30% of fire doors condemned as not fit for purpose due to poor installation

This is the headline that Tristan Cooke, Managing Director of Mila Maintenance and Installation took from the recent report by the Fire Door Inspection Scheme that overall,76% fire doors inspected in 2019 were not fit for purpose.

The headline that 76% of fire doors inspected in 2019 were classified as not fit for purpose was staggering, but I wanted to understand the detail a little more. As I read into it the real headline for me was that 30% had been condemned to poor installation.

Over the past few years the installation of fire doors has rightly been at the top of the agenda in many of the areas we work – social housing, student accommodation, care homes and the large scale rented property market, and as a specialist contractor our site managers and installers are all fully trained and accredited to fit fire doors.

But we know from the bidding processes we go through that there are still far too many contractors buying simply on price and not understanding that installing fire doors is a specialist skill and not something that should be left to installers who may be excellent in their day to day work, but are not suited to fit these kind of products.

This is borne out by the reasons for failure highlighted in the report

Excessive gaps between the door and the structure, smoke sealing issues often due to the use of incorrect materials, and poorly fitted or adjusted closers. These are the things which determine whether a fire door will perform properly if required to do so or not, and while it is shocking to hear these things it is not unfortunately a surprise.

It is my view that legislation relating to who can and cannot install fire doors should be tightened even further, it is simply not something that can be left to chance. In the period covered by the report Mila Maintenance and Installation installed over 3,000 fire doors without a single failure at inspection stage.

Too often contractors think that because a fire door has been independently tested by a third party it is therefore fit for purpose.

But all of us who have been in the fenestration industry for a long time know that the best manufactured products, poorly fitted are doomed to fail. In the case of fire doors, the potential consequences are horrendous.

The report talked about 76% of doors being not fit for purpose, the other 46% of failures was down to poor maintenance. This is an altogether different issue and should be looked at separately. Building owners have to take some responsibility here and ensure that once they have had fire doors installed they put a maintenance regime in place, and in the ideal world that should be with the people who installed the doors in the first place. It is simply not enough with a fire door, with mechanical features like closers, to think that once it has been installed the door will operate perfectly for the whole duration of the product guarantee. It won’t.

The product manufacturers have worked hard to get their doors fully certified and accepted by the market, installers who are fully accredited need to fit them.