Tag Archives: Egress

Understanding New Accessibility Requirements for Doors

All images courtesy Allegion

All images courtesy Allegion

by Lori Greene, AHC/CDC, CCPR, FDAI

The 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design went into effect in March 2012, but there are several requirements that continue to surprise architects and specifiers.

This article examines four particular changes related to doors on an accessible route:

  • door hardware must now operate with 22.2 N (5 lb) of force—a limit most panic hardware does not meet;
  • any low-energy automatic operators actuated by a motion sensor must meet the safety requirements for a full-powered automatic operator—possibly including safety mats and guide rails;
  • bottom rails of manual swinging doors must be at least 254 mm (10 in.) high, and no hardware may protrude from the push side within the bottom 254 mm (10 in.); and
  • automatic operators on doors that do not provide proper egress-side maneuvering clearance for a manual door must have standby power.
A change submitted for the next edition of International Code Council (ICC) A117.1, Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities, would limit rotational force to 3 N-m (28 inch-pounds), and operation by a pushing/pulling motion to 66 N (15 lb).

A change submitted for the next edition of International Code Council (ICC) A117.1, Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities, would limit rotational force to 3 N-m (28 inch-pounds), and operation by a pushing/pulling motion to 66 N (15 lb).

Some of these issues are specific to the 2010 ADA, while others are also addressed by International Code Council (ICC) A117.1, Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities. This standard is referenced by the International Building Code (IBC), International Fire Code (IFC), and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 101, Life Safety Code, for doors on an accessible route.

Operable force for door hardware
An editorial change was made to the 2010 ADA to limit the operable force for door hardware to 22.2 N (5 lb). Editorial changes are normally used to address errors or make clarifications that do not affect the scope or application of the code requirements. These changes do not go through the normal code development process (i.e. committee hearings and opportunities for public comment). In other words, this change was unexpected.

In the 1991 edition of ADA, door hardware was required to have:

a shape that is easy to grasp, and does not require tight grasping, tight pinching, or twisting of the wrist to operate.

This is the same language currently included in A117.1. No force limitation was mentioned with regard to the operation of hardware.

The 2010 edition of ADA changed the section that applies to door hardware, by referring to Paragraph 309.4–Operation:

Operable parts shall be operable with one hand and shall not require tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist. The force required to activate operable parts shall be 5 pounds (22.2 N) maximum.

A low-energy automatic operator must be actuated by a knowing act (e.g. this wall-mounted push button), or must comply with the requirements of a Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA) standard.

A low-energy automatic operator must be actuated by a knowing act (e.g. this wall-mounted push button), or must comply with the requirements of a Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA) standard.

By referencing Paragraph 309.4, a limit for the operable force of hardware was established.

Conflicts and clashes
This change created conflicts with other codes and standards, and even within the 2010 ADA standards. For example, in ADA, Section 404.2.9 addresses door and gate opening force—the force required to physically open the door. This section states the 22.2-N (5-lb) limit on opening force does not apply to the force required to release the latchbolts. This implies the allowable force required to release latchbolts could be greater than the 22.2-N (5-lb) opening force. The U.S. Access Board unofficially acknowledged there was a conflict between the opening force section and the operable force required by reference, but to date the standards have not been modified.

Another conflict lies with IBC, IFC, and NFPA 101, for which panic hardware is required to operate with a maximum of 66 N (15 lb) of force to release the latch. In an attempt to establish a level of operable force aligned with other codes and standards, a change proposal was submitted for the 2015 edition of ICC A117.1. If approved, the proposal would establish a limit of 66 N (15 lb) maximum for hardware operated by a forward, pushing, or pulling motion, and 3 N-m (28 inch-pounds) maximum for hardware operated by a rotational motion.

Additionally, the 2013 California Building Code (CBC) includes language virtually identical to the 2010 ADA operable force requirements, and requires hardware to operate with 22.2 N (5 lb) of force, maximum. However, the code contains conflicting language in Section 1008.1.10–Panic and Fire Exit Hardware, which requires panic hardware to operate with a maximum of 66 N (15 lb) of force.

