Does A Basement Door Have To Be Fire Rated?

A fire-rated door is specially adapted to stop the spread of fire or smoke. These doors are often put in public buildings and commercial spaces, although they can also be installed in residential homes. You are probably wondering whether your basement door has to be fire-rated. We talked to the experts, and here is what they have to say.

The number of floors in a building determines whether the basement door has to be fire-rated. A fire-rated door is needed where the height of the topmost floor exceeds 14.7 feet (4.5 meters) above ground level since the basement is not considered when determining the number of floors for fire resistance and means of escape. If the basement floor level of a two-story building is 3.9 feet (1.2 meters) below grade, you will need a fire-rated door. The fire-rated door should remain unlocked at all times to ensure that anybody who needs to exit can easily find their way to safety.

Fire-rated doors are a passive fire safety measure that can either provide an escape to the occupants of a building when they are open or slow down the spread of fire and smoke when closed. Additionally, there are rules and regulations to be followed in the installation and maintenance of fire doors. Read further to find out whether fire doors are a legal requirement and if there are situations that necessitate having a fire-rated door, as well as what you should never do to a fire door.

A gorgeous and nicely lit basement with wooden flooring, carpeted stairs, and white painted walls, Does A Basement Door Have To Be Fire Rated?

When Do You Need A Fire-Rated Door?

You need a fire-rated door in the following situations:

  • In homes with more than two floors - The fire door should separate the stairwell from all dwelling spaces such as the living room and bedrooms. This takes into consideration homes whose top floor or lofts are at least 14.7 feet (4.5 meters) above the external ground level.
  • You will need a fire-rated door if the base of your cellar is 3.9 feet (1.2 meters) below external ground level of your two-story home.
  • A fire door should disjoin the house and an internal garage.
  • A separating door is necessary between residential and commercial sections of a mixed-use building.
  • Entrance doors are needed for ground floor flats that open to shared spaces such as a passageway.
  • All non-domestic buildings - Unlike domestic buildings, non-domestic facilities should provide both vertical and horizontal escape routes which should at the very least be lined with fire doors.

The occupant load determines the number of fire-rated entries in a commercial building. Where the occupant load is 501 to 1000 people, three exits should be provided. The exit pathways should be increased to four if the occupant load is more than 1000.

Are Fire Doors A Legal Requirement?

A fire door sign installed on the wall

Fire doors are a legal requirement in all properties apart from domestic properties less than two stories high. Therefore, you should install fire doors in commercial buildings, businesses, residential properties with more than two stories, and other spaces open to the public, such as libraries and hospitals.

Preservation of life is the primary consideration when determining the fire door category. The factors taken into consideration when determining the fire door class include the type of business carried out, the design of the building, and where the fire door is located.

FD30 and FD60 are commonly specified, as they offer fire protection of 30 minutes and 60 minutes, respectively.

Fire doors must have a permanent, legible label that includes information about the manufacturer of the door and frame, how long the frame and door are expected to resist fire, and whether the door is a smoke door assembly or it carries a temperature rise rating.

What Should You Never Do To A Fire Door?

Fire doors are central to the fire safety precautions for any building. For these doors to serve their purpose, there are some things that you should never do to them, as explained below:

1. Never Block A Fire Door

All paths extending to a fire door should remain unobstructed at all times, as this ensures quick egress in case of a fire. If the pathway is unclear, accidents may occur as smoke and fumes blur vision, making it impossible to see clearly.

2. Never Lock A Fire Door

You must not lock a fire door in such a way that it cannot be easily opened by anyone who needs to use it in case of an emergency. However, the doors must have a latching device that ensures the door remains closed when a fire breaks out.

3. Never Wedge A Fire Door Open

Fire doors are expected to contain a fire by preventing the spread of flames or smoke to other parts of the building. However, this cannot happen if the doors are left open. For this reason, the fire doors should remain closed at all times.

You must install an automatic closing system in all fire doors to ensure that they are never propped open.

The system installed should afford a good balance such that the door is not a hindrance to the occupants of the building and its functionality is not compromised. The closing system should also be suitable for people with disabilities.

4. Never Cut Vision Panels And Other Holes On Fire Doors

The vision panels and holes on the fire door create weak spots, which, if not correctly fire-rated, may result in catastrophic consequences in case of fire.

Can You Turn A Normal Door Into A Fire Door?

Although it is recommended that you replace the normal door with a custom-made fire door where one is needed, you may upgrade the regular door into a fire door in a few instances.

  • Firm, seamless doors with a compact body and a thickness of at least 6 mm, or strong doors with solid panels that are at least 10 mm thick with frames at least 35 mm thick can be upgraded.

  • You can also upgrade seasoned doors whose panels are 8 mm thick rather than 10 mm by fitting 6 mm thick ply panels in the panel recesses and holding them in place by the door's beading.

Standard doors that are susceptible to warping after installation are lightweight, and their hollow core cannot be upgraded to achieve the required fire resistance.

Notably, turning an ordinary door into a fire door is subject to numerous assessments to ensure that it complies with the required fire resistance. Ensure that you comply with these regulations if you opt to upgrade your doors.

How To Upgrade Normal Doors To Fire Doors

You can upgrade regular doors to fire doors either by using a timber coat or fire varnish.

When using timber coat intumescent paint, the doors should be able to lose about 2 mm to charring without cracking of the thinnest areas and maintaining insulation. The door should also have an additional 2 mm safety allowance.

You should apply at least four layers of paint on both sides of the door. The layers ensure that the integrity and insulation of your structure are not destroyed for about 45 minutes in the event of a fire.

You can also use fire varnish intumescent to upgrade your doors. The varnish is suitable for hardwood doors or solid doors with a hardwood veneer. You may need to apply at least three layers of varnish to achieve 30 minutes of fire resistance.

It is recommended that you fit intumescent strips in the door jambs and around the door perimeter to close the gaps that may allow the fire to pass through.

Final Thoughts

The basement door may or may not be fire-rated depending on the number of floors in a building. We hope that this article has shed light on fire doors and addressed some of your questions around these doors.

Check out these articles to learn more about the building and maintenance of basements:

Should You Drywall A Basement Ceiling?

Can You Build A Daylight/Walkout Basement On Flat Land?

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