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Frequently Asked Questions

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A250.8-03, SDI 118-05 Fire Rated Doors and Frames Overview
Fire Rated Doors Video

Fire Labels

  • If installing an accessory onto the top portion of a fire door, does the accessory need a fire label or listing if only penetrating one side of the door? what if penetrating completely thru the door? Would this change the field installation or rating of the accessory?

Components used as part of a fire door assembly are required to be listed for that purpose, unless there is an exception in NFPA 80. One example of an exception is that a listing is not required for protection plates installed within the bottom 16 inches of the door. Generally, NFPA 80 doesn't distinguish between where the item is located or whether it is attached on one side of the door or through the door.

  • Why are annual inspections required by "qualified" persons, not "certified" persons?

NFPA 80 does not define the term "certified person," but "qualified person" is defined as: "A person who, by possession of a recognized degree, certificate, professional standing, or skill, and who, by knowledge, training, and experience, has demonstrated the ability to deal with the subject matter, the work, or the project" (80-2016: 3.3.96). Chapter 5 states that acceptance testing shall be performed by a qualified person (80-2016: 5.2.3.1). NFPA 80-2016 does include the term "certified" in a new section on field labeling, which requires field labeling to be performed only by individuals or companies that have been certified or listed, or by indivuals or companies representing a labeling service that meets certain criteria (80-2016: 5.1.4). This section applies to field labeling of a component, but a certification is not required for an inspection.

  • Is there a label or listing requried when installing power door operators and accessories onto a fire rated doors?

The intent of NFPA 80 is to require each component installed on a fire door assembly to be listed or labeled, unless it is specifically excluded from this requirement. Although NFPA 80 does not specifically address labels for power door operators and accessories, the standard does require door closers to be labeled (80-2016: 3.3.38). In addition, NFPA 80 requires power operated fire doors to have a releasing device that automatically disconnects the operator at the time of a fire, allowing the door to close and latch (80-2016: 6.1.3.4).

  • Are smoke rated doors required to have a rating label?

"Smoke rated" doors are typically required by two different types of wall construction:

Smoke Partitions - where doors are required by the code, they must be tested per UL 1784. The code states that when these doors comply only with UL 1784, they "shall be permitted to show the letter "S" on the manufacturer's labeling."

Smoke Barriers - most smoke barrier walls are required to have a 1 hour fire-resistance rating and therefore the doors are also required to be fire rated. The codes states that the doors shall be tested to UL 1784 and shall show the letter “S” on the fire-rating label of the door.

  • Is it permissible to paint over the fire label on a hollow metal door or frame?

You may paint over an embossed label on a door or frame, unless prohibited by the specification. However, it is never permissible to paint over a Mylar label or applied metal label for a door or frame. The reason is that once a label is painted over it is impossible to discern the label information. 

  • Can we use European Standard Fire Rated Ironmongery on UL-labeled fire rated hollow metal doors?

Probably not. There are numerous differences between the EN (European) test standard and UL 10C, the North American standard. A major difference is that EN test standards do not require a hose stream test.

The Authority Having Jurisdiction determines if a combination of products allows for the opening to maintain a fire rating. Generally speaking, any listed fire rated product must be matched with similarly rated and approved products. If the doors have been tested with the hardware then most likely the rating will be extended to the opening.

However, if the door must be modified—cut out for the hardware, or any other modification—then it is likely that the door would not maintain its fire rating. The general rule is that no modification can be made to a fire door without approval of the rating agency, such as UL or WH.

  • Can doors with louvers be positive pressured fire labeled?

Doors with UL listed louvers may be positive pressure fire rated up to 90 minutes. The louver must be located in the bottom half of the door with a maximum size of 24" x 24".

  • Are frames required to have a label?

 Fire rated frames must have either an attached label or an embossment in the metal of the frame. The attached labels may be made of metal or tamper-evident Mylar design.

  • How is authority to field label conferred on a company and from whom does this authority come?

NFPA 80, “Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives” contains provisions specific to the case of field modifications of fire door assemblies and the subsequent field labeling of the assembly. In part, NFPA 80 states;

"The laboratory with which the product or component being modified is listed shall be contacted through the manufacturer and a written or graphic description of the modifications shall be presented to that laboratory. Field modifications shall be permitted without a field visit from the laboratory upon written authorization from that laboratory."

