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Common Issues Found During Fire Door Inspections

Fire doors are a crucial line of defence in protecting lives and property during a fire. Yet, during our inspections across London at Metro PAT, we frequently encounter various issues that can compromise the effectiveness of these critical safety features. Understanding these common deficiencies is key to maintaining the integrity of your building's fire protection measures. Let's delve into these issues and provide guidance on how to address them.


FIRE DOOR SAFETY COMMON ISSUES FOUND

Misaligned Doors


Misaligned doors, particularly fire doors, pose a significant risk in the context of UK fire safety regulations. Fire doors serve as a critical element in the design of a building's fire protection strategy. They are engineered to withstand fire for a specified period, thereby containing the spread of fire and smoke between different sections of a building, which is essential for the safety of occupants and for allowing safe egress.


The integrity and functionality of fire doors can be compromised by misalignment, which may result from various factors:


  • Building Movement: Structures can settle or shift over time due to thermal expansion and contraction, moisture changes in the building materials, or other environmental influences. This can lead to skewed frames, or door leaves no longer fitting the frame correctly.

  • Usage: Frequent use or abuse (e.g., slamming or propping open doors) can cause hinges to become loose or damaged, leading to doors hanging incorrectly.

  • Improper Installation: If the door has not been installed according to the manufacturer’s specifications or without due care, it may not function as intended.

When a fire door is misaligned, the following issues can arise:


  • Gaps: The required gap between the door leaf and frame should ideally be between 2mm and 4mm, according to BS 8214. Misalignment can cause gaps to exceed this, compromising the door’s ability to block smoke and flames.

  • Seals: Intumescent and smoke seals installed on fire doors expand when exposed to heat to seal gaps and prevent the passage of fire and smoke. A misaligned door may prevent these seals from contacting the door frame or floor, rendering them ineffective.

  • Latching: Doors that do not align properly may fail to latch closed, essential for the door to perform in a fire situation.


To maintain compliance with UK fire safety regulations, such as those outlined in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and Building Regulations Part B, it is imperative that fire doors are regularly inspected and maintained. Any misalignment should be corrected promptly by adjusting hinges, replacing damaged hardware, or realigning the door frame. This ensures that in the event of a fire, the door will perform its critical function of compartmentalizing the building and protecting escape routes.


Damaged or Missing Intumescent Seals


Intumescent seals are a key component in the fire resistance capabilities of fire doors. These seals are designed to react to heat by expanding significantly, effectively sealing gaps between the door and its frame or between the door leaf and the floor. This expansion helps prevent the spread of smoke and flames, maintaining the compartmentalization within a building's fire safety design.


Common issues with intumescent seals include:


  • Damage: Seals can become torn, cut, or otherwise physically damaged through general wear and tear or by being caught when the door is in use. Damaged seals may not expand as required, reducing their effectiveness in a fire.

  • Painting Over: During building maintenance, it's not uncommon for intumescent seals to be inadvertently painted over. Layers of paint can restrict the seal's ability to expand and cause the seal to adhere to the frame, potentially preventing the door from closing properly.

  • Missing Seals: Seals can become detached and lost over time, especially if they were not properly installed or if adhesive fails. Without these seals, the fire door cannot perform its function of sealing against smoke and flames.

Remediation steps should include:


  • Inspection and Replacement: Regular inspections should be conducted as part of a fire safety maintenance routine. Any damaged or missing intumescent seals should be replaced immediately with products matching the door's fire rating.

  • Cleaning: Seals should be kept clean and free from paint. If seals have been painted over, they may need to be replaced, as removing paint without damaging the seal can be challenging.

  • Proper Installation: When replacing seals, it’s important to ensure that they are installed correctly, according to the manufacturer's instructions. This often involves fitting them into a groove within the door or frame to be flush and secure.

  • Maintenance Guidance: Education on the importance of these seals should be provided to maintenance staff. Hence, they understand not to paint over or tamper with them during routine operations or redecorations.

It is critical for compliance with UK fire safety regulations that all remedial work on intumescent seals is carried out competently. This might involve hiring a professional with knowledge of fire doors and their components to ensure that remediation is effective and maintains the integrity of the fire safety strategy within the building.


Faulty Door Closers


A door closer is a mechanical device affixed to a fire door that ensures the door closes automatically after being opened. This function is critical for fire safety, as an open fire door will not prevent the spread of smoke and fire. The door must close firmly into the frame, ensuring that the intumescent seals can engage properly to prevent fire and smoke penetration.


Issues that can affect door closer performance include:


  • Weak Tension: Over time or due to incorrect adjustment, the tension in a door closer can become too weak to close the door fully against the latch or seals.

  • Misalignment: If a door has become misaligned, the closer may not have sufficient force to pull it shut, or the door may stick on the frame or floor.