Given the change to CBC and the delay in addressing the conflict within the 2010 ADA standards, there are projects where the 22.2-N (5-lb) limit is being enforced for both lever-operated and panic hardware. For each project, a decision must be made regarding whether to use hardware meeting the requirements of IBC (and its referenced standard, ICC A117.1), or whether to specify hardware that meets the 22.2-N limit to avoid a conflict with ADA standards.

If a motion sensor is used to actuate a door with an automatic operator, then guide rails and safety sensors are typically required.

If a motion sensor is used to actuate a door with an automatic operator, then guide rails and safety sensors are typically required.

Actuators for automatic operators
From a codes and standards perspective, there are three basic types of automatic operators for swinging doors:

  • power-assist;
  • low-energy; and
  • full-power.

Power-assist operators reduce the opening force so the door can be manually opened more easily, but some manually applied force is still necessary. These operators are usually activated by pushing or pulling the door, although occasionally a wall-mounted actuator is employed to reduce the force only for users who need that feature.

Low-energy operators are often used when the door will be opened manually by some users and automatically by others. The doors are subject to limitations on opening speed and force to curtail the generation of kinetic energy and the potential for injury. Further, they must be operated by a ‘knowing act,’ as described later in this article.

Due to these limits, most doors with low-energy operators are not required to have safety sensors, control mats, or guide rails. Both power-assist and low-energy operators must comply with American National Standards Institute/Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (ANSI/BHMA) A156.19, Power-assist and Low-energy-operated Doors.

Full-power operators are typically found on high-use openings like the entrance to a grocery store or department store. These operators are not subject to the same restrictions on speed and force, and safety sensors or control mats and guide rails are required to prevent the doors from opening if someone is in the path of the door swing. Full-power operators must comply with ANSI/BHMA A156.10, Standard for Power-operated Pedestrian Doors.

The 2007 edition of ANSI/BHMA A156.19 introduced a requirement for power-assist and low-energy-power-operated doors to be activated by a ‘knowing act,’ and this requirement carries forward to the 2013 standard. The ‘knowing act’ method may be:

  • a push-plate actuator or non-contact switch mounted on the wall or jamb;
  • the act of manually pushing or pulling a door; or
  • an access control device like a card reader, keypad, or keyswitch.

The A156.19 standard also makes recommendations regarding the mounting location of a knowing act switch. Actuator switches should be located:

  • a maximum of 3.7 m (12 ft) from the center of the door (0.3 to 1.5 m [1 to 5 ft] is preferred)—when further, the recommended increased hold-open time is one additional second per 0.3 m (1 ft) of distance;
  • where the switch remains accessible when the door is opened, and the user can see the door when activating the switch;
  • in a location where the user would not be in the path of the moving door; and
  • at an installation height of 864 mm (34 in.) minimum and 1219 mm (48 in.) maximum above the floor.

The 2010 ADA and ICC A117.1 contain requirements pertaining to the actuators for automatic doors in addition to what is included in the referenced standard. Clear floor space for a wheelchair must be provided adjacent to the actuator, and beyond the arc of the door swing. The mounting height is variable, depending on the reach range associated with the switch location. However, the range recommended by ANSI/BHMA standards is acceptable for most applications. Actuators must not require tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist to operate, and the operating force is limited to 22.2 N (5 lb) maximum.

This door lacks proper maneuvering clearance on the egress side. If an automatic operator were to be installed to overcome this issue, the 2010 ADA requires standby power for the operator.

This door lacks proper maneuvering clearance on the egress side. If an automatic operator were to be installed to overcome this issue, the 2010 ADA requires standby power for the operator.

Stepping into the field of a motion sensor is not considered a knowing act. If automatic operation via a motion sensor is desired, automatic doors must comply with the standard for full power operators—ANSI/BHMA A156.10, instead of A156.19. This means even though the door may have a low-energy operator, it has to meet the same requirements as a full-power operator, including the safety sensors or control mats and guide rails.

