+ A Fire Door Inspector’s 14 Tips on How to Pass an Annual NFPA 80 Inspection Year After Year, Select-Hinges.com, May 2017

The standard for fire door safety

NFPA 80 2016 Standard for Fire Doors and Other Openings Protectives is the most current national standard. This latest edition continues to mandate annual inspections to meet local building, fire or life safety codes. NFPA 80 compliance is required for accreditation by The Joint Commission and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and to receive Medicare reimbursement. Many insurance companies also require NFPA 80 compliance before they underwrite commercial buildings.

After years of inspecting fire doors, most are out of compliance

Building owners and maintenance crews often consider a fire door compliant if it simply closes and latches shut. But a latched door is not always fire code compliant. Upon inspection, these doors often don’t meet NFPA 80 standard requirements. Based on recommendations from the Door Security & Safety Foundation and many years of bringing buildings back into compliance, here are 14 tips to help get fire doors within code compliance before an annual inspection.

  1. Check door leaf and frames for fire door labels. Make sure the labels are legible. The door leaf label should be attached to the hinge edge of the door just below the top hinge or at the top edge of the door. A second label should be on the frame. Take time to read the labels and note whether they require installation of fire exit hardware on the door. If the labels are missing or painted over, the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) may require that they be replaced or inspected and re-certified by a credentialed laboratory.
  2. Look for holes or breaks on the door surface or frame.Look for holes or breaks on the door surface or frame. Look for holes from missing, removed, or incorrect fasteners. On wood doors, check for split stiles caused by not using pilot holes to install fasteners. NFPA 80 does allow for repairs to be made in the field utilizing like material or steel. Each listing agency may also offer allowable repairs in the field without requiring recertification. They should be contacted on a case-by-case basis.
  3. If the door is so equipped, inspect glazing, vision light frames and glazing beads. Make sure they are intact and securely fastened in place. Tighten loose and replace missing fasteners. Ensure that all glazing is properly labeled for te fire resistance of the opening
  4. Check that the door, frame, hinges, hardware and non-combustible threshold are secure, aligned and are in working order. Verify that the face of the door is flush or slihtly inset with the face of the frame. Check that the top and bottom flush bolds project one-half inch into the strike. Look for signs of damage. Be aware that it is not uncommon for cleaning crews to brace open a door with a mop handle or other object and damage the frame, hinges, or hardware. Realign or repair damage.
  5. Inspect for missing, defective, or broken parts. Common red flags during inspections are latch bolts, and/or strike plates, closer arms, ad cover plates. Replace with new OEM parts or replace with exact templated equivalents.
  6. With the door closed, measure clearances around the perimeter of the door. On paired doors, without overlapping astragals, measure between the meeting stiles. Look for wear on the frame or the paired door leaf. Wear often indicates misalignment or poor clearance. See NFPA 80 2016 for clearance requirements. Adjust the door to bring it back into compliance.
  7. Open the door fuly and confirm that the self-closing device completely closes and latches the door. Adjust the self-closing device to achieve full closure and latching without exceeding 15 lbs. of opening force pressure.
  8. If a coordinator is installed, confirm that inactive and active leaves operate in correct sequece. Open the door, then close it, observing whether the inactive leaf closes before the active leaf. It's not uncommon for maintenance departments to stock only active doors and to pair two active doors together. This can create an out-fo-compliance gap. The problem can often be solved by replacing the second active door with an inactive door. However, a less costly solution for eliminating the excessive gap is to install a geared continuous hinge, concealed mount (recommendations below).
  9. Check latching hardware operation. Make sure that the atch secures the door in the closed position. If the door is not securely latching, evaluate whether it is a faulty latch or door misalignment. A potential solution would be to replaec the hinge (information below).
  10. Look for auxiliary hardware items or objects that interfere or prohibit fire door operation or closure. Ensure that plant-ons and overlays do not cause the face of the door to extend beyond the face of the frame. Uninstall interfering auxiliary hardware items from the door or frame. Remove any items bracing the fire door open including furniture, boxes and/or equipment.
  11. Inspect for field modifications to the door assembly that void the fire door label. Look for barrel bolts, dead bolts or kick down door holders. Remove non-compliant plant-ons.
  12. Verify the presence and integrity of any required meeting edge protection, smoke gasketing and edge seats. Verify the top edge of the kick plate is not more than 16 inches from the bottom of the door. (Protection plates mounted higher than 16 inches from the bottom of the door are required to be labeled.) Check that the smoke gasketing forms an unbroken, lightproof seal along the vertical lines and top edges of the door. This smoke gasketing cannot interfere with closing the door. Replace or repair as needed.
  13. Confirm that signage affixed to the door is attached with adhesive; screws are never allowed. Signage cannot exceed five percent of the door surface.
  14. Don't be quick to blame the entire fire door for non-compliance. Before replacing it, consider replacing the hinges. Many of the non-compliant fire doors I and other fire door inspectors observe in the field have clearance issues or unused fastener holes. Some doors are so out of alignmnet and the gaps so gargantuan that maintenance staff often think they must start over with a new door. I often point out during my inspections that it's not the door, but the hinge that is causing the problem. Many fire doors are installed with butt hinges. What seems like a cost savings at the time of construction design does not always prove to be a money-saver over the lifecycle of that opening. Swing-clear butt hinges, used frequently in health care facilities, aren't usualy robust enough to handle heavy, high traffic areas. This type of door hinge is very susceptible to bending. In fact, I've gone into hospitals and found a third of the newly installed fire doors with swing-clear butt hinges out of compliance within a month.

