How to Capitalize on Fire Door Inspections

Oct. 2, 2020
With the right training, locksmiths can add fire-door inspections to their service menu.

The most frightening experience that anyone can have during a raging fire is to become trapped in its path. As you might know, a fire wall is only as protective of its occupants as the doors and windows within it. If set up properly, not only is a fire wall capable of withstanding the rigors of a fire, but it also will protect the occupants from the deadly toxic smoke that’s common.

As a locksmith, because of the nature of what we do, it’s almost a given that we know and understand as much as possible about fire-door assemblies, so we can install fire-rated locks, hinges and other devices.

With all this in mind, a recent trend involves the acquisition of fire-door certification. The question bears asking: Is there such a thing as fire-door inspection certification? The short answer is yes. But how necessary is it, and will those involved in fire compliance, such as local fire inspectors, state fire marshals and municipal building inspectors, accept it?

In this Locksmith Ledger story, we’ll talk about the pros and cons of becoming a fire-door inspector, how you go about doing it and what issues are involved in meeting fire code when you install, inspect, test and maintain fire doors for clients.

Getting Started

First, as a locksmith, why should you get involved in fire-door inspections at all? The short answer is “money,” but there’s more. The longer and more meaningful responses:

  • Code-compliant fire doors save lives.
  • Fire code requires that all fire doors meet code throughout their effective lives, not just when they’re installed.

When a facility or fire door is new, it’s likely that all the T’s have been crossed and the I’s all dotted where it comes to fire barriers and fire-door assemblies. This is because of the rigorous approval process associated with new construction. Architects commonly solicit the help of professional tradesmen, who, in turn, assist in the design and engineering work. 

“When a building is new, in order to get a certificate of occupancy, a fire inspector inspects the building to make sure it’s compliant with all the codes,” says Matt Welty, general manager of Codelocks. “One of those codes obviously has to do with openings [in fire barriers]. They’re checking the labels on the frame and on the door.”

Architectural blueprints are printed in a set quantity, in addition to a book of specifications. Together, these submittals are given to a plans examiner, who pours over them with a fine-tooth comb. If everyone has done their homework properly, a construction permit is issued on the job. But what about years later, down the road? Welty says an inspector will check for an Underwriters Laboratory (UL) rating on the hardware attached to the door assembly. This includes the hinges, locks, door closers and operators, among other items. All this occurs when the building is new.

“Because members of the door and hardware industry are aware of what products are and are not fire-rated, these products will likely pass an AHJ’s [authority having jurisdiction] inspection simply because the building is new,” Welty says. “What’s happened over the last several years is that people began to realize that once a building is completed, there’s a lot of things that can happen with these openings. Locksmiths can come along and install different kinds of hardware on request. The owners might make alterations as well. Things can happen to these openings that can void the fire rating.”

So, Who’s Qualified?

Questions abound: Does it take a college degree to inspect fire doors? Not necessarily, although having the right one(s) can be helpful. Is there such a thing as “Fire Door Inspection Certification?” If so, do fire-door manufacturers offer such certificates? What about the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)?

Perhaps one of the surprising things about the task of inspecting fire doors is that fire code says anyone can do it, as long as they’re “qualified.”

“The [fire door] standard, NFPA 80, does not mandate that the person performing the inspection be certified,” says Kristin Bigda, a professional engineer with NFPA. NFPA 80, Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives, 2019 Edition, defines a “qualified” person. That’s “a person who, by possession of a recognized degree, certificate, professional standing or skill, and who, by knowledge, training and experience, has demonstrated the ability to deal with the subject matter, the work or the project.”

According to Bigda, “There are organizations out there that offer programs they call ‘certification.’ NFPA does not have one at this time, but we will have some training programs in the future.”

Having the backing that certification brings can be helpful to your sales and marketing goals. There are two organizations that we can point to that will train and certify you as an inspector:

  1. Door and Hardware Institute (DHI) (
  2. Door Safety (

Keep your eye out for NFPA as well, because it intends to offer training in this area eventually. To view NFPA standards and codes, members can go to and click the tab Codes & Standards. If you aren’t a member, you can register. (Registration and the standards and codes are free.) To sign in or register, go to

What’s to Know?

When it comes to fire-door inspections, the task begins with an understanding of which doors have to be inspected and which ones don’t. We find that information in fire codes and standards, such as NFPA 101, 105 and 80, to name only three. In Section, NFPA 101, 2018 edition, entitled Fire Doors, we’re instructed to install, inspect, test and maintain these doors according to the standards of NFPA 80. 

After a third-party testing organization, such as UL, has conducted rigorous testing of an item associated with fire doors and barriers, a listing is created that shows that the products meet the highest standards of UL, NFPA and other related organizations.

Through the testing process, a label is created and applied to each item, so everyone concerned knows that it meets or exceeds the specifications set forth. Every fire door must bear a label that defines its level of resistance to heat.

Fire barriers, for example, commonly have a fire rating of either 3 hours, 2 hours, 1 hour or one-half of an hour. In the case of fire doors, it’s necessary to consult Table, Minimum Fire Ratings for Opening Protectives in Fire Resistance-Rated Assemblies and Fire-Rated Glazing Markings, found in NFPA 101, 2018 edition.

In most cases, outside doors aren’t fire-rated. Instead, it typically is those that are placed as fire barriers inside buildings, for example stairwell and corridor doors designed to stop the spread of the fire.

Other Elements to Consider

While you inspect fire doors to assure their level of compliance, it also is necessary to inspect them for other issues. Within Section, entitled “Inspection of Door Openings,” NFPA 101, it names the following instances that must be examined as well:

  • Where the leaves of a door are equipped with panic or fire exit hardware.
  • Exit enclosures that have door assemblies in them.
  • Door hardware release of electrically locked egress door assemblies.
  • Door assemblies that have special locking arrangements.

Door type 1 must be in accordance with Section, Panic Hardware and Fire Exit Hardware, and door type 4, Section 7.2.16, Special Locking Arrangements. Code requires that all fire doors are inspected for a variety of conditions at least annually.

In closing, the task of inspecting fire doors can be a rewarding one financially. One reason for this is that not many tradesmen know about it. Now, you do. Whether it’s you or someone else, someone's going to take advantage of the opportunity. Why not you?

Allan B. Colombo is a longtime trade journalist and professional in the security and life-safety markets. Contact him at [email protected], 330-956-9003 or