Typically 762 mm (30 in.) high, guide rails are required on the swing side of each door. For some locations, the need for guide rails may mean motion sensor operation is not feasible. When certain criteria are met, walls may be used in place of guide rails. When doors are installed across a corridor, guide rails are not required if the distance between the wall and the door in the 90-degree open position does not exceed 254 mm (10 in.).

The 2013 California Building Code requires two push-plate actuators at each actuator location—one mounted between 178 and 203 mm (7 and 8 in.) from the floor to the centerline, and the other mounted between 762 and 1118 mm (44 in.) above the floor. Vertical actuation bars may be used in lieu of two separate actuators, with the bottom of the bar at 127 mm (5 in.) maximum above the floor and the top at 889 mm (35 in.) minimum above the floor.

Actuators must be in a conspicuous location, with a level and clear ground space outside of the door swing. The minimum size for push plates is 102 mm (4 in.) in diameter or 102 mm square, and the minimum operable portion for vertical actuation bars is 51 mm (2 in.) wide. Both types of actuators must display the International Symbol of Accessibility.

While all these requirements have the same basic intent, it is best to check state and local codes to see which standard has been adopted, and what the specifics are in reference to actuators for automatic operators. It is important to verify the actuator type/quantity, location, and any additional requirements. Further, one must keep in mind additional safety features—including sensors and guide rails—may be required for low-energy operators actuated by a motion sensor.

Some jurisdictions require actuators mounted in two positions, or a vertical bar actuator that will allow the door to be operated by a hand/arm or a crutch, cane, or wheelchair footrest.

Some jurisdictions require actuators mounted in two positions, or a vertical bar actuator that will allow the door to be operated by a hand/arm or a crutch, cane, or wheelchair footrest.

Standby power for automatic operators
The 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act includes revisions to the section on automatic doors with regard to clear width and maneuvering clearance. (These have not been included in A117.1 to date.) The ADA standards read:

404.3.1 Clear Width. Doorways shall provide a clear opening of 32 inches (815 mm) minimum in power-on and power-off mode. The minimum clear width for automatic door systems in a doorway shall be based on the clear opening provided by all leaves in the open position.

404.3.2 Maneuvering Clearance. Clearances at power-assisted doors and gates shall comply with 404.2.4. Clearances at automatic doors and gates without standby power and serving an accessible means of egress shall comply with 404.2.4.
EXCEPTION: Where automatic doors and gates remain open in the power-off condition, compliance with 404.2.4 shall not be required.

According to both accessibility standards and egress requirements, most doors have to provide at least 815 mm (32 in.) of clear opening width. (For pairs of doors, at least one leaf has to provide this.) The aforementioned Paragraph 404.3.1 states the required clear opening width must be provided “in power-on and power-off mode.” The clear opening’s full width is considered—for example, a 1.5-m (5-ft) pair of automatic doors would provide sufficient clear width even though neither leaf meets the minimum clear width for a manual door.

Maneuvering clearance for manual doors is addressed in Section 404.2.4 of the 2010 ADA. This section establishes the minimum space around the door needed by a wheelchair user to manually operate the door. The previously cited Paragraph 404.3.2 requires power-assisted doors and gates (manually operated but with reduced opening force) to have the same maneuvering clearance as manual doors. Automatic doors and gates serving an accessible means of egress without standby power would also need the required maneuvering clearance. Therefore, automatic doors and gates with standby power do not need the maneuvering clearance that would be required for a manual door.

Manual doors on an accessible route must have a smooth surface on the push side with no protruding hardware within 254 mm (10 in.) of the floor or ground. In the photo at left, these components could inhibit passage through a door opening by catching a crutch, cane, walker, or wheelchair.

Manual doors on an accessible route must have a smooth surface on the push side with no protruding hardware within 254 mm (10 in.) of the floor or ground. In the photo at left, these components could inhibit passage through a door opening by catching a crutch, cane, walker, or wheelchair.

If an existing door serving an accessible means of egress does not have the required maneuvering clearance and an auto operator is added to overcome that problem, the operator needs to have standby power (unless the door stands open on power failure per the exception). This applies to doors part of a means of egress that must be accessible in an emergency, and is intended to avoid entrapment of a person with a disability if there is a power failure. The standard does not include a requirement for how much standby power must be provided.