  • Wear and Tear: With age and use, the internal components of a door closer can wear down, making it less effective or entirely non-functional.

  • External Damage: Closers can be damaged by impact or vandalism, which may impair their functionality.


Remediation steps should include:


  • Adjustment: Most door closers have adjustable swing speed and latching speed controls. Adjust these settings to ensure the door closes at a controlled rate and firmly latches without slamming.

  • Regular Maintenance: Maintenance checks should include inspecting the arm attachment, fasteners, and pivot points for signs of wear or damage. Any loose components should be tightened, and moving parts lubricated where necessary.

  • Professional Repair: If a closer is not functioning correctly and cannot be adjusted, it may need repair. Often, this involves replacing worn internal components like O-rings or hydraulic fluid.

  • Replacement: If a door closer is damaged beyond repair or has reached the end of its serviceable life, it should be replaced with a new unit that matches the specifications required for the door's fire rating and weight.

Choosing the correct door type closer is important for the particular fire door it is intended for. Door size, weight, and usage level will dictate closer strength and features. Any work on a fire door's closing mechanism must follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure compliance with relevant UK fire safety standards and regulations. Only qualified individuals should perform adjustments, repairs, or replacements to ensure that the door closer operates reliably in case of a fire.


Worn Hinges


Hinges are critical components of a fire door assembly, as they bear the full weight of the door and ensure it swings smoothly and closes correctly. The functionality of a fire door can be severely compromised if the hinges are loose, worn, or not specified to carry the weight and usage level of the door.


Problems associated with door hinges include:


  • Loose Hinges: The screws holding the hinges to the door or frame can become loose over time due to the weight of the door and frequent use. This can cause the door to hang incorrectly and prevent it from closing correctly.

  • Wear and Tear: Metal fatigue, rust, or accumulated dirt can deteriorate the hinge. Worn hinges may not allow the door to close fully or align correctly with the frame and latching mechanism.

  • Under-Specification: If hinges are not fit for purpose, meaning they are not rated for the weight or usage frequency of the door, they will likely fail to operate as intended. Fire doors are heavier than standard doors and require hinges to support their additional weight.


Remediation steps for hinge-related issues should include:


  • Tightening Screws: Regular maintenance should involve checking and tightening hinge screws. If screws no longer grip because the wood has been stripped, it may be necessary to replace them with larger ones or to repair the wood.

  • Assessing Wear: Hinges should be inspected for signs of wear, such as metal filings, discolouration, or abnormal movement. Worn hinges should be replaced immediately with like-for-like items with an equivalent fire rating and performance.

  • Upgrading Hinges: If hinges are under-specified for the door, they should be replaced with appropriate fire-rated hinges certified for use with fire doors and can support the door's weight and usage level.

  • Lubrication: Regular lubrication of hinge pins can prevent squeaking and stiffness, ensuring the door swings freely and closes without obstruction.

  • Professional Evaluation: If hinge issues are persistent or complex, it may be necessary to seek a professional assessment from a certified fire door inspector or a qualified carpenter. They can determine whether additional repairs or adjustments are needed to maintain compliance with fire safety regulations.


It is crucial that any replacement hinges match or exceed the certification and performance level of those originally specified for the fire door. All remediation work on hinges must comply with UK fire safety regulations to ensure that doors function as intended to protect life and property during a fire.


Gaps around the Doors


The effectiveness of a fire door depends heavily on the integrity of the seal around the door when it is closed. The gaps between the door and the frame on the top and sides are critical points where fire and smoke could pass through if not correctly sealed. British Standards (such as BS 8214) and guidance documents for fire door installations typically specify that these gaps should be consistently less than 3mm wide.


Issues that can arise from incorrect gap sizes include:


  • Increased Fire and Smoke Spread: Gaps larger than 3mm may allow more smoke and fire to pass through faster, reducing the time available for occupants to evacuate safely and for firefighters to control the fire.

  • Reduced Performance of Seals: Intumescent strips embedded in the door or frame require close contact with the door to function correctly. Larger gaps may prevent these seals from expanding to fill the space effectively in the event of a fire.

  • Compromised Structural Integrity: The door is designed to fit within its frame to maintain its structural integrity during a fire. Gaps that are too large can affect the door’s ability to remain in place during the high-pressure conditions of a fire.


To remedy issues with excessive gaps, the following actions should be considered:


  • Adjustment of Door Fit: If possible, adjust hinges and realign the door within its frame to achieve the correct gap specification. This might involve shimming or repositioning hinges.

  • Rebating or Replacing Seals: If gaps are slightly larger than 3mm, it might be possible to fit larger intumescent strips or smoke seals that can accommodate the increased gap while still providing an effective seal when activated.

