fire rated door, fire door

What is a Fire Rated Door?

A fire door is the door component of a fire rated assembly. They are required in many areas of commercial buildings to protect occupants, block the spread of flames and smoke, and minimize the overall property damage that can occur during a fire. Fire rated doors are built and tested to withstand the heat, smoke, and flames of a roaring fire while also providing a means of escape. However, the fire door alone does not offer fire protection – it is the fire door assembly (fire door, frame, hardware, glass, etc.) that when used together offers fire protection. If one component of the opening is not listed for use as part of the fire door assembly, the entire assembly is void of its fire-resistance rating.

Fire Door Ratings & Types

Fire doors are rated in terms of minutes/hours; the fire rating defines how long the assembly was tested to withstand a fire. Some common fire door ratings are 20, 45, 60, 90, and 180 (minutes). The fire rating required depends on the adopted building codes and the location of the door opening. Fire doors are typically rated less than the wall itself (ex. a 4-hour wall gets a 3-hour door assembly) since the door does not carry a fuel load such as artwork, adjacent furniture, etc.

Fire rated doors and frames are available in many types including wood, hollow metal, and specialty products such as FRP (Fiber Reinforced Polymer). Some door types, such as wood doors, also require intumescent seals either built into the door edge or supplied as a separate item that attaches to the fire door frame.

Fire Rated Door Requirements

Fire doors are required in certain wall types as dictated by local, state, national, and international building codes (ex. IBC, NFPA 101). You can typically find fire rated doors in fire walls, fire barriers, fire partitions, and smoke barrier walls. Building codes outline the mandated fire resistance rating of the fire door assembly based on the type of space and occupancy. All fire door assemblies must be tested using the appropriate standard and installed according to NFPA 80.

Fire door assemblies must be self-latching and self-closing (either with a self-closing device or automatic closing device) – if a door is not closed and latched, it cannot protect against fire dangers. To meet code, fire doors must not be locked from the egress side, blocked, or held open mechanically. However, they may be held open with door holder/release devices that are connected to the building’s fire alarm or smoke detection system to close when a fire is detected. When panic hardware is needed on a fire rated door, it must be listed as fire exit hardware – fire exit hardware has a panic rating and a fire rating whereas the non-fire rated version only has a panic rating. Clearances between the perimeter of the door and frame, and between the door and finished floor are also important to stop the spread of fire and smoke and must not exceed the maximum gap sizes as defined in NFPA 80.

Surface Requirements for Fire Doors

You can identify a fire door assembly by the physical labels that are required to be attached to the door and frame. The labels provide specifics, including the name of the third party testing agency, the manufacturer’s name or a code that can be traced back to the manufacturer, the criteria to which the door was tested, the rating duration, and in some cases the degree of temperature rise transmission (at 30 minutes). If the label is removed for any reason, the fire protection rating is void.

Fire rated door assemblies also cannot be decorated because decorations add a fuel load (combustible product), which contributes to the assembly failing before the designated rating period. Informational signage can be applied to the door if it does not contribute to the growth of a fire. Based on the 2019 edition of NFPA 80 and earlier, the signage on the door must be applied using adhesives (no screws or nails) and cannot exceed 5% of the door’s face.

There are slight changes to these requirements in the 2022 version of NFPA 80, but those changes will not be enforceable until the local building codes or model building codes (IBC, NFPA 101, etc.) are updated to include this version. Check out Lori Greene’s blog, iDigHardware, to learn about these changes.

Fire Door Inspections

Because they are a key component to a building’s passive fire protection system, the model building codes require fire rated doors to be inspected at least once a year in accordance with NFPA 80. For more information about inspections, check out our Fire Door Inspections page.

When it comes to doors, frames, hardware, security systems, and more, LaForce is your one-stop shop for high-quality products and services. We can even supply fire rated door assemblies that fit your needs and help you make sure your fire door fits the code requirements. Whether you’re constructing a building from the ground up or taking on a remodel, contact our experts to help you make sure your commercial building is as safe as possible. Contact us today – we would love to hear about how we can help you on your next project!