It is important to keep in mind automatic operators on fire-rated doors are required to be deactivated upon fire alarm. Therefore, an automatic operator with standby power should not be used on a fire-rated door to overcome maneuvering clearance problems because it will not be functional when the fire alarm is sounding.

Flush bottom rails
For many years, ICC A117.1 has included a requirement for a 254-mm (10-in.) high flush bottom rail on manual doors, and this requirement is now included in the ADA standards. The text of both standards is similar, except ADA also addresses existing doors. (This requirement appears in the “Manual Doors” section of both publications, so it does not apply to automatic doors.)

The purpose is to avoid projections that could catch a cane, crutch, walker, or wheelchair and inhibit passage through the door opening, so the requirement applies to the push side of the door only. The 254-mm (10-in.) measurement is taken from the floor or ground to the top of the horizontal bottom rail, extending the full width of the door. Prior to the 2003 edition of A117.1, the required dimension was 305 mm (12 in.).

Manual doors on an accessible route must have a smooth surface on the push side with no protruding hardware within 254 mm (10 in.) of the fl oor or ground. In the photo at left, these components could inhibit passage through a door opening by catching a crutch, cane, walker, or wheelchair.

Manual doors on an accessible route must have a smooth surface on the push side with no protruding hardware within 254 mm (10 in.) of the floor or ground. In the photo at left, these components could inhibit passage through a door opening by catching a crutch, cane, walker, or wheelchair.

The standards require the surface of swinging doors and gates within 254 mm (10 in.) of the finish floor or ground to have a smooth surface on the push side that extends the full width of the door or gate. Narrow bottom rails and protruding surface bolts, surface vertical rods, kick-down stops, and full-height door pulls installed on the push side of the door would not comply with this requirement for a 254-mm (10-in.) high smooth surface. Horizontal or vertical joints in this surface must be within 1.6 mm (1/16 in.) of the same plane. If a kick plate is added to a door with a narrow bottom rail to resolve this problem, the cavity between the kickplate and the glass or recessed panel must be capped.

There are several exceptions to this requirement. Sliding doors are not required to comply. Tempered glass doors without stiles are not required to have a 254-mm (10-in.) bottom rail (if the top of the bottom rail tapers at 60 degrees minimum from the horizontal), but protruding hardware is not allowed in the 254-mm (10-in.) high area. Doors that do not extend to within 254 mm (10 in.) of the finish floor or ground are also exempt.

As outlined in ADA, existing doors are not required to provide the 254-mm smooth surface, but if kick plates are added to widen the bottom rail, the gap between the top of the plate and the glass must be capped. Existing doors are not addressed by A117.1, which is typically used for new applications as referenced by IBC. Now the standards are consistent, and increased awareness and enforcement of this requirement seem likely.

Conclusion
With regard to these changes in the Americans with Disabilities Act standards, some accessibility requirements are not prescriptive and enforcement varies by jurisdiction. Therefore, it can be difficult to apply the standards, especially when conflicts exist. Additionally, some states have established their own accessibility standards. Following the most stringent requirements can help to avoid problems, and the local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) can also provide assistance to determine what is required.

Lori Greene, AHC/CDC, CCPR, FDAI, is the codes and resources manager for Allegion. She has been in the industry for more than 25 years, and used to be a hardware consultant writing specifications. Greene is a member of CSI, the Door and Hardware Institute (DHI), the International Code Council (ICC), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA) Codes and Government Affairs Committee. She has a monthly column on code issues in Doors & Hardware, and blogs at www.iDigHardware.com (or www.iHateHardware.com). Greene can be contacted via e-mail at lori.greene@allegion.com.

Questions About Fire Doors: Everything you always wanted to know (but were afraid to ask)

Photos courtesy Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies

Photos courtesy Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies

by Lori Greene, CSI, AHC/CDC, CCPR, FDAI

Fire doors are an important part of a building’s passive fire protection system, and doors in a means of egress provide life safety by allowing people to exit quickly when necessary. Still, the requirements remain a mystery for many architects and specifiers.