  • Door or Frame Repairs: In some cases, the door or frame may be warped, damaged, or incorrectly installed, resulting in gaps that are too large. Repairs may involve planning the door, repositioning the frame, or installing new components.

  • Replacement: If a door cannot be adjusted or repaired to achieve a gap of less than 3mm, it may need to be replaced entirely to ensure compliance with fire safety standards.


It is important that any adjustments made to address gap sizes do not impact the door's ability to close fully and latch correctly. All remediation work should preserve or enhance the door’s fire-resistance capabilities and be carried out by individuals competent in fire door installation and maintenance. Ensuring these standards are met is essential for maintaining the safety of building occupants and the legal compliance of the building owner or responsible person under UK fire safety regulations.


Obstructed or Propped Open Fire Doors


Fire doors are an integral part of a building's passive fire protection system, designed to compartmentalize a building and delay the spread of fire and smoke. For these doors to perform effectively, they must remain closed when not in use. However, it is common to find fire doors propped open or obstructed, directly compromising their intended function.


The implications of propped or obstructed fire doors include:


  • Immediate Risk of Fire Spread: In the event of a fire, a propped open door will allow smoke and flames to travel quickly through the building, reducing the time available for evacuation and potentially causing more damage.

  • Invalidated Fire Safety Strategy: The overall fire safety strategy for a building is predicated on the assumption that fire doors will be closed during a fire. Propping doors open nullifies this strategy and can have legal implications for the building's management.

  • Reduced Effectiveness of Fire Alarms and Sprinklers: Open fire doors can lead to a more rapid spread of fire and smoke, potentially overwhelming fire detection and suppression systems before they can be effective.


To address this issue, the following remediation actions can be taken:


  • Installing Automatic Closers: Fire doors should be fitted with automatic door closers to ensure the door closes after opening.

  • Education and Signage: Building occupants should know the importance of closing fire doors. Clear signage should be placed on or near fire doors, reminding people not to prop them open.

  • Regular Inspections: Fire doors should be inspected to ensure they are free from obstruction and that automatic closers are functioning correctly.

  • Hold-Open Devices: In some cases, it may be necessary for a fire door to stay open for ventilation or access reasons. Only approved hold-open devices connected to the fire alarm system should be used; these devices will automatically release the door to close upon activation of the fire alarm.

  • Penalties for Non-Compliance: Building managers should enforce penalties for propping open fire doors to deter this behaviour. This can include disciplinary action for staff in workplace environments.

  • Access Solutions: Sometimes doors are propped open because there's a high traffic flow through an area. In such cases, alternative solutions like magnetic hold-open devices connected to the building’s fire alarm system or retrofitting doors with automatic openers may be necessary.


Ensuring that fire doors remain closed when not in use is a legal requirement under UK fire safety regulations, and failure to comply can lead to severe penalties, including prosecution. Regular checks and maintenance, along with proper training and awareness programs, are essential for ensuring that fire doors are kept clear and closed to maintain the safety of everyone in the building.


Lack of Fire Door Maintenance Records


Proper maintenance records for fire doors are as crucial as the physical integrity of the doors themselves. These records provide a documented history of inspections, repairs, and maintenance activities, ensuring accountability and traceability in building fire safety management.


The absence of comprehensive maintenance records can lead to several issues:


  • Non-Compliance: Without records, it is difficult to prove that the required regular maintenance and checks have been carried out, potentially resulting in non-compliance with fire safety regulations such as the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

  • Ineffective Maintenance Scheduling: Records are essential for tracking when maintenance is due. Without them, maintenance can be overlooked or performed irregularly, leading to deterioration in fire door performance.

  • Liability Issues: In the event of a fire, a lack of maintenance records can make it challenging to demonstrate that all necessary precautions were taken to ensure the effectiveness of fire doors, which could lead to liability for the responsible parties.

  • Inadequate Risk Assessment: Maintenance records help identify recurring issues or trends that could indicate underlying problems with the fire doors. Without this data, risk assessments may not accurately reflect the current condition of fire safety measures.


To address the issue of inadequate record-keeping, the following actions should be implemented:


  • Establish a Record-Keeping System: Implement a system for recording all fire door inspections, tests, maintenance, and repairs. This could be a digital database or a physical logbook.

  • Regular Updates: Ensure that records are updated promptly after any work is carried out. Information should include dates, details of any issues found, actions taken, and the names of individuals or companies performing the work.

  • Retain Documentation: Keep all receipts, reports, and certifications provided by contractors or inspectors as part of the maintenance records.

  • Accessibility: Keep records accessible for review by fire safety inspectors or during audits. They should be stored securely to prevent damage or loss.

  • Training Staff: Relevant staff should be trained in record-keeping responsibilities and understand the importance of these records for compliance and safety.

