Do I need fire doors in my home?
When it comes to fire anything that can be done to prevent the spread of smoke and flame should be done as a matter of necessity – it could save you and your home. The list of possible methods of recognising the existence of a fire and then controlling are actually pretty limited –
Smoke / Fire Alarms
Dry riser systems
Fire resistant glass
Fire retardant building materials and fabrics
Of the above list four are relatively easy to achieve for the average domestic two storey household and the other three sprinkler/ dry riser systems/ fire escapes are not normally practical for the two-storey domestic market but should be given consideration for the high-rise flats / commercial applications.
The provisions required for fire safety in any building are subject to the Building Regulations and although the Fire Brigade may visit new properties and give guidance and advice this is considered advisory not mandatory – a fact in itself which leads to considerable confusion
The Building Regulations – Fire Safety Regulations:
Part B (there are slight variations in some parts of the country) fundamentally lay down the rules as to that which is required in any new building or conversion to an existing property and they are not the easiest of documents to interpret.
Fire safety in any new home is not achieved by one single measure. Instead, it is compiled from a collection of several different precautions — these precautions aim to protect life by:
- Providing escape routes from the home
- Restricting or preventing the spread of fire to or from neighbouring homes
- Restricting or preventing the spread of fire inside the home
- And by providing essential access for the fire brigade.
Of the above list one component – the Fire Door – can be used in total or in part to fulfil the first three requirements dependent upon the style of property that is to be protected – the most common fire door is classed as an FD30 (fire door 30 minutes), having been tested in a controlled environment, to resist flames and smoke for 30 minutes. (it is possible to purchase doors of longer fire resistance duration i.e 60 and 90 minutes)
Where Fire doors are required –
For a typical two storey domestic home the Building regulations require that where the property has an integral garage the door between the main property and the garage (normally kitchen or utility) should be a FD30 fire door (30-minute fire resistant) and include smoke seals and self-closing device – it is also recommended that the garage floor be at least 100mm lower than that of the property to prevent any fuel spillage entering the main property.
If you are simply considering replacing internal doors within your home on a like for like basis and you do not currently have any fire doors, there is currently no legislative reason to change to fire doors, conversely there is also nothing to prevent you doing so if your intention is to introduce additional safety measures –it is however worth considering that such a change may have its own complications, Fire doors are 44mm thick whilst most internal doors are 35mm therefore a change of frame may also be required. A fire door will not perform in the event of a fire unless it has been fitted correctly – all legitimate fire doors will have test evidence documentation that stipulates the type and density of door frame, the correct intumescent strips and ironmongery (handles, hinges etc.) that should be used. Without following these recommendations, there is no guarantee that your fire door will last 30 minutes. A Fire door that is permanently propped open is not a fire door – it will only work when it is securely closed.
When a property rises above three storeys (even for a simple loft conversion in a two-storey house) is when the Building Regulations change quite noticeably with regard to fire doors
In Three or Four-Storey Homes where the top floor does not 7.5m above ground level, a protected stairway must be created that is continuous from its highest point to an external door at ground level. The materials used to create the stairway enclosure throughout its length should be fire resistant for at least 30 minutes, with FD20-rated fire doors (which are resistant for at least 20 minutes) to all habitable rooms along it – it is not generally required that these doors should have self-closers.
Homes with top floors above 7.5m which includes multi story blocks require that the flat entry door be a minimum of 30-minute resistance fire door and a second escape staircase – normally a communal escape stair which can be compartmentalised from the main structure by fire walls and doors.
Loft Conversions to two-storey houses and higher will have the same fire-protected route requirements as the main property, they still need a protected route through the stairway without passing through any rooms. This also means that they can /should not be broken by passing through “open plan” areas — unless alternative measures, such as a sprinkler system installed in that area.)
If the staircase to a three or Four storey house or loft conversion climbs from the middle of the house, it should be either:
- Enclosed to an external door within a corridor built to provide 30-minutes’ fire resistance
- Or, within a lobby of the same standard of 30-minute fire protection with two fire doors that create a choice of protected escape routes via front or back room
A further point to consider if you are considering a loft conversion is that the Building Regulations also require the fireproofing on ceilings below the new rooms.
What should I look for to be sure I have a legal fire door?
At Global Door we are resellers of Doorstop International Fire Doors and in a recent blog “Composite Fire doors that work” we published the table below which covers the typical certification that any customer should be aware of when looking to purchase a fire door – approval from a recognised testing authority such as the BWF being essential
Who checks to ensure I have complied with the regulations?
For any alterations / extensions of significant size you will normally be required to submit drawings with your building regulation application showing location of any fire doors specifications etc. For your building regulation application to be approved, your local council’s Building Control Officer will want confirmation that the appropriate technical standards and designs have been complied with.. The stage acceptance of your property may require that the Building Inspector visits your property and physically checks that the doors installed are as specified.
As we are suppliers of fire doors we have dealt with their requirement and location with in this blog- however “Fire Doors” are only one element of fire protection and as previously stated the Building Regulations endeavour to ensure an answer for all situations and there are a considerable number of other factors to be considered notably –
There are specific rules for location and size of escape windows
There are specific rules for creating satisfactory single or multiple means of escape from a building
There are specific rules to ensure that are covered to prevent the spread of fire to neighbouring properties
There is abundant guidance on choice of preferred materials to create means of escape and /or prevent fire spread.
At Global Door we would always that if you are considering a “new build “or a substantial alteration consult a professional an Architect, Engineer or Building Surveyor – it’s your home and the life of yourself and your family that are at risk