Simply put, an opening protective in a fire or smoke barrier is required to be a fire door assembly, which includes the door, frame, hardware, and glazing. These components are not typically required to be supplied by the same manufacturer—in most cases, they can be separate products which are listed, labeled, or classified for use in a fire door assembly. Occasionally, an assembly will be made of components that have been tested together and must be used to maintain the rating.

This article addresses some of the basic code requirements pertaining to fire doors, in hopes of making them a little less mysterious. The best way to find the answers is through asking the right questions.

Where can I find the code requirements for fire doors?
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 80, Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives, is referenced by the International Building Code (IBC), International Fire Code (IFC), NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, and other codes and standards. NFPA 105, Standard for the Installation of Smoke Door Assemblies and Other Opening Protectives, addresses smoke doors and is also referenced in these publications.

Some fire door requirements are included within the applicable building or fire code, but NFPA 80 and 105 are referenced for many of the detailed requirements. For product-specific issues, the manufacturer’s listings must be referenced. For example, to find out the maximum fire door size available from a particular manufacturer, one should consult Underwriters Laboratories’ UL Building Materials Directory or Intertek’s Warnock Hersey Mark Directory.

Fire doors are typically required to latch, but defective latching hardware is sometimes removed instead of replaced, as illustrated in this photo of an existing fire door in a hotel corridor.

Fire doors are typically required to latch, but defective latching hardware is sometimes removed instead of replaced, as illustrated in this photo of an existing fire door in a hotel corridor.

Glass in fire doors is no longer exempt from the requirements for impact-resistance, and must meet the same standards for human impact as glass used in non-fire-rated doors.

Glass in fire doors is no longer exempt from the requirements for impact-resistance, and must meet the same standards for human impact as glass used in non-fire-rated doors.

How can I find out more about an existing fire door?
Each fire door is labeled with a permanent label that must remain legible. Fire-rated frames may have a label or embossment from a listing agency. The door and frame labels contain a wealth of information, including the manufacturer, length of time the component is designed to resist fire, whether the opening is to be equipped with fire exit hardware, and whether the door carries a temperature rise rating or is a smoke door assembly.

Fire door labels usually include a number allowing manufacturers to access more information about the door’s original construction. Frame labels may state a fire resistance duration longer than that of the door. In this case, the assembly’s rating will be the lower of the two. Some hardware, such as fire exit hardware, will also be labeled, but the information on the label is typically less detailed.

How do I know what fire resistance rating I need?

The building code mandates the required fire resistance rating of a wall in a particular location, and also states the required rating of the opening protective, or fire door assembly. The fire resistance requirements for various types of fire walls, fire barriers, and fire partitions, as well as smoke partitions and smoke barriers can be found in Chapter 7 of IBC.

The 2012 edition of the International Building Code includes new tables that help clarify the opening protective requirements. For example, Table 716.5 states a two-hour exit enclosure requires a 1 ½-hour fire door assembly, and lists requirements for the glass used in that assembly. The rating of the door assembly is often less than the required rating of the wall, because it is assumed the door will have a lower fuel load since no combustibles (e.g. furniture, storage, etc.) will be piled in front of the door. If a fire door is no longer needed, it should be removed and replaced with construction of the same rating as the wall to accommodate the potentially higher fuel load.

Fire doors equipped with fire exit hardware will have a label stating this, which indicates the door is properly constructed and reinforced for fire exit hardware.

Fire doors equipped with fire exit hardware will have a label stating this, which indicates the door is properly constructed and reinforced for fire exit hardware.

When are temperature-rise doors required?
Temperature-rise doors are designed to limit heat transfer from one side of the door to the other. If there is a fire on one floor of a building, there may be a need to limit the transfer of heat to the other side of the stair door, so building occupants can exit safely down the stairwell.

The increased use of sprinklers has resulted in reduced requirements for temperature-rise doors. The 2012 IBC requires doors in interior exit stairways/ramps and exit passageways to have a maximum transmitted rise in temperature of 232 C (450 F) above ambient at the end of 30 minutes of exposure, but also includes an exception stating temperature-rise doors are not required in buildings equipped throughout with an automatic sprinkler system.

