Doors in apartment buildings are so much more than inert closing devices. They’re intricately designed mechanisms that keep users safe in the event of fire and secure in the event of unauthorised access.
The research and development behind a certified fire doorset is immense. The smallest of changes leading to a noncompliance can result in total failure when tested in a fire. This could be measured in loss of life.
During this post, we will detail some of the key features of fire doorset and fire doorset installation but also highlight the options allowing you to be unique in your final selection of product.
An often-overlooked feature of an apartment fire door, however, is the overall aesthetic that the designer can achieve. The door provides ample opportunities to experiment with colour, grain, texture and finish, delivering a result that is truly unique and awe-inspiring.
In this post, we take a look at some of the key elements that you, as a specifier, should know before embarking on your apartment project. We explore:
- How apartment fire doors work
- Fire door regulations
- Key considerations
- Choosing your finish
- Ironmongery & vision panels
Read on to find out more…
How Do Apartment Fire Doors Work?
A fire doorset is passive fire break. This means that unless a fire breaks out, a fire door will work as a normal door: an opening and closing device that facilitates the passing of individuals in and out of a building, or area of a building*
Where fire doorsets differ from normal doorsets is how they will react in the event of a fire. The doorset is engineered to perform three main functions:
- To protect escape routes from the effects of fire by acting as a barrier
- To compartmentalise fire and prevent fire spread throughout the building
- To permit fire fighting
* Unless you wish to restrict access to none fire escape doorsets, such as spaces that house dangerous appliances.
What Are The Fire Door Regulations In Apartment Blocks?
Approved Document B addresses fire safety precautions which must be adhered to, to ensure the safety of occupants, firefighters and those close to the building in the event of a fire.
This document provides clear guidance on when a fire doorset should be fitted within an apartment block, as opposed to a none fire rated door.
Specifically, this might mean, an entrance door to a flat that opens onto a common area should be a fire door, which should meet a minimum 30-minute fire resistance. It is likely to be fitted with smoke seals and have a self-closing device. This prohibits the passage of smoke into protected areas and the self-closing device ensures the door is always closed. An open fire door fails.
Fire doors on ground and upper floors
Ground floor apartments and upper floor apartments below 4.5m may not need a fire door if the habitable rooms have an alternative means of escape.
If an apartment is above 4.5m, then fire doors will be required.
This is for blocks of flats that are of a maximum of four stories with a top floor that is no more than 11m above the ground.
Apartment Fire Door Considerations
We would argue that there are four key considerations to bear in mind when specifying fire doorsets in apartment blocks. They are:
- Fire Safety: Fire resistance in doorsets is rated in minutes (fd30, fd60, fd90 or fd120). The rating you specify will depend on the end use and/or location of the door.
- Security: PAS 24 is usually a minimum standard by which all new builds may need to adhere to in order to comply with Building Regulations.
- Acoustic properties: consider the transfer of sound from outside to inside the apartment & within the corridors.
- Design & Aesthetics: We will explore design & aesthetics further in this post, but your quest to be unique shouldn’t be compromised.
It’s important to differentiate between a fire door* and a fire doorset; the latter being a complete unit consisting of:
- The door leaf
- The door frame
- Intumescent seals and smoke seals
Combined, these components play a critical role in the doorset’s fire resistance, and any unauthorised changes in specification may impair the performance of the whole doorset. Any changes from the tested specification should only be made with the approval of an expert authority, such as a UKAS-accredited testing laboratory.
It is for this reason that we strongly advise against value engineering your doorset’s component parts, as highlighted in this blog post.
*Fire doors only refer to the doorset’s leaf
The Security of Your Fire Doorset
Historically, apartment buildings would have had a 24-hour concierge that would oversee the access to and from the building. However today, the front door of an apartment will normally be the first or second point of security for anyone accessing the building.
For that reason, apartment doors will need to adhere to a British security standard, such as PAS 24. PAS 24 is a series of tests designed to assess the security of a door against an attack.
Three Point or One Point Locking System for Apartment Fire Doors?
