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What is a Fire Resistant Door?

By B. Turner
Updated: May 17, 2024

A fire resistant door is specially constructed to slow or prevent the spread of fire and smoke. These doors are not designed to be completely fireproof, and are actually made of combustible materials. Though they will eventually burn in a fire, they will resistant high levels of heat and flames to slow the fire for a specified period of time. By keeping the fire contained, fire doors may allow more occupants to safely exit the building during an emergency. They may also help to protect property and assets while firefighters work to put out the flames.

To help ensure that these doors will function as intended, fire doors are closely regulated by independent governing bodies. In the United States, these doors must be constructed, tested, and installed according to standards created by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Similar standards are set by the British Woodworking Federation in the UK, and by other governing bodies throughout the world. At the local level, a fire resistant door may also be subject to inspection and approval by the authority in that jurisdiction, often the fire marshal or building inspector.

These doors are installed in fire resistant walls. The wall must first be rated according to the amount of time it is designed to prevent the spread of a fire. For example, a two-hour wall will contain flames and smoke while resisting combustion for two full hours. A door must have a fire rating equal to three-fourths of the wall rating. For example, a fire resistant door installed in a two-hour wall will have a rating of 90 minutes.

Fire doors are typically only installed within interior openings in a building. They are used in exterior walls only when the building is located very close to another structure, or close to the property line or roadway. A fire resistant door is useless unless it is installed in a fire rated opening. If the wall is not designed to resist fire, the door will quickly fail.

Doors used in fire rated walls can be constructed from wood, aluminum or steel. They will usually have a fire resistant core made from gypsum or a similar mineral-based product. All fire resistant doors must be equipped with a label or marking system indicating the rating of the door. In the US, this label may be mechanically fastened or embossed on the door. While the UK and Europe also use labels, you are more likely to find colored pins embedded into the edge of the door to indicate the fire rating.

The frame and hardware used with a fire resistant door must also be tested and labeled for use in a fire. Most modern fire door codes also require the use of intumescent seals. These seals will automatically expand when exposed to high temperatures to help seal the space around the door. The doors must also be self-closing and self-latching, and can not be held open by any mechanical door stops or other devices.

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Discussion Comments
By mobilian33 — On Jun 14, 2014

A good entry door can protect you against fire and break-ins. Most doors can be forced open relatively easily by a thief who really wants to get in. If you install a steel entry door and reinforce the door frame then you can make breaking in more difficult, and steel doors are fire resistant doors, so you're killing two birds with one stone.

By Drentel — On Jun 14, 2014

Like the article says, fire resistant doors when attached to fire resistant walls can delay a fire and give you time to get out of a burning building. This also gives the firemen more time to arrive and put out a fire before it spreads to other buildings.

However, the majority of people who die in fires die because of the smoke and not because of being overtaken by flames. So, smoke detectors are more important than fire resistant doors when it comes to fire safety.

By Animandel — On Jun 13, 2014

Shouldn't all doors be fire resistant? For that matter, wouldn't it be better if all parts of buildings were required to meet a set level of fire resistance. This would give people a better chance of escaping when a fire started. When you are in your home asleep at night, a fire resistant house that could give you an additional 90 minutes or two hours, like mentioned in the article, could make the difference between life and death.

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