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In today’s day and age, fire doors are an essential part of any building’s safety system.

As buildings have gotten taller over the centuries due to the production and use of steel and concrete, the need for fire protection has become evident. Building codes for fire-rated doors are adopted by states and jurisdictions to address life-safety and safeguard a building’s occupants with doors composed of non-combustible materials with fire ratings ranging from 20, 45, 60 and 90 minutes for interior architectural doors. The rating refers to the duration to the exposure to fire.

We will dive into the types of fire doors, their applications and what to consider when installing them and the characteristics that make fire doors a crucial part of a building infrastructure.

Common Fire Door Types

Fire doors’ design includes self-closing hinges and fire-resistant seals to help keep smoke and fire from spreading. They are also classified by their fire resistance rating, which is standard of how long the door can withstand a fire. This is measured on a time scale, ranging from 20 to 90 minutes.

The two main types of fire doors are swinging fire doors and sliding fire doors.

  1. Swinging fire doors are the most common type; they are hinged on a single side and swing open.
  2. Sliding fire doors are set on tracks and slide open and shut.


Photo Credit: Lynden Door

Applications of Fire Doors

When considering the use of fire doors, it’s important to consider the required fire-resistance rating, the door hardware and door frame assembly, installation per the manufacturer’s requirements, and use based on building type and application. Fire doors are specified to address life-safety considerations, including applications in:

  • Corridors: fire-rated doors help mitigate the spread of fire and smoke between a fire-rated corridor to adjoining spaces.
  • Stairwells: fire-rated doors are used to help separate fire-rated stairs to address the means of egress from a building.


Photo Credit: Masonite

Safety Standards for Architects and Builders to Consider Beyond the Specification of Fire Doors

As an architect or builder, when considering fire doors as a part of a building’s design, it’s important to recognize their intended use when specifying the door, but also the lifespan as a significant factor. Annually, fire doors are inspected for functionality and conditions by listing agencies: companies that are certified to evaluate their condition and perform labeling service, which are requirements and guidelines described in NFPA 80, Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives in their field evaluation.

Per NFPA 80 Section, field labeling shall be performed only by individuals or companies that have been certified or listed, or by individuals or companies that are representatives of a labeling service that maintains periodic inspections of production of labeled equipment or materials and by who’s labeling the manufacturer indicates compliance with appropriate standards or performance in a specified manner. Similar language and requirements can also be found in Chapter 7 of the International Building Code. It’s an important consideration to determine which model codes and sections are adopted by the jurisdiction for which the building project is located.

Fire door inspections check for the proper operation, deficiencies, and ensure that minimum safety protocols are met to protect the building and safeguard its occupants from the spread of fire and smoke. If deemed compliant per the inspection requirements, certification labels are installed replacing existing ones and applied to the fire door allowing the Authority Having Jurisdiction to have clear and unobstructed visibility of the label. The scoping language in Chapter 5 of NFPA 80 outlines the requirements for field labeling, which is applicable to “fire doors, fire shutters, fire windows, and opening protectives other than fire dampers, fabric fire safety curtains and fire protective curtain assemblies”.

For architects and builders, when planning and specifying fire doors, there is much to consider beyond the aesthetics and design of a building. Consider the fire risk assessment and how the door will prevent the spread of fire and smoke, how the door will be installed as a critical component of fire wall or fire separation, and the maintenance to ensure that the doors continue to meet the life safety standards described in NFPA 80.

A Building’s Responsibility

A vital security feature to any building, ensuring that your fire door meets safety codes and regulations is crucial to protecting yourself and others.

Learn more about the manufacturers who can help keep your space safe:

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Webinar: Understanding Window, Door & Skylight Certification

The Understanding Window, Door & Skylight Certification webinar is designed to help architects and remodelers understand the benefits of window, door and skylight certification and how certified products can enhance their projects.

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Find window, door, and skylight manufacturers. 

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