fire risk assessment process. The Fire Safety Act 2021 has removed the legal ambiguity and confirms that flat entrance doors are in scope of the Fire Safety Order.
The minimum requirement is for the responsible person to undertake an inspection of the doors to identify any obvious damage or issues. It should not be necessary to engage a specialist for these checks as the responsible person should be able to carry out these checks themselves. There are several useful guides available online which can support a responsible person in undertaking checks.
A 'responsible person' should consider:
- if there has been any alterations or damage to a door’s glazing apertures or air transfer grille
- if there are any gaps around the door frame and that seals and hinges are fitted correctly
- that the door closer shuts the door
- that the door closes correctly around the whole frame
- that there is no visible damage (either deliberate or from wear and tear) to the door or door closer
If any issues are identified from these checks, it might be appropriate to undertake more detailed checks of doors (or the self-closing device) if any damage is identified from the initial inspection. This could include engaging a specialist.
BUILDINGS LESS THAN 11M
The regulations do not replace the existing duty for a responsible person to put in place general fire precautions in any premises covered by the Fire Safety Order, regardless of the building’s height.
The Fire Safety Act 2021 has clarified that in any residential building which contains two or more sets of domestic premises are within the scope of the Fire Safety Order.
Responsible persons for residential buildings below 11 metres in height have a duty to put in place general fire precautions in these buildings, this duty includes making sure that all fire doors – including flat entrance doors – are capable of providing adequate protection.
Responsible persons will also be required to provide residents in all residential buildings with two or more sets of domestic premises with information on fire doors.
Link to HM Gov web site article
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Door frames play an essential role when it comes to the usability of a door. They provide a cosy home for the door to sit in, prevent draughts, hide gaps between the wall and the door, and they improve the mobility of the door itself.
Door frames come in many different shapes and sizes, colours, designs, and types. It can be challenging to figure out precisely what it is you need if you’re only purchasing the frame. Our handy guide tells you everything you need to know about door frames. You’ll be a door frame pro in no time.
Why replace a door frame?
Often people mistake a damaged door frame for a damaged door, and they end up replacing the entire unit. Fortunately, this isn’t always needed. If the door frame has become damaged from foot traffic, rot, warping, or cracking, it’s likely that only the frame will need replacing.
A damaged door frame can result in flooring damage if the frame is no longer able to hold the door. It can also lead to the door sticking within the frame and, over time, could damage the handle, lock (if there is one), and the door itself. If your door is an external door or an internal door in a porch, a damaged frame can pose a huge security risk.
Can you paint a door frame?
You can paint any door frame as long as you’re well-prepared. Having the correct colour is the best place to begin. However, you must ensure that you have the type of paint suited for the material of your door frame. As well as being well-equipped with sandpaper, lint-free cloths, paint brushes, and rollers.
If you want to paint your door frame but need a bit of guidance on the process, have a look at our guide: Painting your Door and Door Frame.
What are the different parts of a door frame called?
Your door and door frame has many technical names that you may not be aware of. It’s easy to call them ‘door’ and ‘door frame’. However, if you encounter an issue that you need help with - perhaps the sill has fallen off - knowing and understanding the correct terminology will help you save time when speaking with an expert.
In general, the different parts of a door frame are called:
● Sill or Threshold
● Door Stop
● Lining or Casing
And, it’s pretty hard to determine what is what simply by reading the names. The names don’t really make any sense to us mere mortals. Below, we’ve outlined the names given to door frame parts and a brief insight into what each one does.
The head of a door frame is the lintel-type object that sits horizontally across the top of the door. For internal doors, a head is made from wood. A head on an external door is made from wood, uPVC, or aluminium.
A head will usually have 2 sets of grooves for the jamb. The jamb of the frame will slide into these two grooves.
Making our way to the bottom of the door. The horizontal section of the door frame, that sits beneath the door itself, is called a sill or a threshold. A sill is primarily used on external doors. It helps water to drain off on the outside of the property rather than the inside.
For internal door frames, the sill attaches to the two vertical sides of the frame. It strengthens the frame and stops it from becoming bent or warped.
Door Frame Stop:
A door frame stop is different from a door stop, although it does the same job. A door frame stop is a thin strip of wood that runs around the inside of the entire frame. This door stop prevents the door from swinging backwards and forwards like a saloon door.
A door jamb is what most of us would refer to as the door frame. A door jamb is the vertical piece of wood that runs either side of the door. The jamb is the section of the door frame that your door is attached to via hinges. The opposite door jamb will contain the recess which allows the door to be opened, closed, and locked.
Door lining or casing is usually displayed as a lining or casing set. This set contains the head, jambs, and sill of the door frame. A door lining allows you to hang your door while providing a casing to remove the gap between the frame and the wall.
An architrave is also referred to as jamb casing. The architrave is the decorative piece of wood that surrounds the entire door frame. An architrave is used to hide any working parts of the door that hasn’t been concealed by the door lining.
