What is a Fire-Rated Access Door?

In general terms, an access panel provides a convenient and direct entry point to access components concealed behind walls and ceilings. They make it easier to inspect, maintain, and repair these components, making them a critical part of every commercial building.

The term "fire-rated" means that an access door comes with a fire-resistance rating as part of a passive fire prevention system to mitigate or control the spread of fire and smoke between individual compartments in a building.  Ideally, an access panel must support an existing fire-rated wall or ceiling; that is why it's vital to consider the material of the installation surface before deciding on which unit to purchase.

One thing to remember about fire-rated access panels is that although they help contain fire and smoke, they do not entirely prevent both from spreading. Instead, the rated doors will withstand fire for a specific period depending on their fire rating certification. In addition, they do not extinguish fires, unlike water sprinklers.

Why Do Fire Ratings Matter?

Whether it's for new installation or replacement, most localities mandate the use of fire-rated access doors to serve as additional components of the building's existing fire protection system. We have established earlier that these fire-rated access doors reduce the spread of fire and smoke to allow people to get to safety when necessary.

However, their resilience against immense heat only lasts for a specified time, depending on their fire rating. So, what exactly are fire ratings, and how are they relevant to the safety of commercial buildings?

All fire-rated access doors must observe the proper commercial door hardware requirements to qualify for the appropriate rating. The NFPA 80 2022 revision specifically lays out the necessary procedures to ensure safety. Some of the most relevant regulations include:

  • Fire-rated access doors must be able to self-close and self-latch.

  • A person who enters a concealed space through a self-closing fire-rated access door must operate from inside without using the key or other tools.

  • Install the fire-rated access panel according to their listing.

  • A horizontal fire-rated access door used in fire-rated floors or ceilings must be tested in the same position under the methods indicated in ASTM E119 or UL 263.

  • The fire-rated access door installed on fire-rated floors or ceilings must be tested and listed as an assembly component.

  • Vertical fire-rated access panels need to have a fire rating of ¾ hour, 1 hour, or 1 ½ hour.

  • The institution's standards are set in place to regulate the installation and maintenance of fire-rated access doors used to protect the wall, floor, and ceiling openings from the spread of fire and smoke.

Access door manufacturers develop fire-rated access panels to resist high temperatures for a specific amount of time until they succumb to the blazing fire. The fire rating varies depending on the components used for the door assembly tested together to achieve the designated rating.

How Do I Choose the Right Fire-Rated Access Door?

Ensuring the safety of your occupants in your commercial building and protecting your livelihood from fire is a serious matter. Carefully review a product's specifications before purchasing, especially when choosing a fire-rated access door. Always check your local building codes and make sure the fire-rated access door you choose meets current safety codes to allow you to pass safety inspections and ensure your investment is not wasted.

Here at Best Access Doors, we understand the significance of fire-rated panels and their role in fire and smoke prevention. Carefully consider your requirements before making a purchase!