So the authority for field labeling is conferred by the third-party listing agency with whom the product is listed, and is communicated in writing.

  • If hardware is labeled, does it mean it can go on any labeled door?

Labeled hardware is permitted to be used on any brand of fire door, provided that door is properly listed and labeled for that hardware application. For instance, a door listed and labeled for single-point locks cannot be fitted with panic or fire exit hardware. A door specifically listed and labeled for this hardware application must be used.

  • Can doors with louvers be positive pressure fire labeled?

Yes. Fusible link louvers with a maximum size of 24" x 24" can obtain up to 90 minute fire labels.

  • Can the frame be cut or modified in any other way in the field without voiding the label?

Yes, NFPA 80 Chapter 4 specifies the allowable modifications for the application of hardware. No other modifications are allowed.

Fire Rating Requirements

  • Are closer covers required for annual fire door inspection?

This varies by manufacturer, but typically the closer cover is for cosmetic purposes only and is not required in order to maintain the listing of the product. One exception could be if the label indicating a listing for use on fire doors is attached to the cover rather than to the closer body or arm. In this case, losing the cover would result in a product without the required label.

  • Why do not all fire doors require gasketing?

This varies depending on which code has been adopted, but using the 2015 IBC as an example, gasketing is required when the requirements for a fire door assembly include the limitation of air/smoke infiltration when tested to UL 1784. If a section does not reference UL 1784, gasketing is not typically required. In the 2015 IBC, Section 716.5.3.1 - Smoke and Draft Control, falls under section 716.5.3 which addresses door assemblies in corridors and smoke barriers. Fire doors in these locations would require gasketing. Sections 716.5.4 Door Assemblies in Other Fire Partitions and 716.5.5 Doors in Interior Exit Stairways and Ramps and Exit Passageways do not reference UL 1784 and would not be required to have gasketing according to the 2015 edition.

  • Can you expand on where exactly gasketing is required?

Typically, gasketing at the head, jambs, and meeting stiles is needed for doors that are required to limit air infiltration to a specified level when tested in accordance with UL 1784. For some locations, usually related to elevators, a bottom seal is also required. In the 2015 edition of the International Building Code, references to UL 1784 can be found in section 710.5.2.2, section 716.5.3.1, and in several sections within Chapter 30. Although these code sections do not specifically mandate gasketing, the gasketing is required in order to limit the air infiltration to the level specified in the code.

  • Do the door gaskets need to have a smoke/fire rating?

Typically, all products used as a part of a fire door assembly are required to be listed, including gasketing (80-2016: 6.4.8). Thresholds are required by NFPA 80 to be noncombustible or listed (80-2016: 6.4.9). Listed gasketing materials are also available for doors that are required to limit air/smoke infiltration when tested in accordance with UL 1784. Indications of suitability for use on fire- and/or smoke-door assemblies is indicated in the gasketing manufacturers' catalogs.hout astragal) that is free swinging in both directions. To my understanding, only a single swing door (single or double) can be considered for fire-rating. And that a double door needs the services of an astragal.

  • Does the discharge exterior stairs door need to be rated?

Most exterior stair discharge doors are not required to be fire rated, but there are some circumstances where exterior walls are required to be rated and for those locations, fire door assemblies would be required.

  • Your fire rated course notes that a firepin is typically required in a LBR application. When is a firepin not required on a fire rated door LBR assembly?

The ability to omit the fusible fire pin on a LBR assembly depends on the listing of the hardware as well since Listed fire exit hardware and flush or automatic bolts often require the use of the pin to maintain the fire rating of the door assembly. For steel doors, the pin and its use is a function of the hardware listing much more often than the doors on their own.

  • We have a client that needs a fire rated double door (without astragal) that is free swinging in both directions. To my understanding, only a single swing door (single or double) can be considered for fire-rating. And that a double door needs the services of an astragal.

    Can a fire-rated floor closer be used for such a requirement? If so, can the doors still be considered as fire-rated doors?

Fire-rated doors may be listed for single swing, standard pairs (both leaves swinging in same direction), or double egress pairs (one leaf swings one direction, and the other leaf swings the opposite direction).  The manufacturer’s listing will state if an astragal is required, as not all doors require the use of one.

However, we are not aware of any fire listing on a pair of doors that is free swinging in both directions–with or without astragal.

  • Is it possible to have a 3-hour fire rated door with a plastic laminate or FRP skin?