An architrave is purchased separately from the door and door frame as it can be designed to match the surrounding skirting boards, as not to draw attention to it.
Does Your Apartment And Flat Fire Door Meet Current Standards with its Fire And Smoke Stopping Capabilities?
Part 1 of the Grenfell Tower report:
The recently released part one report on the findings of the tragic tower block fire at Grenfell Tower in June 2017, when 72 people lost their lives, listed 47 urgent issues that require immediate action.
One of the issues listed of the 47 actions in the report, is the need for all fire doors in all multi-occupancy, residential properties to be urgently inspected, to check on their fire resistance and smoke stopping capabilities. This will become law under draft regulations set out recently.
72 lives were lost in the Grenfell tragedy from an unborn child to an 84-year-old. They came from numerous countries and walks of life, and a number of those that died followed the fire brigade’s advice to ‘stay put’ in the multi storey block with a single staircase. This was the policy identified within the buildings fire risk assessment (FRA).
Flat Entrance Doors:
A number of the flat entrance doors didn’t conform to current standards, of smoke stopping, fire resistance or self-closing. The self-closers had been removed, these were supposed to keep the main flat entrance doors closed but allowed the fire and hot gases to spread rapidly thus closing off the escape routes down the stairs. Generally, it is the hot gases and smoke inhalation that kills not the fire itself, making it vitally important that these entrance doors are suitable and meet these standards, known to be either FD30s or FD60s depending on the structure of the building and the information contained in the buildings FRA.
Not only did the rapid development of the fire occur from the external insulated cladding panels observed from the videos taken at the scene, but the fire safety maintenance regime, including the state of the fire doors internally have been raised as a major failing during the initial first stage report into the tragedy.
Current building regulations, fire safety guidance documents and certification of fire doors and frames, lay down very detailed and specific requirements to comply with, in residential high-rise blocks, lower rise blocks and commercial premises. The flat entrance doors that lead onto a common means of escape, form part of that protected route for people to escape. The idea being that any flat fire would be contained within the flat itself and prevent escape routes from blocked due to smoke and fire, but on this occasion as with others the fire spreads rapidly externally but also internally due to poor compartmentation, particularly where self-closer’s had been removed and entrance doors had been substituted for non-fire rated doors or where some doors had been compromised with door maintenance or fitting.
Fire Door Installation requirements:
It’s not only the manufacture of these products and component parts that are critical, but also the critical need for the installer to be ‘competent’ (meaning having had training knowledge and experience), and importantly, having an independent quality control on their correct installation.
At present any unlicensed person can install or maintain a fire door and frame. Any person can, if not adequately trained, create a dangerous condition with poor installations without fully appreciating the exacting standards required for the fire door to perform its functionality, therefore putting not only the lives of the flat owners at risk but other occupiers of their building.
Usually fire doors fail for two main reasons:
1. Incorrectly manufactured and/or
2. Incorrectly installed by a person who does not have the necessary skills knowledge or experience.
Since the Grenfell tragedy, the Fire Door Industry has come under greater scrutiny and a tightening of quality control measures now coming into effect, however there are still ‘cowboy manufacturers’ out there, selling sub-standard doors and frames and also some prefabricators, glazing fire doors and providing a made to measure service, who cut corners and produce with poor workmanship in the name of saving money, I have personally witnessed this first hand!
As a supplier and third-party installer, Premier Fire Doors have seen an array of poorly installed fire doors and frames over the past 12 years putting people’s lives at risk.
It is sometimes difficult to understand the mentality of some of the so-called experienced installer/joiners and their lack of understand of correctly installed doors, We have witnessed this when we have been asked to carry out a ‘fire door survey’, when building control or the fire service have raised concerns over poorly installed fire doors and frames.
Critically, any type of building that has the provision of sleeping accommodation, or where the occupancy is ‘highly dependent’, such as nursing homes, residential care homes, special needs hospitals etc. Require their fire doors to meet a normal standard of fire resistance and smoke stopping, but to exceed these, particularly where smoke stopping is concerned, particularly where a phased horizontal evacuation (PHE) evacuation plan is in force, or where a ‘stay put policy’ exists.
I have personally found, as a former senior fire officer of more that 26 years’ service, that incidents where a loss of life occurs is generally, but not always, where the smoke stopping capabilities of doors and frames fail, allowing toxic and flammable gases to escape from one fire compartment to another, due to poor installations, or the wrongly specified product being used.
Appropriately specified and installed fire doors and frames without a doubt, save lives, protect property and ensure loss of buildings are minimal. There can also be a massive impact on the environment.
‘Stay put’ and ‘Phased horizontal evacuation’:
In buildings where the fire strategy is one of either ‘stay put’ or ‘phased horizontal evacuation’, (PHE) the smoke stopping is absolutely critical and as with all these installations, they are only as good as the last time they were checked and maintained, which is a major issue with the UK at present.
