To keep the door in a closed position during a fire, most fire doors are required to positively latch by means of an active latch bolt. If panic hardware is installed on a fire door, it must be fire exit hardware which is listed for both panic and fire protection. It’s fairly common to see existing fire doors which have had the latching hardware removed. This hardware must be replaced. Most egress doors are required to unlatch with one operation, so the installation of additional locking devices on egress doors can be a problem. Many codes exempt residential dwelling unit entry doors from the single-operation requirement. If latching hardware needs to be replaced, upgrading existing knobs to levers is recommended and may be required.
Another common problem with fire door assemblies is incorrect clearance around the perimeter of the door. The maximum clearance allowed for wood doors is 1/8” at the head, jambs, and meeting stiles of pairs, with a maximum of 3/16” for hollow metal doors and a maximum of ¾” between the bottom of the door and the top of the flooring or threshold. A perimeter clearance problem may potentially be solved by shimming the hinges with steel shims, and there are currently products under development to address the clearance issue as well.
Are any fasteners missing from the hardware, or have original fasteners been replaced with an incorrect type? Listing procedures typically require hardware to be installed with the fasteners furnished by the hardware manufacturer. Using different fasteners may void the listing.
When hardware is replaced, holes are often left in the door or frame from the mounting screws for the original hardware. These holes must be filled with steel fasteners, or with the same material as the door or frame. Any products used to fill holes must be listed for that use, and few products have been tested on fire door assemblies. Most traditional fillers are not listed for this use.
For many years, codes have required glass used in doors and sidelites to be impact-resistant, but there was an exception for fire doors because of the lack of glass products which met both the fire resistance and impact resistance requirements. Many existing fire doors are equipped with traditional wire glass, which does not meet the current code requirements for impact resistance. There are now many glass products, including new wire glass which does meet the impact requirements, and most codes now require impact-resistant glass to be used in fire doors as well as non-rated doors. This glass will bear a small label or etching which includes codes indicating the properties of the glass. Given the dangers associated with traditional wire glass in doors, replacement of this glass in existing doors in hazardous locations is recommended but may not be required. Under current codes, impact-resistant glass is required, even in fire doors.
NFPA 80 limits field modifications on fire doors to holes for surface-applied hardware, function holes for mortise locks, and holes for labeled viewers, with a maximum hole size of 1” diameter. The standard also allows field preparation for protection plates, and wood and composite door undercutting - a maximum of ¾”. Other field modifications must be approved by the listing agency, which usually involves the door or frame manufacturer as well.
Remember, code-compliance is not dependent on whether the AHJ is enforcing the annual inspection of fire doors and egress doors. These doors are required to be code-compliant today. Read more information about many of these topics on www.iDigHardware.com.