We are not aware of any 3-hour fire rated FRP doors. Any type of laminate that is attached to a fire door must be done so in accordance with the manufacturer’s labeling procedures.

  • Can we keep the existing doorframe and replace the door and transom with a steel door and steel transom? Can the transom be 1-hour rated?

The door, frame and transom must all be compatible and rated by the testing agency.

Simply installing a rated door into an existing frame may not allow for the rating to be maintained. If the frame, door or transom is modified and the manufacturer’s installation requirements are not followed the rating is not valid.

  • Is there an exception or modification to the rule of using deadbolts in addition to latches on fire entry doors to single dwelling units?

We are not aware of any exception or modification to this rule. You may wish to check with the AHJ in your area. You are correctly quoting the provisions contained in SDI 118, which is taken from the requirements contained in NFPA 80.

  • 15.5 Section 714.2.3 (2000 IBC) requires fire doors to be tested for smoke- and draft-control in accordance with UL 1784 with an artificial bottom seal. Is an artificial bottom seal required as part of the final installation of a fire door?

No. The artificial bottom seal is a component of the UL 1784 testing protocol and is not a requirement of the final door installation.

The UL 1784 test standard states, “In order to obtain information on the extent of air leakage at the ungasketed bottom gap of a test sample, an artificial seal may be applied to the bottom 6 inches (152.4 mm) of the test sample. The artificial seal may be any material, such as an impermeable sheet or tape.”  By testing air infiltration with the artificial bottom seal in place, any air that would have passed through the bottom 6 inches of the door opening is not considered, so leakage at the balance of the perimeter can be accurately measured.

  • What are the basic hardware requirements for fire door assemblies?

They must have a minimum number of approved hinges, a listed and labeled self-latching device and a labeled self or automatic-closing device.

  • Do I need to use intumescent sealants for fire rated steel doors?

Generally speaking, no, but the requirement is a function of the individual manufacturer's listing. Intumescent products are typically used for a smoke and fire barrier on wood doors and are activated by heat. Given the basic properties of steel (e.g. it expands when exposed to heat), sealants are typically not required on steel doors.

  • Instead of using the provided anchors, am I allowed to substitute to different anchors that I prefer working with when installing fire rated frames?  

Anchors may be substituted provide they are like-for-like anchor types and are approved to be used in fire rated applications.

  • Am I required to use fire rated caulk between the frame and wall on fire rated openings?

Reference the manufacturer’s installation instructions because it depends upon how the frame was tested and approved. Generally speaking, fire rated caulk is not required unless specified in the manufacturer’s installation instructions.

Other Fire Rating FAQ

  • For a few hollow metal doors with 90 minute fire rating we would like to apply decorative wood slats to one surface. Would adding a non-rated material to rated metal doors adversely affect the door’s rating and/or warranty?

Yes, a non-rated material and the method of application may adversely affect the fire rating of the door. Wood, plastic, and fabric materials can affect the performance of the door and the door’s ability to meet the requirements of the Standards ULL 10 or UL 10C. NFPA 80-2016 contains explicit instructions on plant-ons in terms of definition in Annex E and they are required to be installed per the manufacturer’s instructions. If the material is not certified by the door manufacturer or product manufacturer for the use, then the local regulatory officials would need to be consulted to gain final approval.

NFPA 80 does allow for small signs to be installed on fire doors without affecting the fire rating as discussed in Paragraphs 4.1.4 and 4.1.4.1. However, the size of the signs is much less than the whole face of the door.

  • There appears to be some disconnect between manufacturers for hurricane rated doors. Some say they only test with a center mullion and others say they test without (mortise will pass the test). Why is that? I believe the SDI says you must use a mullion. Some manufacturers say not necessarily. Can you elaborate?

Neither the SDI nor the testing protocols referenced in the Code mandate the configuration of the opening. The test protocols are performanced based, and various manufacturers approach paired openings differently, depending on their door construction, hardware selection, opening size and the design pressure they wish to attain.

  • Can we have 2 vertical rod fire exit devices in a 3 hour double leaf fire rated door?

Specific hardware applications for fire doors are not addressed in the codes and standards. The use of 2 vertical rod devices is acceptable if the door manufacturer and fire exit hardware manufacturer have successfully tested these products and received the 3-hour listing.

  • Can you please clarify the difference between fire protection and fire resistant?

