Fire Doors, Life Safety, and Hardware: Avoiding code confusion

Life safety and door hardware
The purpose of the life safety codes is to ensure the means of free egress of the occupants in the building from any location in the event of a fire or other emergency condition. This includes any door between an occupied area and the public way. The building occupancy determines the need for certain types of door swings and use of acceptable hardware with assembly occupancy being of the highest concern. The wording for these codes vary depending on the jurisdiction, however, the primary reference document is NFPA 101-2006.

There is somewhat of a long occupancy section. It defines a structure according to its use and how many people are within the building. This, in turn, also sometimes defines the type of door hardware that must be used. A hardware consultant will always start with that section to ensure compliance. Other highlights of NFPA 101-2006 (Chapter 7, “Means of Egress”) are explored below.

7.2.1.2.4−Minimum Door Width
Door openings in a means of egress shall not be less than 820 mm (32 in.) in clear width, measured with the door open at 90 degrees.

7.2.1.4.2−Swing
Hinges or pivoted swing type doors shall swing in the direction of egress travel where serving a room or area with an occupancy load of 50 or more people. However, in Québec, this is needed in rooms or areas with an occupancy load of 60 or more people. This is also required for high-hazard occupancies and other codes require it for exit enclosure doors.

Fire doors are often improperly held open with wood wedges or more creative means. When this happens, the assembly cannot perform its intended function during a fi re by closing and compartmentalizing the building.
Fire doors are often improperly held open with wood wedges or more creative means. When this happens, the assembly cannot perform its intended function during a fi re by closing and compartmentalizing the building.

7.2.1.4.5−Force to Open
The forces required to fully open any door manually in a means of egress shall not exceed 67 N (15 lbf) to release the latch, 133 N (30 lbf) to set the door in motion, and 67 N (15 lbf) to open the door to the required width when applied at the latch side of the door.

7.2.1.4.5.2−Force to Open
The forces required to open an interior door without a door closer shall not exceed 22N (5 lbf) when applied at the latch side of the door.

7.2.1.5−Locks, Latches, and Alarm Devices
Per 7.2.1.5.1, doors shall be arranged to be opened readily from the egress side whenever the building is occupied.

Per 7.2.1.5.2, the lock, when provided, must not require keys, tools, or special knowledge for operation from the egress side.

Per 7.2.1.5.7, stair enclosure doors serving more than four storeys shall meet one of the following:

  • re-entry from the stair to the building interior;
  • automatically release of the lock to allow re-entry upon activation of the building fire alarm system; or
  • select re-entry in accordance with 7.2.1.5.7.1.
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8 comments on “Fire Doors, Life Safety, and Hardware: Avoiding code confusion”

  1. This is a concise review of some of the issues I see and deal with everyday.
    I would like it to be mandatory for all construction site Supervisor to be trained by an industry expert on NFPA – 80.
    As well if construction companies would accept responsibility to have all fire doors inspected and a written report provided, by an industry credentialed professional, prior to occupancy it would rectify issues prior to them becoming a problem.

    1. Yes, fire doors are to remain closed at all times unless a mechanical hold-open device is installed, and it is activated and released by the fire alarm. This would be tested and reported yearly by a fire alarm technician/fire door inspector. Otherwise, anything manually holding the door ie: wedge, kick down door holder, is not acceptable.

  2. In Ontario, are there rules for condominiums regarding residents’ unit doors? Specifically, I want to know the rules for installing a peep hole. Is it allowed? Can I have more than one? Where is the rule written?

    1. Iris. Yes a peephole or door viewer is allowed as long as hole diameter does not exceed the maximum of 3/4” or 19mm as stated in NFPA 80

  3. So many mind blowing stupidly written rules about doors.
    You all talk about fire door and safety and one motion latch release and yet you have round knobs on your fire and condo doors. Imagine someone running away from fire with child in hands and trying to open your very “safe”door….. What a joke of rules and regulations.

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