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What Is A Fire Door: A Complete Guide on Its Purpose & Work

What Is A Fire Door: A Complete Guide on Its Purpose & Work

Fire doors are designed to save lives. They are specifically manufactured to offer protection against raging flames and smoke for as long as possible. These doors help to delay the progress of the fire in a building and allow occupants more time to escape or be rescued.

In other words, fire doors are a vital safety measure that can become the difference between death and life. In this compact guide, we reveal every detail about what a fire door is, its significance, regulations, and more.

Types of Fire Doors

Various types of fire doors are available these days. Their effectiveness depends a lot on one important factor – the material that they are made of. Glass and timber are the two popular materials that are used to manufacture fire doors.

Glass Fire Doors

When it comes to protection against fire, glass can be a highly effective material. We are talking about fire-resistant glass that has passed suitable fire tests and been certified as fire safe. Such glass is classified as an E category and remains transparent on being exposed to heat or fire.

Glass Fire Door

While this category of glass prevents the spread of smoke or fire, it doesn’t help against the transmission of heat. Doors made from such fire-safe glass are categorised as follows:

  • E30 Glass Fire Door

This category of fire-resistant glass door can contain the spread of fire and smoke for 30 minutes and allow occupants of a building half an hour to escape to safety.

E30 Glass Fire Door

  • E60 Glass Fire Door

Glass doors rated as E60 are stronger than E30 in terms of stability and integrity. In the event of a fire, E60 doors can last up to 60 minutes against smoke and flames before giving in to the pressure.

  • E120 Glass Fire Door

Doors made from the E120 category of fire-resistant glass are the highest rated. They can withstand the pressure of smoke and fire for up to 120 minutes.

Timber Fire Doors

Timber doors are also subjected to rigorous fire tests before they are certified to be fit for being used as fire doors in a building. These doors are given an FD rating by the British Woodworking Federation to specify the protection level offered by them.

The doors are given these ratings based on their integrity and stability when exposed to fire and heat. The most common categories of timber fire doors are:

  • FD30 Timber Fire Door

An FD30 rating for timber doors indicates that their stability and integrity will last for 30 minutes in the case of any exposure to fire. Beyond this period, they may start to buckle under the pressure of heat and fire, leading to the formation of cracks or openings.

  • FD60 Timber Fire Door

Timber doors with an FD60 rating for fire resistance can remain effective for 60 minutes against the rage of flames and heat. Once this period comes to a close, they may become increasingly ineffective in containing the fire.

  • FD120 Timber Fire Door

Timber fire doors are also available with higher ratings, such as FD120, that offer protection for 120 minutes. More often than not, doors with such a high level of fire resistance are set up in areas where there is a need to preserve important documents or equipment.

What Is the Purpose of a Fire Door?

In the event of a fire, they contain it in a specific part of the building for as long as possible. As such, people get at least some time to escape through alternate routes, which otherwise may become inaccessible due to the flames.

Apart from providing an escape route during a fire hazard, these doors also aid in minimising the damage caused to the building by flames and heat.

Whether they remain closed or open, fire doors can benefit homeowners.

  • When they are closed, fire doors act as a barrier to prevent the spread of fire.
  • When they are opened, fire doors serve as a means of escape.

It's worth pointing out that a fire-resistant door is a legal requirement for various types of buildings, including commercial properties and residential flats. They are needed to comply with the safety regulations of a building.

Fire Doors Regulations

When it comes to fire doors, the list of regulations is very long. Listing all such regulations is beyond the scope of this guide. However, some of the significant fire door regulations include the following:

    • Every building with a fire door must appoint an individual and entrust the person with the responsibility of assessing the fire doors. It should be this person’s duty to check that the fire doors are in a fully functional state.
    • Every building with a fire door must appoint an individual and entrust the person with the responsibility of assessing the fire doors. It should be this person’s duty to check that the fire doors are in a fully functional state.
    • Regulations related to smoke detection must also be applied to fire doors since they are often integrated.
    • An essential regulation is that fire doors must comply with disability access guidelines.
    • For fire doors to be fitted perfectly, a building must have compliant structures.

How Do Fire Doors Work?

Since fire doors are built to slow down the progress of a fire, they make use of intumescent strips to work effectively. These strips are fitted along the inside of the door frame or around the door.

When the strips get exposed to fire heat, they swell up rapidly and seal the gap that exists between the frame and the door. This restricts fire and smoke from seeping through the gap. Intumescent strips generally can hold back a fire for about 30 minutes to 60 minutes.

Things to Consider Before Buying Fire Door

  • Third-Party Specification

There’s no denying that fire doors have a vital role to play in the passive protection of residential and commercial buildings. That is why they must conform to the standards of BWF-CERTIFIRE as specified by the British Woodworking Federation.

