Whether a door is a fire door is very tricky. Unless you are talking about the legal definition of a saleable object, then things are a little grey.
For example, if you are selling a fire door, then you have to prove that its build and its components are able to withstand fire for 30 minutes.
In many cases, to actually write the word “Fire Door” on a saleable door, it also needs a mechanism to make it self closing. If you are selling a “Fire Exit” door, then the fire exit door must have a push-bar and may have to withstand fire for longer than 30 minutes.
My House or Flat Door
Let’s say you have a strong wooden door. If your door can withstand fire for 30 minutes, then it is a fire door.
However, if you were a landlord arguing a case about fire damage or injury, you couldn’t call the door a fire door unless you can prove it was bought as a fire door (aka, the seller was advertising it as a fire door).
If you have a PVC door (those doors made from the same stuff as your double-glazing window frames), then your door is also a fire door. In fact, these doors can often last up to an hour of exposure to fire and still remain functional.
However, again, as a landlord, you would have to prove you bought it as a fire door in order to mount a legal defense.
As a side note, if you buy those very cheap plastic doors, then they will not last long, but these days, even reasonably priced PVC doors are very good at standing up to the fire.
Do not trust the scare stories about them melting after two minutes because it is just not true unless you are buying a very cheap plastic door manufactured ten years ago.
Auto-Closing Fire Doors
If you walk into a trade shop or building supplies warehouse, you are likely to see doors that are labelled as “Fire Doors.” If the door itself is labelled as a fire door, then it must be able to withstand fire for up to 30 minutes, and it must close of its own free will.
In other words, when you open it, the door should slowly (or quickly) close itself again without any help from a human.
This is the minimum legal requirement for a fire door if you are mounting a legal defense or making a report to your insurance company. If you are conscious of the legal aspect of fire doors, then remember you need a good-quality fire door installation company or tradesperson to install the fire doors.
Having poorly installed doors can sometimes be worse than not having fire doors at all, especially if they jam or break during a fire.
Fire Exit Doors
Do not confuse fire exit doors with fire doors. A fire exit door has to withstand at least 30 minutes of fire, but let’s say it is situated in a stairwell that is built to withstand 60 minutes of fire. In that case, the door must also last 60 minutes.
In addition, fire exit doors are not built to re-close after they are opened. Plus, a common design is to have a push-bar open from inside. It is also illegal to lock fire exit doors, but it is not illegal to lock fire doors. The key to fire exit doors is to offer as little imposition as possible for people who are trying to get out.
Final Thoughts – Why So Many Different Terms and Specifications?
It all boils down to legal defense. A landlord can install a sturdy front door and say, “It may hold backfire for about 30 minutes, I am not negligent.”
A landlord can install a fire door as the front door and say, “I took fire safety very seriously.” Finally, a landlord can install a fire exit and say, “I ensured there was nothing impeding the fire escape route.”
In short, your regular door may act as a fire door, but you couldn’t sell it as one. If you are a landlord, then
- a regular door = not negligent,
- a fire door= safety conscious,
- and a fire exit = no imposition to exit.