How Do Fire Doors in Apartments Work

How Do Fire Doors In Apartment Buildings Work?

When specifying fire doors for apartments, there are crucial elements at play to ensure the safety of those occupying and living inside the buildings.

Looking at recent statistics, fire and rescue services in England reacted to 156,128 fire incidents in 2019/2020, according to a Home Office Report. Of this, over 28 thousand were in dwellings.

Fires in residential premises are a serious issue, and the risk increases when working with apartment buildings where a fire could have devastating consequences for multiple inhabitants. That’s why the quality of your fire doorset is not something to be neglected, as well as a firm understanding of how they work.

In this post, we’ll be exploring how fire doors in apartments work from a technical perspective and some key considerations for anyone involved in the design or specification of a fire door in an apartment block, helping you to deliver the best outcomes for your client and end-users.

Read on to find out more…

fire doors in apartment buildingsThere’s a Fire in the Apartment: How will the Fire Door Work?

Fire-resisting doorsets, as distinct from single ‘fire door’ leaves, are precisely designed and engineered component sets required to perform three main functions:

– To protect escape routes from the effects of fire (including smoke) so occupants can leave safely (includes lofts and conversions)

-To protect the contents and/or structure of the building by limiting the fire spread (an insurance requirement)

-To permit firefighting.

Fire doors in apartment buildings are a passive safety device. They act as a normal door until a fire breaks out. Before heat hits the door, any smoke is withheld by the smoke seals. These work prior to any activation of the intumescent protection.

When the heat hits the door, its intumescent system expands and seals the door. Thus, the installed fire-resistant door seals the gap between itself and the fire door frame. It is a barrier, stopping the fire from getting into or out of the affected room or compartment.

The function of the intumescent system is crucial at this stage and unless you have extensive knowledge in door core characteristics, then seek the guidance from a doorset manufacturer. They will ensure that the correct intumescent detailing, including size, quantity and location of the intumescent strips is correct.

To find out more about intumescent materials, read our detailed blog post here.

The Role of a Fire Doorset in an Apartment

Internal fire doors and accompanying compatible fire door frames (fire doorsets) have two important roles during a fire:

When closed, it is a barrier that stops the spread of the fire and the passage of smoke.

When opened, it provides a safe means of escape for those living inside the building.

So, a well-designed, properly tested fire doorset delays the spread of fire and smoke while at the same time does not hinder the safe evacuation of people.

RW Joinery | Get your free guide to installing fire doors

What About Glazed Fire Doors in Apartments?

Performance Doorsets South Trafford Health & Wellbeing Centre

In certain areas of an apartment building, fire doors may have vision panels that are equipped with fire-resistant glass. Generally speaking, vision panels can be small for viewing or large for maximum light transmission.

The client may need to consider (more than normal) the need for insulated glass within the escape route. Particularly if there is only one escape staircase.

When it comes to specifying glass in fire doors, you have the option of deciding between insulation, integrity or both. However, budget should not be a dictating factor as to what you eventually choose.

Integrity glass will stop fire penetrating through the doorset or screen, but it will not prevent heat penetration, and this will eventually cause material ignition on the opposite side. With integrity only glass, there is a risk of serious burning if touched.

Insulation glass, on the other hand, will stop the transfer of heat in the event of it being touched during a fire.

To read more about specifying for insulation or integrity, click here.

Do You Need a 30, 60, 90 or 120 Minute Fire Door in your Apartment Project?

Fire-doors in flats are specified by their resistance and this is measured by minutes (30-minute, 60-minute, 90-minute or 2-hour fire doorsets, as you will be aware).

The level of fire resistance for doorsets is determined by the fire strategy designed by a fire prevention expert, who will closely assess the building requirements.

For example, main routes of escape will need a higher fire-rating (e.g. 60 minutes or 120 minutes). In contrast, a toilet or bathroom may only need a 30-minute door, if any fire rating at all.

Typically, in an apartment, you’d find a 30 or 60-minute fire door on the entrance to each apartment, in order to contain a fire inside an apartment. A 60 or 120-minute doorset would more commonly be used in corridors to contain fires long enough for residents to escape, as well as to allow emergency services enough time to react.

All of RW joinery’s fire doors meet the apartment block fire regulations, set out by the House Health and Safety Rating System.

Key Considerations for Fire Doorsets in Apartment Buildings

Walnut finish for your fire door

In general, when specifying fire doors, the same key considerations apply regardless of the environment or setting. However, there are some key points to bear in mind that are specific to apartments, which we will briefly cover here:

-Vision panels may need to be carefully considered if the fire door is within the escape route.

-Consider acoustic performance carefully. Costs increase exponentially over 35 RwdB in single sets and 33 RwdB in double sets.

-Continuity of design. We recommend a design in-keeping with common veneer/laminate colours/finishes as it will be much easier to replace the leaf in the event of damage.

-Avoid concealed closers to cross corridor doorsets. They are often abused and fail (or damage the door leaf) more frequently.

-Only use doorstops where necessary and avoid door limiting stays. The former is a trip hazard and, if fitted incorrectly, may lever the door leaf off the hinges, the latter, if forced, will damage the frame or door leaf.


To recap, safe and responsible specification in apartment buildings requires you to have a firm understanding of the workings of a fire door, and this understanding can be applied to numerous settings (including apartments).

Our blog library has a variety of detailed posts, which explore some of the themes highlighted here in much more detail. We recommend:

If you’d like to chat more about your apartment building project, don’t hesitate to get in touch with an expert today.

RW Joinery | Get your free guide to installing fire doors

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