Fire-protection-rated assemblies are tested as an opening protective using UL 10C or NFPA 252 with the neutral pressure plane located at 40 inches or less above the floor after 5 minutes into the test (UL 10B may be used for some types of fire-protection-rated assemblies).

Fire-resistance-rated assemblies are tested like a wall/floor/ceiling assembly using ASTM E 119 or UL 263. Within the code, fire protection refers to the ability to block the spread of fire, while fire resistance is the ability to block the spread of fire while also limiting radiant heat transfer through the assembly.

  • Do edge guards also need to be fire rated when they span more than 16" from the bottom of the door?

NFPA 80 does not address edge guards specifically. Technically, an edge guard is not a protection plate (which require a label if installed above the bottom 16 inches of the door); protection plates are defined by NFPA 80 as protective material applied to the face of the door. However, the general consensus from NFPA and the listing laboratories is that all components used on a fire door assembly are required to be listed, unless specifically exempted by NFPA 80. Following this premise, edge guards for fire doors would require a label.

  • Does IBC/ IFC 2012 or 2015 reference NFPA 80 annual fire door inspection of swinging doors with builders hardware?

Section 716.5 of the 2015 IBC requires fire door assemblies to be installed in accordance with NFPA 80, and references the 2013 edition of NFPA 80 (see Chapter 35 for the list of referenced standards). The 2013 edition of NFPA 80 requires fire door assemblies to be inspected and tested after installation (80-2013: 5.2.1). By reference, the 2015 IBC requires fire door assemblies to be inspected and tested after installation.

The 2012 and 2015 editions of the IFC require openings in fire walls, fire barriers, and fire partitions to be maintained in accordance with NFPA 80 (703.1.3). In addition, section 703.2 requires opening protectives to be maintained in operative condition in accordance with NFPA 80. The IFC Commentary states: "This section specifically requires that all opening protectives required by the IBC be maintained in compliance with NFPA 80 so that they can perform their intended function, which is to prevent the passage of smoke, fire or combustion products through openings in fire-resistance-rated walls, ceilings and shafts during a fire emergency." One of the maintenance requirements of NFPA 80 is the annual inspection of fire door assemblies (80-2013: 5.2.4.1). By reference, the 2009, 2012, and 2015 editions of the IFC require annual inspections of fire door assemblies.

  • Doors have a lower rating than the wall. What about borrowed lights and when does a sidelight need 60 minutes for a 1 hour wall vs 45 minute for a door?

This information can be found in the IBC - for the 2015 edition it is in Table 716.5. This table shows the required rating of the wall, the required rating of the opening protective, and whether a fire-protection-rated assembly or a fire-resistance-rated assembly is required. Fire windows are addressed in Section 716.6 in the 2015 IBC. To answer your more specific question, Table 716.5 requires a 1-hour fire-resistance-rated sidelight frame for 1-hour fire barriers that are enclosures for shafts, exit access stairways, exit access ramps, interior exit stairways and interior exit ramps; and exit passageways. A 3/4-hour fire-protection-rated sidelite is allowed for a 1-hour wall if it's another type of fire partition or fire barrier.

  • What is a 0 hour smoke rated door?

The term "smoke door" is not defined in the IBC, and there are many locations where doors are required to have some capability for resisting smoke. These may be doors in smoke partitions or smoke barriers, smoke and draft control doors, doors in health care facilities that are required to resist the passage of smoke, or other locations. Some of these doors require a fire rating, some do not.

In Canada, they do not have code requirements or specific product applications for smoke doors referenced in the National Building Code of Canada. As a result, some specifiers will ask for the 0 hour rating to provide the equivalent door opening to the smoke rated doors without fire ratings found in the US.

  • Is it allowed to install a rated-window in a 20-minute door in the field?

NFPA 80 addresses two categories of alterations made to a fire door assembly in the field. One category is called job-site preparations and one is called field modifications. Job-site preparations are limited to holes for surface-applied hardware, function holes for mortise locks, holes for labeled viewers, a maximum 3/4-inch wood and composite door undercutting, and installation of protection plates (80-2016: 4.1.3.2). This section does not allow the installation of a vision panel in the field. The second category, field modifications, addresses modifications that are not covered as a job-site preparation (80-2016: 5.1.5). For approval of these modifications, a written or graphic description of the proposed modification is sent to the the listing laboratory. If the listing laboratory authorizes the change, the modification may be made in the field and a field visit from the lab is not required. This process is typically handled by the manufacturer of the component being modified, but if the manufacturer is no longer available, the lab may provide an engineering evaluation to support the field modification.