For the convenience of building occupants, how can fire doors be held open in a code-compliant manner?
Fire doors must be closed during a fire to compartmentalize the building and prevent the spread of smoke and flames. The intent is to protect the means of egress and allow building occupants time to evacuate safely. If fire doors are blocked or wedged open, they will not be able to do their job and protect the building and its occupants.

There are acceptable ways to hold open fire doors, using electromagnetic holders, or closer/holder combinations that contain integral smoke detectors or are initiated by the fire alarm system. When smoke is detected, the doors close, and provide 20, 45, 60, 90, or 180 minutes of protection. Fire doors are sometimes referred to by a letter designation—A for three hours, B for 60 or 90 minutes, and C for 45 minutes (20-minute doors do not have a letter). However, using the number of minutes is the more common practice.

A fire door with a standard closer and no hold-open capability is called ‘self-closing,’ fire doors that close on fire alarm are ‘automatic-closing,’ and fire doors with automatic operators are called ‘power-operated fire doors.’ Doors in this last category are required by NFPA 80 to become disconnected from power upon fire alarm, so they are manually operable and cannot be held open automatically.

What is positive-latching, and is it required for all fire doors?
Hardware on fire door assemblies has to have an active latchbolt to prevent the pressure caused by a fire from pushing the door open and allowing smoke and flames to spread. A springlatch found in a standard lockset or latchset is considered an active latchbolt; some fire door configurations require a specific ‘latch throw’ (i.e. dimension of latch projection).

When an automatic operator is installed on a fire door, the operator must be deactivated during a fire alarm. This can impact accessibility requirements if the operator was installed because the door lacked the proper maneuvering clearance for a manual door.

When an automatic operator is installed on a fire door, the operator must be deactivated during a fire alarm. This can impact accessibility requirements if the operator was installed because the door lacked the proper maneuvering clearance for a manual door.

A deadbolt is not an active latchbolt, because it can be held retracted. An electromagnetic lock does not provide a positive latch, because there is no latching mechanism and the locking is accomplished when the electromagnet bonds to the steel armature. Electric strikes used on fire doors must be fail-secure—that is, when power is cut, the latch is securely captured behind the strike keeper. A fail-safe electric strike could allow the door to become unlatched, so such strikes may not be used on fire doors.

How is fire exit hardware different from panic hardware?
When panic hardware is used on fire doors, it must be fire exit hardware, which bears labels for both panic and fire resistance. A door with fire exit hardware will also have an additional label, indicating it is equipped with fire exit hardware. Fire exit hardware does not incorporate a mechanical dogging feature—the means to hold the latch retracted using a key, thumbturn, or Allen wrench. For fire doors where a ‘push/pull’ condition is desired, fire exit hardware with electric latch retraction may be used, as long as the latch projects automatically upon fire alarm, to secure the door.

Some vertical rod fire exit hardware for pairs of doors can be installed ‘less bottom rod’ (LBR). These devices use the top rod and latch only, with no bottom rod or latch. The advantage is there is no floor-mounted strike, and no bottom rod or latch to become damaged by carts or traffic. This configuration can sometimes cause a reduction in security, because it may be more easily defeated with only one latching point at the top of the door. In most cases, doors with LBR devices are required to have an auxiliary fire pin, which mounts in the edge of one door and projects into a hole in the edge of the other door if there is a fire.

Do fire doors need smoke gasketing? Are smoke doors also fire doors?
NFPA 80 and NFPA 105 do not specifically state fire doors and smoke doors require smoke gasketing. The key is to check the applicable code or standard, such as the International Building Code, for a limitation on air infiltration, typically a reference to UL 1784, Air Leakage Tests of Door Assemblies, as the test standard.

For fire doors and smoke doors in certain locations, the limit for air infiltration is 0.02 m3/(s • m2) or less as tested at a pressure of 0.02 kPa (3 cfm per square foot or less as tested at a pressure of 0.10 inch of water)—for most door sizes, this cannot be achieved without smoke gasketing. The requirements for smoke doors and fire doors depend on where they are used. For example, smoke barriers, smoke partitions, exit enclosures, and corridors all have varying requirements for smoke and fire resistance, and the applicable code sections must be consulted to see if a limit on air infiltration is established.

