In 2015, there were more than 113,500 fires in non-residential properties amounting to more than $3.1 billion in damage.
Protecting your livelihood from fire is no joke. That's why it's important to understand fire rating as it pertains to access doors and all other passive fire resistance mechanisms.
Whether working on new construction or renovating an older property, it's critical to get access doors with the correct fire rating for code compliance and safety.
In this guide, we'll cover:
- Why fire rated doors are important
- Types of fire access doors you can choose from
- A quick overview of codes and compliance
- Other questions to take into consideration
Let's get to it!
Why Fire Rating Matters
Access doors that are fire rated are built to withstand the heat from a fire for a certain amount of time before failing. That gives time to either control and put out the fire or help people exit the building (in the case of full fire doors).
Access doors need to be fire rated to protect gas lines, electrical wiring, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Anything flammable needs to be taken into consideration.
Different ratings indicate how well a door or assembly is built to withstand fire. This is dependent on factors such as intensity of the fire and how the access door is mounted.
Types of Fire Access Doors
The fire rating for an access door is usually based on time.
Access doors can provide 20 minutes, 45 minutes, or up to 180 minutes of protection.
There are also doors called "temperature rise doors" that try to limit heat transfer from one side of the door to the other. These help to prevent injury and make escape easier in fire situations.
The advent of automated sprinkler systems changed this. These doors are now no longer necessary in commercial installations if the building has a sprinkler system with complete interior floor coverage.
How an access point - door, window, or another opening - is mounted also factors into its fire rating.
For instance, a door that might be good for 60 minutes mounted on flammable wooden studs could be good for three hours on a non-flammable enclosure.
The latter takes more time and a little more financial investment but provides better safety and security in case of a severe fire event.
Latching Mechanisms for Fire Rated Access Doors
Fire rated access doors and other assemblies are also required to have an active latch bolt that can withstand the pressure that a fire can cause.
Pressure discrepancies can force non-latched doors open, allowing the fire to spread.
Access doors can also have either automatic or manual latching mechanisms.
Which doors are best for a particular use depends on a business's needs and where the access doors are going to be installed. For this reason, some businesses choose a mix of doors with automatic and manual latches.
NFPA Codes & What They Mean for Your Business
Before choosing an access door, it's good to check what specific building code requirements the project is obligated to meet.
Most code standards you'll have to adhere to are published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). There are hundreds of codes published by NFPA, but the following three are likely to be most relevant to finding the right fire rating for your access door:
NFPA 80 - Standard for Fire Doors & Other Opening Protectives
This is where you'll find most of the information about standards for access doors. It also covers exit doors, fire exit windows, and other points of exit.
Some things NFPA 80 specifies are standards for functional testing and inspection of fire doors and windows. Some minimum standards include:
- No open holes or breaks
- Door and hardware must be secure and aligned in working order
- No broken or missing parts or hardware
- Latching mechanisms must be in working order
- Nothing should inhibit operation of the installed door
NFPA 105 - Standard for Smoke Door Assemblies and Other Opening Protectives
Smoke doors differ from fire doors in that their primary job is to prevent or inhibit the spread of smoke throughout a building.
However, since many fire doors - access and otherwise - are also rated to stop smoke, this NFPA standard is still relevant.
In fact, the reason the standard exists is that fire doors used to be inadequate at stopping smoke, which is just as important as protecting against fire.
Fire doors that are also smoke doors must comply with NFPA 80 and 105 simultaneously.
NFPA 252 - Standard Methods of Fire Tests of Door Assemblies
NFPA 252 helps manufacturers and labs determine how much protection fire doors and assemblies provide. They can also help end-users better understand what a specific fire rating means.
NFPA 252 compliance is a good sign that the fire door is up to snuff.
Got questions about the ratings of your pre-existing panels and assemblies? Just check the label.
Fire access doors can also help with a business's progress toward LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.
Besides being a feather in a business's cap, getting a building LEED certified can help with tax breaks and other benefits.
LEED awards points for "new renovations and major construction." So an Upward Opening Ceiling Fire Rated Door, for instance, would qualify.
LEED Canada also awards points in the following categories.
Maintaining Fire Access Door Systems
Since 2007, NFPA 80 has required annual inspections of fire door assemblies and components by certified experts.
Don't think of that as a burden, but rather a protection of your investment and a check on the long-term quality of your fire doors and assemblies.
If nothing else, it keeps manufacturers honest!
Questions to Consider When Choosing an Access Door
Choosing the right access door - fire rating and all - can be overwhelming. Here's a quick checklist of questions to consider when trying to find the right fit.
- Does the access door need to be ceiling mounted, floor mounted, or wall mounted?
- If it's wall-mounted, does the installation need to be done in a recessed wall?
- Is the mounting area drywall or plaster?
- Is the opening oversized or undersized?
- Which types of security considerations does the door require?
- Does this access door protect a grease duct?
- Does the access door lead to a laundry or garbage chute?
- Does the door need to be stainless steel or another material?
Answering these questions will help you make the right inventory order the first time out and save both money and stress.
Get Fire Rated Access Doors
No one chooses to have their business face a fire event.
But in the worst case scenario, the difference between having the right access doors and panels and not can make a big difference in damages. That's why choosing the right access door requires consideration and deliberation.
Hopefully, this guide has helped make that decision a little easier.
Ready to make your home or business safer from fire-related damage and injury? Check out our comprehensive line of fire rated access doors today.
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