What I usually recommend is (a) from the start, install a geared continuous hinge on fire doors or (b) use a geared continuous hinge to retrofit an existing problem fire door. There are multiple manufacturers of geared continuous hinges, but from my experience building owners don’t want to keep reinvesting in them. I recommend SELECT hinges, in part because of their Continuous Warranty™ and 25-million cycle test. With these hinges, you can expect minimal variance and gaps between the doors and frames for a minimum of 60 years. Barring other types of damage or missing parts, the door is likely to maintain the clearances it had when it was installed and pass inspections for decades.

For existing doors and fire doors, retrofitting is a viable solution. Most of the clients I see are happy when they replace their hinges with SELECT SL57 geared continuous hinges, full surface mount. These hinges let them manipulate their doors back into compliance while maintaining the integrity of the labeled openings. The SL11 geared continuous hinge, concealed mount, fills in gaps on excessively undersized doors, especially on pairs of doors. It allows you to move a door over as much as a one-quarter inch.

While swing-clear butt hinges on heavy, high-traffic fire doors are highly susceptible to bending, an SL21 geared full surface hinge can correct the problem for good.

No matter what hinge is installed on fire doors, it’s critical that it meets the requirements of the fire listing. SELECT hinges are rated 90 minutes out of the box. If 3-hour geared continuous hinges are required, I encourage hardware specifiers to look at the various geared continuous hinge manufacturers’ designs. Most require the use of fire pins that will add to the installation time. SELECT does not require a fire pin to hold its hinges in place under these extreme conditions.

Now that building owners know that annual NFPA 80 inspections are required for fire doors, following these 14 tips will make staying in compliance easier. But keep in mind, the solution for many of the problems you’ll see may be as simple as installing the right hinges. Do so before the inspector comes.

Hal Kelton is a certified fire and egress door inspector and owner of DOORDATA Solutions, Inc. in Monterey, CA. For 30 years, he’s helped owners and facility managers of Californian office buildings, residence halls, military and health care facilities evaluate their sites for fire and egress door code compliance

+ First DHI-Licensed Door Inspection Software Solution Ships to DOORDATA Solutions' Charter Members, Press Release, 2009

Products Meet New NFPA 80 Inspection Requirements, Cut Inspection Time Up to 40%

SALINAS, Calif. October 6, 2008 DOORDATA Solutions, Inc., today announced the release of its first two software products for streamlining the annual fire door inspection process for fire-rated swinging doors. Fire DOORDATA and Mobile DOORDATA have shipped to the company's charter members.

DOORDATA Solutions is the first software company to gain licensing from the Door and Hardware Institute (DHI) to provide its Fire Door Assembly Inspection (FDAI) forms in digital format. Previously, all inspections were completed using DHI's triplicate paper forms.The National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) most recently published standard for fire doors and other opening protectives requires detailed documentation of fire door inspections annually. This standard, NFPA 80, 2007 edition, will be part of the International Building Code 2009 edition and adopted on a state-by-state basis. Once adopted, individual building owners will be required to have all fire-rated openings inspected annually and maintain detailed documentation for each inspection. These reports must be available to the local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) for review. For openings that are non-compliant, a list of individual repairs will have to be provided, and the doors will have to be inspected once again using the same compliance documentation. DOORDATA Solutions' products will streamline this labor-intensive process for fire-rated swinging doors.

"We are the first company of its kind to offer comprehensive electronic, stand-alone and Web-based software solutions for the daunting task of inspecting millions of fire-rated swinging doors annually," said Hal Kelton, AHC/CDC, president of DOORDATA Solutions. "Our Fire DOORDATA and Mobile DOORDATA products expedite the inspection process by providing easy-to-use and affordable solutions that cut inspection time by 40%, all with greater accuracy. For building owners, our network of fire door inspection companies offers multiple services that aid in gaining compliance with NFPA's annual fire door inspection requirements."

"I can't see doing any inspections without using DOORDATA Solutions' products," said Mark Lineberger, AHC/EHC, vice president of Valley Doors & Hardware, Inc. "We recently inspected multiple types of openings at a high school and were very pleased with how seamless the DOORDATA software worked. We were able to quickly and easily move between inspection forms without having to enter the same data multiple times as with a paper-based inspection. Also, Mobile DOORDATA's client interface on the PC tablet was intuitive, simplified our inspection, and allowed the flexibility to make notes along the way. We are confident that DOORDATA Solutions' products will save our company tremendous time and considerably reduce the potential for errors in the field."

About Valley Doors & Hardware, Inc.

Valley Doors & Hardware, Inc., distributes and installs commercial architectural openings. The company specializes in the design and installation of electrified locking systems, access control systems, and integration with CCTV systems. Valley's services include opening replacement, new construction installation, hardware pre-installation, life safety and security consulting, maintenance services, and Intertek-certified fire door assembly inspection. Its employees are committed to delivering quality materials and services to their customers on every project. Valley is a family owned and operated business that was established in 1883. It was incorporated in 1970. The company is located in Allentown, Pa.