There are some misconceptions around locking systems and the level of security your fire doorset can provide. It is commonly assumed that a three-point locking system is required on the front door of an apartment, but this is not the case.
A high-performance, quality doorset with a single-point (or one-point) locking system can achieve PAS 24 certification if it is designed and constructed correctly. From a design and procurement perspective, this gives you, the specifier, much better options:
- One-point locking systems look better (they’re more traditional and less ‘institutional’ than three-point systems).
- It is more economically competitive.
- Compatible with electronic locks
Acoustic Doorset Considerations For Apartments
Apartment buildings can fall victim to the transfer of noise when dozens of people are living under one roof.
And whilst a well-fitted dire door with smoke seals will provide a moderate level of acoustic reduction, an increased level of acoustic performance may be required for your apartment’s front door.
We recommend a 35 RwdB acoustic performance to apartment entrance doorsets. However, you may wish to increase this to around 40db for apartment entrance doorsets that are within – or adjacent to – communal areas or lifts.
Within the apartment itself, a well-fitted doorset will suffice, without the need for further seals.
The Design & Aesthetics Of Your Fire Door
The expansive corridor of an apartment building can provide ample opportunities for the designer to experiment with the height and width of the doorset, without exceeding budget.
In fact, a larger door leaf does not cost a great deal more to manufacture. However, we advise our clients not to exceed 930mm wide or 2200mm high as it will impact fire certification and cost. It is still feasible, but will be a little more expensive.
The Finish of your Fire Doorset
This is, arguably, one of the most exciting aspects of the specification: your opportunity to experiment with colour, tone, grain and texture.
We are seeing a rise in innovative and creative fire door designs and, when done tastefully, can pave the way for designers to deliver a unique statement on their project.
Here, we will discuss the following finishes:
- Veneers (real wood & reconstituted wood)
- Impact vinyl
- Factory painted
Real wood veneers are acquired by slicing or peeling a log, which produces a thin layer of wood of a uniform thickness.
Manufacturing these sheets produces veneers that will all vary slightly in appearance. Many say that it’s the inconsistency which makes real wood veneers so intriguing.
There are many veneer cutting techniques that all provide different final appearances. Any of these final finishes can be enhanced or complemented by final veneer assembly or contrasting inlaid veneers.
Reconstituted and engineered wood veneers are a versatile option, allowing you to recreate a variety of ‘on-trend’ shades and nuances. Also known as recomposed or manufactured wood veneers, they are sliced from softer, rapidly growing renewable species, and they are dyed in vats, dried and glued together into various shaped logs, before it is re-sliced and re-glued to the desired pattern.
The results can emulate natural wood features.
It can be difficult to describe laminate in one paragraph since the options are nearly endless. Typically, you can achieve plain colour laminates, timber veneer laminates and patterned, stone and metal effect laminates.
Their durability and competitive price makes laminate finished doorsets a popular choice.
3. Impact Vinyl
Impact vinyl is a plastic-based film that is applied to the surface of a door, providing a lifetime finish.
Since we are no longer limited by availability, minimum order quantity or poor choice of colour, impact vinyl has become one of the more economical finishes.
Impact vinyl’s most distinguishing feature is its versatility in finish design. The possibilities are endless. The only downfall with this is that people are often tempted to opt for a style that’s ‘on-trend’, and as we’re all aware, fashions can come and go quite dramatically.
4. Factory Painted
Factory painting is carried out in our production facility and is applied in a dust-free, environmentally controlled atmosphere. This can result in a high-quality finish, particularly when compared to the alternative: finishing your fire door on site.
Dual Finishing Apartment Fire Doors
Many people are unaware that you can achieve a different finish on either side of the door leaf. This is known as ‘dual finish.’
Dual finish is an effective option for fire doors, whereby the designer can create a bold statement on the front, yet deliver a more subtle, softer aesthetic on the inside.
Since apartments are known not to let in too much sunlight, a lighter colour on the inside door of the apartment might be an option, as opposed to a dramatic, darker wood tone on the outside.