When does a protection plate on a fire door need to be labeled?
NFPA 80 allows non-labeled kick plates to be field-installed on fire doors as long as the top of the kick plate is not more than 406 mm (16 in.) above the bottom of the door. Many door manufacturers have tested with non-labeled plates up to 1219 mm (48 in.) high with no special requirements, but NFPA 80 currently requires a field-installed plate to be labeled if it extends above the 406-mm mark.

Table 715.4 of the 2009 International Building Code (IBC) details the required fi re resistance rating of the opening protective (fi re door assembly) for each type of wall. This information can be found in Table 716.5 of the 2012 edition, with additional details about the fi re door requirements.

Table 715.4 of the 2009 International Building Code (IBC) details the required fire resistance rating of the opening protective (fire door assembly) for each type of wall. This information can be found in Table 716.5 of the 2012 edition, with additional details about the fire door requirements.

What are the requirements for hinges on a fire door?
NFPA 80 requires hinges and pivots to be steel base material, ball bearing type, and of a certain size, thickness, and quantity depending on the door size, thickness, and fire rating. One hinge is required for each 762 mm (30 in.) of door height or fraction thereof. NFPA 80 includes criteria for the use of hinges or pivots that do not meet the requirements listed in the standard, for example, hinges of a different material, size, or bearing type. Continuous hinges and spring hinges must be tested and labeled for use on a fire door.

Although it may be tempting to use spring hinges instead of a door closer on a fire door for cost and aesthetic reasons, it is important to note spring hinges do not control a door the way a door closer does, and they need to be adjusted to keep them closing the door over time. In order to avoid having a fire door that either slams shut or does not close and latch, a door closer may be better-suited than spring hinges for most fire doors.

A construction label indicates the door or frame is constructed with the same materials and methods as a fire door, but does not meet the requirements of the manufacturer’s label procedures.

A construction label indicates the door or frame is constructed with the same materials and methods as a fire door, but does not meet the requirements of the manufacturer’s label procedures.

Can existing fire doors be modified for new hardware?
Field modifications are limited by NFPA 80 to jobsite preparation for:

  • surface-applied hardware;
  • function holes for mortise locks;
  • holes for labeled viewers;
  • protection plates; and
  • a maximum 19-mm (¾-in.) wood and composite door undercutting.

Holes drilled in the field are limited to 25-mm (1-in.) diameter, with the exception of cylinder holes that can be any size. For other modifications not specifically addressed by NFPA 80, the listing agency may be contacted through the door/frame manufacturer to request permission to perform a specific modification in the field. Another option would be to transport the existing doors to an approved facility to modify them, attach new labels, and then reinstall the doors. Fire door assemblies can also be inspected and relabeled in the field by the listing agency, if acceptable, but this process can be very costly.

What is ‘positive pressure’ with regard to fire door testing?
Positive pressure testing is a method of testing fire doors that more accurately simulates the conditions of a real fire than the test that was previously used—UL 10B, Fire Tests of Door Assemblies, also known as a neutral or negative pressure test. The International Building Code requires fire doors to be tested using the positive pressure test—either UL 10C, Positive Pressure Fire Tests of Door Assemblies, or NFPA 252, Standard Methods of Fire Tests of Door Assemblies, with the neutral pressure level at a maximum of 1016 mm (40 in.) above the sill after five minutes.

The distinction between the two types of tests is particularly important with regard to wood doors. To successfully pass the positive pressure test, some wood doors require intumescent material—either integral to the door or frame construction or applied after manufacturing. The Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) describes two types of positive pressure openings:

  • Category A doors, which require no additional edge-sealing system (intumescent, if required, is integral to the door or frame); and
  • Category B doors, which have applied intumescent material.

A wood door specification should state which type of doors must be furnished for the project.

