Sizing Up Fire Doors and Rated Hardware

It's the responsibility of locksmiths to understand all components of steel fire doors. All hardware mounted to fire doors must be properly rated.


When locksmiths are involved with new construction, door and locking hardware is specified by knowledgeable sources such as: architects, architectural hardware consults, or other agents of the architect. Most of the time, the proper hardware has been specified for the fire rated openings.

It's the responsibility of locksmiths to understand all components of steel fire doors. All hardware mounted to fire doors must be properly rated.

When in doubt, the locksmith should always consult available resources from the Steel Door Institute, the door manufacturer and the local authority having jurisdiction (LAHJ). Never degrade fire protection integrity.

The majority of retrofit and installation requests do not involve new construction; and usually are ordered by customers responding to LAHJ inspections or other complaints.

While the customer is always king, it is important to note that in these instances, the customer may not always be right. Customers are not knowledgeable sources, especially in regards to fire rated openings and the fire door hardware callouts, which can often misinterpret the LAHJ requests.

Regarding orders motivated by non-inspection complaints, the customer may be reacting from outside sources, remarks by employees, associates, and/or patrons.

For instance, a complaint to a facility manager might be that doors are being opened too quickly and persons are being hurt by flying doors. A suggestion is made to install window lites and the locksmith is called out to do so.

This is when it is extremely important that the locksmith has a full understanding of the proper hardware that can be mounted onto doors and frames in fire rated openings.

It is tough when the locksmith has to say no to the customer when requests are in conflict with code. The alternative requires the locksmith to accept liability if cited or if catastrophe occurs.

In the case of window lites, there may be alternatives such as wire and glass lite assemblies, smaller and less aesthetic than the customer requests but accommodate the code(s).

Fire Rated Doors

Besides serving as regular doors, fire rated doors must also provide egress during the fire, keep the fire from spreading, and protect people and property. Fire rated doors are available in a variety of materials including wood and metal. Metal fire rated doors can have a much higher fire rating than a wood door.

The fire protection rating of fire rated doors is for the most part relative to the rating of the wall onto which it is mounted. In most case the doors will be 75 percent of the fire protection of the wall.

The hardware mounted to these types of doors must be equally (or better) rated. For this reason locksmiths must know how to recognize a fire rated opening and the rating of the door in order to provide proper hardware with similar ratings.

Fire Door Labels

Every fire-rated door leaves the factory with a fire label securely attached to the door. The fire rated door label must indicate the time (hours or minutes) rating and either: the latch throw for single-point locks; or a notation: "Fire door to be equipped with fire hardware". Labels may indicate the temperature rise.

Fire door labels are made from metal or mylar. The fire protection rating of the door is imprinted on the door label along with a serialized number. The fire protection rating is specified in time (hours or minutes) and may be followed by an industry standard letter classification.

Door labels are not to be removed or painted over. Only a factory or UL representative may remove or apply a door label. However, remember that painters do not know this regulation.

The door label shown in Figure 1 also includes a specification relating to the minimum latch throw that is needed to match the fire protection of the door.

The label is the only means to validate the rating of the door. When missing or obscured, the rating may not be able to be validated.

Frames may be affixed with a frame fire label.

Frames may be separately purchased from doors but must be rated to the level of the door or wall.

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