Third Party Accreditation:
When choosing a fire door and or frame, chose wisely and take into account the above information, make sure the products meet BS 476 Pt 22 for doors and frames, and critically ensure it is installed (ideally as a door set-fire door and frame) by a ‘competent’ experienced third party installer. Ideally someone who is either FIRAS, UKAS or BRE approved, and ensure you receive an installation certificate to confirm it meets BS 8214 2016.
The fire door industry is going through, and will need to maintain its changing ways, to provide the people of the UK with safe, ‘suitably sufficient’ standards of fire doors, and provided they are installed and critically, regularly maintained, the lives of lots more people will be saved.
As part of the ongoing investigation a number of fire doors were removed for testing and the results of these tests were reported upon. The tests revealed that what should have been 30-minute fire rated fire doors actually lasted less than 15 minutes in a burn test. In addition, further examinations of similar doors have been carried out and these doors have also failed the fire resistance tests.
The fire industry and in particular the fire door manufacturers have been called in to answer very difficult questions by HM Government, and to make plans and act collectively to resolve these testing issues. In addition, the servicing and checking of fire doors was also under scrutiny as it was found that nearly 50% of the fire door self-closers in Grenfell had been removed or disconnected.
There has been a number of meetings held between interested parties to discuss the current emergency situation and the results are likely to change both the current legislation and codes of practice for the supply, manufacturers and testing regimes and also the legal requirement for installers of fire doors and frames to be third party accredited, which is voluntary at present.
Building regulations are to be updated as part of the planned changes. In addition, the way in which building works are completed and ‘signed off’ will also be reviewed and amended.
The provision of fire doors and their location requirements in a building is determined by the following:
A. The fire risk assessment report conducted by a competent person.
B. The fire strategy of the building. (The fire strategy means, how a building operates under the condition of fire, i.e. is the evacuation one of continuous evacuation (one out all out) or for occupancies with high dependence levels such as residential care nursing or hospitals horizontal phased evacuation (PHE).
The above fire strategy will determine where and how many fire compartments a building will then require, which will lead in turn to quantifying the number of fire doors, their fire resistance level and their locations.
Fire door locations are usually:
● Protecting staircases.
● Separating lengths of corridors.
● Dead end conditions where travel in in one direction only.
● High risk rooks such as boiler rooms electrical installations etc.
● Protecting shafts for services and lifts.
● Separating buildings.
If the fire strategy is designed by a competent person, the minimum number of fire doors will be identified, this can also be used to number the doors and to ensure these fire doors are well maintained and there is an audit trail of when the fire doors have been maintained.
The liability that is evident following disasters like Grenfell is now more widely acknowledged within the fire industry and further education is required to ensure all responsible persons are fully aware of the consequences of substandard fire doors within premises.
The explanation is to show everyone the problems involved in fitting a fire door within a small room.
There might be more to your fire door not closing than you first thought.
A vacuum being present is a common issue we face at the front end of our supply and installation projects. Within a small room we commonly find that the air balance is marginally different between the small room and the other side of the fire door.
If a vacuum is present when a door attempts to close, there is an inadequate amount of air transference between the two rooms causing the vacuum and at the final stages of closure, the door appears to bounce of its rebate and not fully latching. Resulting in the fire door unable to perform as it was tested and manufactured for if it was exposed to fire.
We generally see clients wanting to speed up the closing or latching speed of the doors self-closing mechanism, this appears to resolve the issue. However, this is not ideal or advised as the fire door generally shuts at an excessive dangerous speed to ensure the latching mechanism is engaged.
If the self-closing mechanism has been altered to accommodate the vacuum present and the air balance is neutralised by the opening of a window or door in the vicinity, the fire door will dangerously slam shut to the extent of shaking the lining and potentially damaging the surrounding area. If this process remains unresolved and is repeated, as well as the annoyance and the potential for harm, the damage will occur voiding the doors certification and a full replacement would be required.
One way around this issue is to fit an intumescent grill allowing the air to displace between the two rooms neutralising the air balance. This is seen as a cost-effective easy solution, however a negative is that an intumescent grill is only activated when it detects a certain level of heat and at this point it is more likely that a considerable amount of dangerous life-threatening smoke will have passed through the device.
Another solution, which is an option which we favour as experts in our field, is to fit a mechanism such as a Retaining Brake, this device allows the fire door to shut at a safe recommended speed even if there is a vacuum present. The device is activated in the final stages of closure latching the door into place allowing the door to perform as it was intended if exposed to fire.
For any fire door installation queries, alongside our other offerings including Fire Risk Assessments, Fire Door Surveys, Fire Compartmentation, Fire Evacuation and Emergency Plans, Consultancy and the selling of fire doors please contact the sales team.