Fire protection-rated doors
Staying on the safe and cool side.
NFPA Journal®, January/February 2008
By Chip Carson, P.E.
Fire protection-rated doors are an integral part of builtin fire protection and many different codes and standards have requirements for the construction of fire-resistive-rated barriers. For example, NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, NFPA 30, Flammable & Combustible Liquids Code, NFPA 33, Spray Application Using Flammable & Combustible Materials, and NFPA 45, Fire Protection for Laboratories Using Chemicals contain information on these barriers. Of course, the applicable building code will also include requirements for fire resistive barriers.
Whenever a door is installed in a fire-resistive wall, a fire protectionrated door is required. NFPA 80, Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives includes details for the installation of fire protection-rated doors and the maintenance of those doors. Fire doors are labeled assemblies. As such, field modifications of the door are severely restricted. A few of those field modifications are discussed here.
Job site preparation is permitted for surface-applied hardware, function holes for mortise locks, and holes for labeled viewers. Also, wood and composite doors may be undercut up to 3/4-inch. [NFPA 80, 184.108.40.206] Other hardware installations such as locks, latches, hinges, remotely operated or remotely monitored hardware, concealed closers, glass lights, vision panels, louvers, and astragals shall be accomplished in accordance with the manufacturer’s inspection service.
The installation of remotely operated locks on doors is increasing with the heightened concern for security. The addition of security devices presents two significant problems. One is egress. The lock cannot interfere with the required egress. The Life Safety Code Section 220.127.116.11.2 requires that the door be readily opened from the egress side whenever the building is occupied.
The second problem is installing the security hardware on a fire protection-rated door. As noted, the door cannot be modified in the field except for the items noted in NFPA 80. There are new programs available for certifying installers to drill holes for a raceway in wooden fire protection-rated doors to allow wiring to be installed from an electrified hinge to the door latch. Signs are permitted on the door in accordance with NFPA 80, Section 4.1.4. Signs may be attached using adhesives only, not screws or nails. The size of the signs cannot exceed 5 percent of the door area. Also, signs may not be installed on the door glazing.
Kick plates may be installed on fire protection rated doors. Kick plates (protective plates) are limited to 16 inches (40 centimeters) high unless specifically listed with the door. Plates may be applied with adhesives, screws, or nails per the manufacturer’s instructions. See Annex E.3 of NFPA 80.
A new provision in NFPA 80, 2007 edition deals with inspection of fire doors. An annual inspection is now required by Section 5.2.1. A written record of the inspections is to be maintained. This will require a person knowledgeable in fire door installation and operation to inspect the doors for damage, non-code permitted alterations, and proper operation.
Fire protection-rated doors provide critical protection to protect exit enclosures and compartmentalize buildings and stop the spread of fire, smoke, and toxic gases. The proper installation and maintenance of these doors is a critical part of the buildings fire protection system.
Chip Carson, P.E., is owner and president of Carson Associates, Inc., in Warrenton, Virginia. He is also a member of the NFPA Board of Directors.