Fire doors also need to align with the CE marking under the EU’s Construction Product Regulations. All components, including fire doors, intumescent seals, locks, and hinges, must be third-party approved to ensure that they are suitable for the purpose.

  • Accessibility

If a heavy fire-resistant door hinders or restricts the access requirements of the people, it will defeat the whole purpose of installing the door. So, it’s important to opt for fire doors that are easy to use.

With an adjustable powered closer, the closing force of the fire door can be attuned to the desired requirements, and the opening force can also be minimised.

  • Standard Internal Fire Doors

For buildings that require basic protection against fire and smoke, standard internal fire doors are an ideal choice. They are meant to contain fire and smoke for a limited period so that the occupants of a building can escape to safety in the case of any fire emergency.

Standard Internal Fire Doors

  • Fire Doors With Noise Reduction

When the need is for fire doors that can prevent noise from spiralling out of a building, it is time to look for doors with acoustic ratings. In simple words, such fire doors serve the purposes of offering protection against not just fire and smoke but noise as well.

  • Architectural Fire Doors

Architectural fire doors enhance the fire safety levels of a building without impacting the way it looks. Such doors come in handy when a building needs to be made fire-resistant without making any changes to the rest of its architectural plans.

Architectural fire doors tend to last a little bit longer against flames as their fire resistance levels can go up to as much as FD240.

  • Secure Fire Doors

Secure fire doors are meant to fulfil the dual purposes of ensuring fire safety as well as security for a building. They are designed to offer protection against opportunist attacks on a premise.

Normally, such fire-rated doors are tested against attacks that involve various kinds of tools, such as a claw hammer, junior hacksaw, hand drill, etc. Therefore, one must opt for certified secure fire doors to ensure maximum protection for the building.

Fire Door Sizes

An important thing to remember while selecting a fire door is that it must fit into the door area of the building. The best idea is to measure the area accurately and then proceed to shop for the fire door.

Generally, fire doors come in various sizes. The standard thicknesses are 44mm and 54mm. If the standard sizes do not match the required measurements, custom-built fire doors are an easy way out.

How to Identify a Fire Door?

It’s essential to know how to identify a fire door as it might come in handy during a fire emergency. There are certain traits or tell-tale signs that can reveal the true nature of even a well-disguised fire door.

When faced with a fire hazard, identifying a fire door means one gets at least 30 minutes to work out an escape plan. Here are six vital things to look for when identifying a fire door:

  • Certification

Most fire doors have certification labels located either at the top or on the side. A phone’s selfie camera can come in handy while checking for such labels. If no labels are found on the door, the next smart thing to do will be to check the door status with the manufacturer of the door.

  • Gaps

Gaps tell a lot about fire doors. Normally, the gaps at the sides and the tops of fire doors are of less than 4mm thickness.

A pound coin can be an easy instrument to check this gap. Since pound coins are roughly 3mm in thickness, they can easily reveal if a door is meant for fire safety or not.

  • Seals

An intumescent seal is an integral component of a fire door. It exists as a thin strip that runs down the middle of the door profile and the frame.

Since it is made of heat-sensitive material, the seal swells on once it comes in contact with heat. As a result, the gap between the door and frame gets sealed, and smoke and flames find no passage to pass over to the other side of the door.

  • Hinges

More often than not, fire doors remain attached to the door frames using at least three hinges. They support the fire door's weight and keep it from buckling too soon. While it may seem that hinges serve the purpose of keeping the door in place, in case of fire doors, they play a bigger role.

If the hinges have missing screws or are broken, they may affect the door's ability to resist fire and jeopardise the safety of inhabitants. That is why the hinges of fire doors always need to be properly maintained.

  • Closure

The closing mechanism is another thing to look out for when identifying a fire door. If a door is opened to almost the halfway position and then allowed to return to its closing position, it should close automatically. Not just that, it must also latch firmly.

Closing as securely to the door frame as possible is a key requirement for fire doors. Such doors do not stick out in any way if in the best working condition, making them easy to identify.

  • Signage

Fire door regulations demand that every such door must have signage attached to it that specifies its purpose. This is to help identify a fire door in case of any emergency.

Although this regulation is not always followed, it is nevertheless a good idea to check for such signage and confirm the true protective nature of the door.


Having a fire door in place can mean peace of mind, but installing one doesn't mean that you can turn your back on safety altogether.

Periodic checks must be carried out to ascertain that the door is in the best functional state. Moreover, regardless of these safety measures, homeowners must plan a fire escape route to quickly find a way out in case of an emergency.


Shabana Kauser is the dynamic owner of Emerald Doors, the famous door-selling company in the UK with immense knowledge and experience in working with architecture, interior design, and home decor. She continues to share tips and technical know-how of balancing interior elements, door fittings, room aesthetics, and the like. Personally, she loves coffee, always dabbling with several blends.