What is a construction label and when would it be used?
A construction label is applied when a door or frame is used in a location that requires a fire rating, but does not qualify as a rated product. For example, the door or frame may be a size that has not been tested, the jamb depth may be larger (or smaller) than the manufacturer’s listings allow, or the specified hardware may not be included in the manufacturer’s listings. This is not the same as a UL or WH/Intertek label, which certifies the product has been tested to withstand fire for the stated period.

The construction label typically states the door or frame is identical in construction to a listed door or frame, but does not bear a listing mark from a testing laboratory because of size, hardware preparation, or other limiting factor. The construction label does not imply the door or frame is capable of furnishing standard fire protection, but that it is manufactured with the same materials and methods used in the manufacturers’ listings. The label is a means to permanently mark the product so all parties know at a glance the door or frame did not meet the listing requirements. To use a construction label, permission must be granted by the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ).

Panic hardware installed on fi re doors, like the one pictured above, must be ‘fi re exit hardware,’ which will not be equipped with mechanical dogging—the ability to hold the latch retracted. Electric latch retraction may be used to dog fi re exit hardware, as long as the latch projects automatically upon fi re alarm.

Panic hardware installed on fire doors, like the one pictured above, must be ‘fire exit hardware,’ which will not be equipped with mechanical dogging—the ability to hold the latch retracted. Electric latch retraction may be used to dog fire exit hardware, as long as the latch projects automatically upon fire alarm.

Are annual inspections of fire door assemblies required for all building types?
The 2007 edition of NFPA 80 (and all subsequent editions) require fire door assemblies be inspected each year by someone knowledgeable about the products. A list of inspection criteria is included in NFPA 80, and written documentation of the inspection must be kept for review by the AHJ. Deficiencies must be repaired “without delay.” This requirement becomes enforceable when a jurisdiction’s fire code references an edition of NFPA 80 published in 2007 or later. The 2009 and 2012 editions of NFPA 101 also require certain egress doors to be inspected annually.

NFPA 80 has always required fire door assemblies to be properly maintained—the 2007 edition just added more detailed requirements and included a specific time frame. Due to improper modifications and lack of maintenance, the condition of many existing fire doors has rendered them unable to perform in the event of a fire. A fire door blocked open with a wood wedge cannot stop the spread of smoke and flames, and damaged latches that have been removed instead of replaced could allow the door to be forced open by the pressure of a fire.

Although a jurisdiction may not be officially enforcing the annual inspection and documentation, fire door assemblies are required to be in good working order. Conducting an inspection and making the necessary repairs can mitigate the risk and liability of having fire doors that will not function properly in a fire. Inspecting newly installed fire door assemblies—a requirement of the 2013 edition of NFPA 80—ensures the building owner has a code-compliant installation to begin with, or allows the deficiencies to be repaired during the warranty period.

The purpose of a fire door is to compartmentalize a building and prevent the spread of smoke and flames. The door shown in these photos protected a nature center and management offices from a fire that began in the maintenance shop. Photos courtesy Fire Protection Specialist Christopher Taylor, NYS Offi ce of Fire Prevention and Control

The purpose of a fire door is to compartmentalize a building and prevent the spread of smoke and flames. The door shown in these photos protected a nature center and management offices from a fire that began in the maintenance shop. Photos courtesy Fire Protection Specialist Christopher Taylor, NYS Office of Fire Prevention and Control

ProtectedSide2LookingOutFromFire

Conclusion
Fire doors can help compartmentalize a building, prevent the spread of smoke and flames, and protect egress routes to allow for safe escape. However, they must be properly specified, installed, and maintained to provide the necessary protection.

Lori Greene, CSI, AHC/CDC, CCPR, FDAI, is the codes and resources manager for Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies. She has been in the industry for more than 25 years, and used to be a hardware consultant writing specifications. Greene is a member of CSI, the Door and Hardware Institute (DHI), the International Code Council (ICC), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA) Codes and Government Affairs Committee. She has a monthly column on code issues in Doors & Hardware, and blogs at www.iDigHardware.com (or www.iHateHardware.com). Greene can be contacted via e-mail at lori_greene@irco.com.