  • Review and Audit: Review the records to ensure they are complete and accurate. Regular audits can help identify gaps in record-keeping and maintenance practices.


Maintaining accurate and detailed records is a regulatory requirement and a best practice for ensuring fire doors can provide the intended level of protection. These records indicate that due diligence has been exercised in maintaining a safe environment for occupants and can be critical during insurance assessments and post-incident investigations.


Incompatible Glass Panels


The glass in fire doors plays a crucial role in maintaining the integrity of the door's fire resistance while allowing for visibility and light transfer. To preserve the door's protective capabilities, the glass must be fire-resistant, meaning it can withstand exposure to the high temperatures of a fire without losing its structural integrity or allowing flames and smoke to pass through for a specified period.


Issues with glass in fire doors include:


  • Non-Fire-Rated Glass: Regular glass will not withstand high temperatures and break quickly in a fire, compromising the barrier a fire door provides. All glass used in fire doors must be fire-rated and certified to resist fire for as long as the door rating requires (e.g., 30, 60, 90 minutes).

  • Improper Fitting: Even if the correct type of fire-resistant glass is used, it must be fitted properly within the door. Incorrect fitting can lead to gaps or weaknesses that allow smoke or flames to bypass the glass.

  • Damaged Seals and Beading: The glass is held in place by intumescent seals and beading that must also be fire-rated. If these components are damaged or incorrectly installed, they can fail to expand and secure the glass in place during a fire.


To ensure that fire-resistant glass panels are effective, it's necessary to take the following remedial steps:


  • Verification: Check that any glass installed in fire doors is appropriately rated for fire resistance. This can typically be confirmed by looking for markings or etchings on the glass that indicate its rating and compliance with relevant standards.

  • Professional Installation: Ensure that any glass panels are fitted by professionals who specialize in fire-rated materials. The installation process should comply with the manufacturer’s specifications and relevant building regulations.

  • Appropriate Materials: Verify that all materials used to hold the glass in place, such as beads, seals, and glazing compounds, are suitable for use in fire doors and are installed according to their fire-rating specifications.

  • Regular Inspections: Include the condition of glass panels and their fittings as part of regular fire door inspections. Check for cracks, damage, or signs of tampering that could affect performance.

  • Replacement or Repair: If any issues are found with the glass or its installation, arrange for immediate repair or replacement with the correct type of fire-resistant glass and associated materials.


By ensuring that all glass panels within fire doors are appropriately rated and fitted, building managers can maintain the doors' effectiveness in preventing the spread of fire and smoke, thereby upholding safety standards and regulatory compliance within their premises.


Incorrect Signage


Fire doors are a key component in ensuring the safety of buildings and their occupants by preventing the spread of fire and smoke. To ensure that they are used correctly, it is essential that fire doors are marked with signs that indicate their purpose. This signage helps occupants understand the importance of the door and the need to keep it closed.


The consequences of missing or incorrect signage on fire doors include:


  • Misuse of Fire Doors: Without clear signage, individuals may not realize the importance of keeping the door closed or may use it inappropriately (e.g., propping it open or not reporting damages).

  • Delayed Emergency Response: In an emergency, clearly marked fire doors guide occupants towards safe routes. Unclear or missing signs may lead to confusion and delay evacuation.

  • Non-Compliance with Regulations: UK regulations require fire doors to be properly identified with appropriate signage. Missing or non-compliant signs could fail to meet legal requirements.


To address issues related to fire door signage, the following actions should be taken:


  • Installation of Compliant Signs: Install signs that comply with UK regulations, such as those indicating "Fire door, keep shut" or "Automatic fire door, keep clear" on both sides of the door where necessary.

  • Regular Checks: As part of routine fire safety checks, ensure that signs are present, legible, securely fixed, and not obscured.

  • Correct Positioning and Visibility: Signs should be placed at eye level and in positions where people can easily see them approaching the doors.

  • Adherence to Standards: Ensure that signage meets the relevant British Standard (BS) specifications for fire safety signs, including colour, size, and pictograms.

  • Staff Training: Educate staff on the importance of fire door signage and encourage them to report any issues with damaged, defaced, or missing signs.


Proper signage on fire doors is important to a building's overall fire safety strategy. It ensures that the critical role of these doors is not undermined and supports compliance with fire safety legislation.


At Metro PAT, we understand how vital it is for your fire doors to be in top condition. That's why we offer comprehensive fire door inspection services to identify and remedy issues that could compromise your safety. Our experienced inspectors provide detailed reports and actionable recommendations following each inspection.


Don't wait for an emergency to reveal the weaknesses in your fire safety strategy. Call Metro PAT at 0800 014 6728 today for expert fire door inspection services in London, ensuring peace of mind that your property is well-protected against the threat of fire.

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