Your Complete Guide to Fire Doors

If you rent out a property, or multiple properties, fire safety is incredibly important. Landlords are legally obliged to provide safe accommodation for their tenants, so it’s vital that your doors comply with fire safety rules. In this article we’ll take a closer look at what fire doors are, how they keep people safe and what the legislation is on providing them in different types of rented properties.

What Constitutes a Fire Door?

A fire door looks pretty much like an ordinary door but it is an important safety device in the event of a fire. Fire doors delay the spread of smoke and fire, which can give the occupants of a property crucial time to get to safety should a fire break out, and also minimise damage to the building by containing smoke and fire for longer. One of the most useful properties of fire doors is that they minimise the spread of toxic smoke, which causes lack of visibility, disorientation, breathing problems and can lead to fatalities long before the actual fire arrives.

Fire doors are usually made from a combination of timber and steel, gypsum or aluminium. They contain intumescent strips which, when exposed to heat, expand and seal the gap between the door and the door frame.  Fire doors can have windows in them, which are made from borosilicate or ceramic glass, both of which are very highly fire resistant. The windows will often also contain wire mesh to prevent shattering at high heats. A fire door should be flush with the door frame, with any gaps filled with silicone-based fire resistant sealant. They will usually also include a self-closing mechanism, which ensures the door can’t be accidentally left open.

What are the Common Types of Fire Door?

Most buildings are installed with either FD30 or FD60 fire doors. An FD30 fire door will usually be 45mm thick, as opposed to the thickness of a standard door, which is somewhere between 34-40mm thick. An FD30 door is designed to give the people inside the building 30 minutes of protection, allowing them more time to exit safely. An FD60 is usually 54mm thick, and offers 60 minutes of protection. These doors are generally used in commercial settings.

All fire doors should show appropriate proof of performance for the ratings they carry, and should be certified BS476 Part 22. This means that the entire door has been tested to ensure that all the components function and cooperate correctly. 

What are the Benefits of Fire Doors?

The most obvious benefit of fire doors is safety. Fire doors compartmentalise buildings and create areas of safety, which either protect people until the fire brigade arrives to rescue them, or gives them time to leave the building without being overwhelmed by smoke or flames. Because they are able to contain a fire within a certain part of a building, fire doors can also help to minimise the damage caused. This will make repairing a fire damaged home a lot easier. 

Aside from safety, there are other benefits of fire doors, the most notable of which is sound proofing. Because they are thick and heavy, fire doors are more acoustically insulating than normal doors and restrict noise transfer between rooms. In areas such as utility rooms containing washing machines and tumble driers they are doubly useful as they can dampen noise as well as contain fire should it break out.

What Types of Rented Property are Legally Required to Have Fire Doors?

Landlords are responsible under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FRO) for ensuring the safety of their tenants and making sure their properties are fire safe. Fire doors are a legal requirement in rented properties that are Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO). A HMO is usually a house of three or more tenants who form more than one household, but the rules on whether you need a licence or not does vary in different parts of the UK (check with your local council if you aren’t sure). 

All doors leading to an escape route must be fire resistant and close automatically. As well as installing fire doors, landlords must ensure that all tenants are able to access an unrestricted escape route to them at all times. 

Properties that are occupied by single occupants and households do not require fire doors by law. However, landlords should consider whether installing a fire door in high risk rooms such as kitchens may be a good idea due to increased safety for tenants. 

What is the Five-Step Fire Door Check?

Landlords should check that their fire doors are up to standard on a regular basis. This can be done using the five-step fire door step, outlined here:

  • Certification. Check that the door still has its label showing that it is certified. Also check that locks, latches, closers and hinges are CE marked and compatible with the door’s certification.
  • Apertures. If the door has been altered for windows or grilles that were not part of the original product, the door is void and should be replaced.
  • Gaps and seals. Check that the gap around the frame is constant and measures between 3-4mm. Check that the hinges are CE marked and have no screws missing. Ensure seals are fitted at the top and sides of the door.
  • Closers. Ensure that the closer is operational and shuts the door onto the latch from any position. Check this from 73mm from the closed position.
  • Operation. Make sure that the door closes correctly and snugly around all parts of the frame.

Landlords have many responsibilities, but fire safety is incredibly important and must be taken seriously when letting out a property. Following all relevant government legislation is vital for keeping tenants safe and minimising the risk of fire within a house. Fire doors make a significant contribution to preventing fire related deaths and property damage when installed, maintained and used properly.