Lipping Considerations of your Apartment Fire Door
If you want your fire door finish to look great for years to come, then you should consider lipping all for edges of the door leaf.
Many ‘off the shelf’ manufacturers will only lip around two edges and this will have significant implications for the longevity of the leaf.
A door leaf lipped around all four edges means that the facing material will go to a nice, tight, clean edge. A leaf that is not lipped around all four edges will expose the facing material and deteriorate quicker.
Ironmongery & Your Apartment Fire Doors
Door hardware normally consists of:
- Self-closing device
- Lock or latch
They must all be CE marked to ensure compliance with timber fire doorset certification. This means that the manufacturer has checked that these products meet EU safety, health or environmental requirements.
The Role Of Essential Ironmongery
Essential ironmongery will hold the door in place until the intumescent strip is activated. At which point, the integrity of the doorset takes over.
It’s extremely important that compatible products are used and correctly installed along with a fire resistance protection that is needed. Size and fire rating of the doorset should also be considered.
Generally, doorsets have two separate ironmongery requirements:
- Fire door keep locked – e.g. cupboards and storerooms. These doors should always remain locked unless an authorised person requires access.
- Fire door keep shut – e.g. doors that are frequently used as a passageway. These doors should be kept shut at all times, which is why it will be fitted with a door closer.
Avoid This Mistake With Ironmongery.
Avoid value engineering your doorset’s components. This is particularly true when it comes to ironmongery. By specifying the whole fire doorset (including hardware) from one manufacturer, it means that they will be responsible for supplying you with CE marked ironmongery that meets the specification of the doorset.
Vision Panels & Your Apartment Fire Doors
Vision panels provide a number of key functions. They can facilitate a safe escape route and let light into an otherwise dark area of the building.
Vision panels may also be considered for DDA compliance.
For DDA compliance, here are some key notes:
-If door leaves are wider than 450mm and are either entrance doors, doors across corridors and within lobbies and appropriate internal doors, vision panels should be specified.
-Entrance and lobby doors (other than those to dwellings) should have viewing panels to alert people approaching a door to the presence of another person on the other side.
-A door with a single viewing panel should have a minimum zone of visibility between 500mm and 1500mm from the floor.
-If the door needs to have a horizonal section – for strength or to accommodate furniture – the door should have two viewing panels.
-The size and position of the vision panel should enable a wheelchair user or person of short stature to see, and be seen, by other persons approaching from the other side of the door.
Integrity or Insulation Glass For Your Apartment Fire Doorset?
Your building’s fire strategy may take this choice away from you, but sometimes, you will have to choose between integrity glass, insulation glass, or both.
Integrity glass – Stops fire penetrating through the doorset or screen but doesn’t stop heat penetration. After a period of time, this will cause material ignition on the opposite side of the door leaf. If touched, you risk serious burning.
Insulation glass – stops the transfer of heat if touched in the event of fire.
If your apartment building has only one fire escape, then the specified doorsets within the escape route will need to have both integrity and insulation glass.
At A Glance: 6 Things to Consider For Your Apartment Fire Doorset
- You have an opportunity to experiment with the height and width of the doorset with next to no additional cos
- Try not to let doorsets exceed 930mm wide or 2200mm high (cores over this size may have adverse effect on fire certification or cost. That doesn’t mean it is not feasible, it is. But they may cost a little more).
- On larger projects (500 doorsets +) don’t be afraid to consider impact vinyl. It has all the properties to achieve significant longevity of the door leaf and with many unique finishes. Talk to us.
- Experiment with external framing around your apartment entrance door. We have provided many simple cost effective solutions that enhance the visual experience.
- Don’t consider downgrading your internal apartment door leaves to standard proprietary supply. The difference in final aesthetic between proprietary and bespoke is great, causing a detrimental effect within the apartment.
Whether you’re working on a new build or redesigning an existing apartment building, this post is aimed to provide you with everything you should know about the safe specification of your fire doorsets.
If you’d like to speak to an expert about your next project don’t hesitate to get in touch. Call us on 0161 480 8722 or drop us an email on email@example.com