Fire-Rated Door Inspections
Deficiencies and Inspector Steps
Who Will be Performing These Inspections?
How Are These Inspections Going To Be Performed?
Performance-Based Inspection Cycle for Large Buildings
How Soon Will These Inspections Begin?
Early in 2006, NFPA’s Fire Doors and Windows (FDW-AAA) technical committee completed its task of updating and expanding NFPA 80. Changes and additions have been incorporated into the 2007 edition of NFPA 80. In fact, NFPA 80’s title has been changed to ‘Standard for Fire Rated Doors and Other Opening Protectives’ to reflect the expanded content of the new document.
All of the model building codes reference NFPA 80 as the de facto standard for the installation and maintenance of fire-rated door assemblies. Two additional codes of equal importance are the ICC’s International Fire Code (IFC) and NFPA’s Uniform Fire Code (NFPA 1). These latter codes are used frequently by AHJs when they perform inspections of existing buildings and structures. Last, but certainly not least, let’s not forget NFPA 101, The Life Safety Code™. It, too, refers to NFPA 80 for the installation of fire-rated door assemblies and has some application in our industry.
While there are many changes to NFPA 80, without a doubt, the most significant change of all is the requirement for all fire-rated door assemblies to be inspected annually.
Why is annual inspection of fire-rated door assemblies required?
NFPA 80 has required the frequent inspection of fire-rated doors, and their immediate repair, for many years. The challenge was that it was nearly impossible to define what ‘frequent’ is. Does ‘frequent’ mean every day, once a month, once a year or some other period of time? NFPA 80 2007 has helped to define the frequency of inspections as annually – once a year.
What exactly is going to be inspected on fire-rated openings?
Former editions of NFPA 80 have established guidelines for the installation and maintenance of fire-rated doors. There are certain baseline elements, which are common to all Swinging Doors with Builders Hardware no matter when they were installed. The 2007 edition of NFPA 80 simply requires these baseline elements to be inspected on an annual basis (yearly).
Chapter 5, Section 5-2 Inspections, Paragraph 5-2.4 Swinging Doors with Builders Hardware lists the elements that are required to be inspected. It requires, ‘fire door assemblies to be visually inspected from both sides to assess the condition of the assembly.’
Swinging Fire Doors with Builders Hardware Will Be Inspected to Verify the Following:
- No open holes or breaks exist in surfaces of either the door or frame.
- Glazing, vision light frames, and glazing beads are intact and securely fastened in place, if so equipped.
- The door, frame, hinges, hardware and non-combustible threshold are secured, aligned, and in working order with no visible signs of damage.
- No parts are missing or broken.
- Door clearances at the door edge to the frame, on the pull side of the door, do not exceed clearances listed in 4.8.4 and 6.3.1.
- The self-closing device is operating by verifying that the active door will completely close when operated from the full open position.
- If a coordinator is installed, the inactive leaf closes before the active leaf.
- Latching hardware operates and secures the door when it is in the closed position.
- Auxiliary hardware items, which interfere or prohibit operation, are not installed on the door and frame.
- No field modifications to the door assembly have been performed that void the label.
- Gasketing and edge seals, where required, are inspected to verify their presence and integrity.
Individually these items seem like small problems, but in the context of a fire emergency their importance becomes readily apparent. If the door assembly doesn’t function as designed at the time of the fire it simply cannot protect the occupants as it was intended to do.
The most commonly observed deficiencies found on swinging fire doors with builders hardware and tips for performing visual inspections of fire doors assemblies. Read more...
The FDW-AAA committee had the foresight to recognize that these inspections have to be performed by individuals who are knowledgeable about the openings being inspected. Paragraph 5-2.3 Functional Testing, requires functional testing of fire-rated door and window assemblies to be performed by individuals with knowledge and understanding of the operating components of the type of door [or window] being subject to testing.
Swinging fire-rated doors with builders hardware will require individuals who have broad product-application knowledge and understanding of fire-rated door assemblies. AHJ’s may not have the necessary knowledge – or, more importantly, the time – to perform these inspections. They have their hands full inspecting all of the other building systems and components. While NFPA 80 does not designate a specific group or groups to perform these inspections, the Door Security & Safety Foundation along with the Door and Hardware Institute is providing training and certification.
NFPA 80’s language in paragraph 5-2.1 requires fire door assemblies to be inspected ‘not less than annually, and a written record of the inspection shall be signed and kept for inspection by the AHJ.’ Basically, this requirement creates an inspection system similar to that for elevators, sprinkler systems and fire-alarm systems. These inspections are performed by third-party entities and written proof of these inspections is held by the building owner/property management for review by the AHJ. It’s important to remember that the owner is ultimately responsible for making sure the fire-rated door assemblies are in compliance with NFPA 80, not the inspector. Once the owners are made aware that there are openings with problems, they have to take action to repair or replace them.
The FDW-AAA committee was concerned with how large buildings, institutions and campuses would be able to inspect each fire-rated door assembly every year. Think of the large hotels in Las Vegas. These hotels have thousands of guest rooms – each with a fire-rated door assembly – and many, many more fire-rated door assemblies in the common areas (e.g., stair towers, corridors, restaurants, meeting rooms, casinos, etc.). Inspecting the fire-rated door assemblies would be a never-ending process for buildings like these.
These situations are provided for in the language of paragraph 5-2.2 Performance-Based Option. Under the Performance-Based Option, a facility may have an extended inspection cycle provided it is approved by the AHJ. The full description of the Performance-Based Option is described in Annex J of the 2007 edition of NFPA 80.
These inspections have already begun. Realistically speaking, though, it will take a while before these inspections will become commonplace. The 2007 edition of NFPA 80 will become enforceable upon its inclusion in the building and fire codes. The Foundation is working on creating awareness, specifically in the AHJ community and providing education to help organizations better understand what to look for when approving a fire-rated opening.
You will continue to see and hear more about the annual inspection of fire-rated doors in 2010. The Foundation, partnering with members of the Door and Hardware Institute, continues to offer half-day training sessions for AHJs. These half-day sessions are providing the fire and building code official with a better understanding of what to approve when they are asked to verify the inspection of a fire-rated opening.