How to Install a Fire Door

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A fire door is an architectural device designed to control the spread of fire and smoke in the event of an emergency. These doors resemble a traditional wood or metal door, but are equipped with a special fire-resistant core that is capable of withstanding high temperatures. They are also equipped with special hardware designed to hold up in a fire. While it is fairly easy to install a fire door, it is critical that the right door and hardware are chosen for the job. In the US, fire door requirements are set by the National Fire Protection Institute in NFPA Standard 80 (See References).

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Fire-rated door
  • Hinges
  • Door closer
  • Lock
  • Drill
  • Measure the inside of the frame where you plan to install the door. Choose a door that is 1/8" shorter and 3/4" narrower than the frame to allow for clearance.

  • Check the swing of the door. According to NFPA 80, a fire door must swing in the direction of egress (exit) to allow occupants to evacuate quickly during an emergency. If the existing frame is not set to accept this swing, you may need to add a new frame.

  • Purchase a door that has the correct size and swing for the available opening. The fire door must have a fire label from an approved testing facility, such as Underwriter's Laboratory (UL). Doors without a metal or embossed label are not considered fire doors under NFPA or state building codes.

  • Choose a door with the correct label. Fire ratings for walls are set by local building codes, and may be as high as 3-hours. Doors installed in these walls must have a rating of at least 3/4 of the wall. For example, a 2-hour wall must contain doors that are labeled to withstand failure during a fire for 90 minutes.

  • Check your local building codes for positive pressure requirements. Some areas require fire doors to also be rated for positive pressure. This means that the doors have built-in intumescent seals that expand during a fire to seal the opening. If your state requires positive pressure doors, make sure you choose a unit with this feature.

  • Install fire-rated hinges onto the hinge pockets in the door. Have a helper hold the door in place while you screw the hinges to the frame.

  • Add a door closer. According to NFPA 80, all fire doors must be self-closing. A door closer is the easiest and most affordable way to meet this requirement. Use the template that comes with the closer to help you connect it to the door and frame.

  • Install a lock set on the door. Any locks used on fire doors must be fire-rated, and must be operable with a single action (meaning no separate deadbolts or similar auxiliary locks). Fire doors will almost always have pre-drilled holes for locks and other hardware. If you drill a hole larger than 1", the fire-rating on the door is void, so look for doors that are pre-prepped to accept the hardware you plan to use.

Tips & Warnings

  • Only use fasteners provided with each hardware device when installing a fire door. Using any other fasteners can void the fire rating on the door.
  • Never paint over a fire door label. This can void the fire rating; it also violates NFPA codes.

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References

  • Photo Credit Jeremy Burgin/Flickr.com
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