Building and Fire Codes are such an important aspect of locksmithing that every locksmith should have a working knowledge of codes that affect your market area. Locksmiths should also have a good understanding of the reference standards that pertain to fire doors and egress doors.
Locksmiths who take the time to study the codes see their business growing in leaps and bounds mainly because knowledge is powerful. When you can explain to your customer why you can’t install a specific lock on a fire labeled door, you will get the sale that is legal and more profitable. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of staying informed and stay up to date on all building and fire codes in your market!
Let’s start off by answering some common questions.
What is a fire door assembly?
A fire door assembly (installed in a fire rated wall) is used as part of a passive fire protection system to reduce the spread of fire or smoke between compartments and to enable safe egress in the event of a fire. To qualify as a fire rated opening, all of the hardware as well as the door, frame, and required smoke gasket must be listed with a testing laboratory for use on a rated fire door assembly.
Fire door assemblies are rated for 180 minutes, 90 minutes, 60 minutes, 45 minutes, and 20 minutes. The fire rating of a fire door assembly is determined by the lowest rated component; for example, a 20 minute rated door mounted in a 180 minute rated frame would be rated as 20 minute.
Temperature rise rated doors are specially designed for stairwells where door assemblies must not only be fire rated, but also limit the transmission of heat, to allow safe passage.
Fire doors must be self-closing and self-latching. In some situations, the local AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) may allow doors to be automatic-closing by means of a magnetic holder or other device that releases and allows the door to close upon activation of the buildings’ fire alarm system.
What is a testing laboratory?
An independent testing laboratory tests fire door assembly components and publishes a listing of products that conform to the published standard. A label or mark is applied to identify products that meet certain test criteria. Two nationally recognized testing laboratories are Underwriters Laboratory (UL) and Warnock Hersey (WH). There are others as well. A local building code official or fire marshal relies on these test standards and listings to assure that fire door assemblies will perform as expected so that public safety is maintained.
How do you identify a fire rated opening?
An architect or structural design engineer will develop a compartmentalization plan to restrict the spread of fire and smoke in the event of a fire as part of the building design and engineering. This is done according to the type of construction and applicable building and fire codes in place at that time in the jurisdiction where the building is located. The best way for locksmiths to identify fire rated openings is to look for fire labels on doors and frames, particularly in these locations:
- Openings in walls that separate buildings or divide a single building into designated fire areas.
- Openings in vertical enclosures such as stairwells.
- Openings that divide occupancies in a building.
- Openings in corridors or room partitions.
- Openings in a wall where there is the potential for fire exposure from the exterior of the building.
- Openings in corridors where smoke and draft control is required, such as hotel or dormitory sleeping rooms.
As mentioned, the easiest way to find the rating is to look for the testing labels on the door, frame and hardware. If there are testing labels on everything, the opening is definitely fire rated.
To find the labels, begin by looking along the hinge stile of the door below the top hinge for metal doors. For wood doors the label is either below the top hinge or sometimes on top of the door.
The frame will have a label either on or embossed into the metal along the hinge stile, below the top hinge.