  • What type of anchors can be used for a fire rated door and frame in a retrofit?

NFPA 80 addresses several types of anchors - steel stud anchors, wood stud anchors, masonry anchors, expansion shell anchors, and existing drywall anchors where the frame is punched and dimpled and a spacer provided to prevent the frame from buckling at the screw location. Drywall compression anchors may also be used. The most common anchors for retrofit conditions are expansion shell anchors for masonry walls, existing drywall anchors, or drywall compression anchors. Generally, if a manufacturer has successfully tested and listed a specific anchor for use on a fire door frame, it is acceptable even if it is not specifically mentioned in NFPA 80.

  • How long after installation do fire doors need to be inspected?

NFPA 80 does not state a specific time frame for inspection after installation. The standard states that assemblies shall be inspected and tested "upon completion of the installation" (80-2016: 5.2.1). One possible interpretation could be that the inspection would occur as part of the commissioning process - before the Certificate of Occupancy is issued, although this is not specifically required by NFPA 80.

  • Is there a recommended procedure for repairing fire rated doors?

Fire rated doors and frames should be repaired on a case basis to ensure compliance with NFPA 80. Contact the manufacturer for assistance.

  • Is it possible to have a B label door with a louver of any size for air intake? If so, where in NFPA or other relevant standards is this permitted and what is the maximum size of the louver?

Listed fusible-link type louvers to a maximum size of 24" x 24" are permitted in 45 minute and 90 minute fire doors, with the louver mounted in the bottom half of the door. Louvers may not be used in 20 minute rated doors, or doors of other hourly ratings that may be part of a smoke and draft assembly. Doors with vision kits in the top half of the leaf are allowed if the manufacturer has this capability in their listing procedures. The limitation on exit devices in combination with louvers has been removed from NFPA 80.

  • Why is a 1.5 hour rated door and frame typically required in a 2 hour rated wall?

The fire rating of a door is determined from Table 715.4 of the International Building Code® (2009). In most cases, the door carries a rating less than that of the wall because it is assumed there will be no fuel-load (furniture, fixtures, storage) in front of the door. NFPA 80 stipulates that unused doors be removed and the opening filled with wall construction equivalent to the rated wall.

  • Does SDI have specifications for smoke and draft control doors?

Where required by the code, smoke and draft control doors must be tested and listed in accordance with UL 1784. This is not a Steel Door Institute standard, but all SDI members do provide products compliant with UL 1784.

  • I am the architect for a large industrial project that includes more than 300 steel doors. The 2 hour fire rated egress stair doors have been modified - locksets have been removed and sealed with a steel plate (gauge unknown) with bolts. Have the fire ratings of the doors been compromised?

Yes, every fire door must have a latching device, so you cannot remove a lock or latch from a labeled door and maintain the rating. Where a non-essential piece of hardware has been removed, the remaining holes must be filled with the same material as the door itself.

  • On a recent inspection, the inspector questioned the use of plastic filler for dent repair on a fire rated door frame, stating that it may violate the rating. Do you have a document that covers this, specifically anything that differentiates between a cosmetic repair and the repair of a defect that would interfere with the operation of the door assembly?

Any modification to a fire door may negate the rating. Generally speaking, a cosmetic repair of a fire rated assembly with non-flammable body putty is permissible.

  • SDI 118-2005, section 12 mentions neutral and positive pressure fire test methods. What does that mean?

The reference to "neutral" and "positive" pressure is referring to a specific test method for fire doors, UL 10B being conducted under neutral pressure, and UL 10C under positive pressure. The Building Codes governing the United States require, with few exceptions, that fire doors are not tested and listed to UL 10C. In this test method, the interior of the furnace is operated with a slight pressure against the upper portion of the assembly, to better simulate the dynamics of a real fire.

  • What is the largest size of visible glazing that can be put into a fire rated door?

The required hourly rating will dictate the approved glazing lights available. All glazing used in fire rated doors must be listed and labeled. Basic guidelines on glass are as follows:

20 minute

1,296 sq. inches per light with neither dimension exceeding 54"

45 minutes

1,296 sq. inches per light with neither dimension exceeding 54"

1-1/2 hours

100 sq. inches per door leaf max.

3 hours

flush door, no glass