Fire and iron – a guide to fire door ironmongery

Douglas Masterson discusses the importance of fire doors, their specification and inspection, and the maintenance of the fitted ironmongery.

Fire safety is of paramount importance in any building, no matter its intended purpose, age, or location. Building designers, engineers, architects, inspectors, and owners all have a part to play in ensuring that the building and occupants are as safe as possible in the event of a fire. To understand the role of fire doors in optimising safety, we need to explore what a fire door does, what architectural ironmongery should be fitted to it, and how it should be maintained to ensure safety and compliance.

What is a fire door and what does it do?

Fire doors form a big part of a building’s fire safety, passively protecting those inside from fire by creating compartments that fire struggles to pass. Buildings are typically divided into these compartments by using fire-resistant walls and ceilings, with any gaps plugged by a fire door with the same resistance as the walls and ceiling e.g. 30 or 60 minutes.

Once a fire door is closed, it provides a seal that stops any fire and smoke from spreading, creating a safe and protected escape route for people within the building, as well as protection for those entering the building to tackle the fire. With all this in mind, fire doors must be installed to replicate their test conditions, which also applies to everything fitted to the door, e.g. the ironmongery and hardware. Improper fitting will also nullify any third-party certification or CE/UKCA marking, meaning the door possibly doesn’t meet safety regulations.

There are three types of fire doors used in most buildings: keep shut; keep locked; and automatic. The first two are self-explanatory and should be kept shut and locked most of the time. However, automatic fire doors are usually held open (via a hold open device), or swing freely, but revert into a self-closing state when a fire alarm is triggered. Nothing must be left in the path of these types of doors that would prevent or impede their closing in an emergency.

What ironmongery should be on a fire door?

A fire door can only perform to its maximum effectiveness if it is fitted with certain types of ironmongery (door hardware). The three core items all doors need are hinges (allowing safe hanging), a closer to ensure the door doesn’t stand open, and a lock or latch to ensure it stays shut and secure in its frame. These three items are so critical that they must, individually, be CE marked on any newly constructed building.

In addition to the core items, most fire doors will feature additional door hardware like pull or lever handles, signage – which is always blue and white with wording to match the type of door – and one of the most important additions, intumescent seals.

Intumescent seals play a vital role on any timber fire door. Hot and dangerous gasses will filter through the gaps around the edges of the door in the event of a fire, but intumescent seals have been designed to prevent this from happening. The seals are often supplied in a plastic or metal casing and are fitted to the top, bottom, and sides of the door. When heated, these seals expand to fill the space between the door and the frame, significantly reducing the amount of harmful gas able to leak through.

Inspecting a fire door

Given the vital role a fire door plays in a building’s passive fire protection, the condition of every fire door must be considered as part of any building’s fire risk assessment. However, inspecting a fire door is not as simple as checking that it opens and closes effectively.

A fire door is a complex assembly of door, frame, glazing, and hardware. Only when all these elements are working harmoniously does it provide the level of protection required, which makes inspecting it far from a simple task. Therefore, we recommend that all fire door inspections are carried out by a person who fully understands the building regulations, as well as the British and European standards.

Alarmingly, Fire Door Inspection Scheme (FDIS) data, based on more than 100,000 fire door inspections carried out by approved inspectors in 2021, found that 75% of fire doors failed to meet the required standards. A significant portion of these had excessive gaps between the door and the frame – BS 8214 states that a typical gap for good fire performance is between 2 and 4mm. This fault potentially poses a risk to life in the event of a fire.

Building owners failing to comply with the regulations can be prosecuted, fined, and potentially serve a prison sentence. Recent prosecutions have been severe, even for seemingly minor infringements, such as leaving fire doors wedged open. Furthermore, the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 have now made it a legal requirement for responsible persons for all multi-occupied residential buildings in England with storeys over 11 metres to undertake:

  • quarterly checks of all fire doors (including self-closing devices) in the common parts; and
  • on a best endeavour basis, annual checks of all flat entrance doors (including self-closing devices) that lead onto a building’s common parts.

With all this in mind, it’s obvious that the importance and benefits of proper inspection far outweigh the potential consequences and costs. Regular inspection brings confirmation that fire doors are compliant and will perform as designed, it helps prolong the life of the door, and it helps identify any remedial work needed, allowing plans to be formed for remediation accordingly.

How to properly maintain door hardware?

According to the Regulatory (Fire Safety) Reform Order (RRO), which came into effect in October 2006 in England and Wales, all critical items should be maintained at regular intervals. The RRO states that the person responsible for the building should regularly inspect all equipment that ensures a person’s safety within the building – this of course applies to fire doors and their hardware.

Once an inspection has been completed, any maintenance needed should be carried out promptly. Most items of door hardware are built to last a very long time, so typically, any intervention needed will be cost-effective and quick to perform.

Taking hinges as an example, required maintenance typically includes replacing missing fixings, checking for wear, and ensuring the door hasn’t dropped. All these things are easily repaired and updated.

To assist with this, the GAI has produced a series of sector-specific end user guides. These publications are provided to help building owners, managers, and users get more from their architectural ironmongery. As well as covering maintenance recommendations and care of finishes for relevant materials, they include useful checklists to help the user with critical products such as fire doors, escape doors, and automatic doors.

The importance of standards

One issue which is of paramount importance to the architectural ironmonger is keeping up to date with all the relevant standards and legislation with over 50 standards which are relevant to the ironmonger. Some of these are known as ‘harmonised’ or ‘designated’ standards.

Harmonised European standards (hENs) are European standards specially created to support European directives. Compliance with a hEN creates a legal presumption of conformity with some or all of the technical requirements of a directive. The European Construction Products Regulation requires products within their scope to declare their performance in accordance with the relevant hEN. This means that, for CE marking under the CPR, only testing carried out in accordance with the hEN is valid.

Designated standards are the GB equivalent of harmonised European standards and were created following the UK’s departure from the European Union. These are developed by a recognised national or international standards body through a process of consensus, which is designated by the UK Secretary of State and is recognised by government in part or in full by publishing its reference on GOV.UK in a formal notice of publication. Designated standards are the UK equivalent of a harmonised standard and are at present based on identical versions of the same standard.

The European and UK versions of the Construction Products Regulation (CPR) have made harmonised and designated standards mandatory for any products falling under the scope of such standards. It is currently illegal to offer a non-CE marked product for sale on the UK and European market if it is within scope of a harmonised/designated standard. (This will also apply with UKCA marked construction products after 1st July 2025.) Under the Northern Ireland Protocol, NI remains part of the single European market and therefore still requires CE marking or, alternatively, UKNI marking in order to place relevant products onto market.

Any product listed in the table above should now have the relevant conformity marking affixed, and be accompanied with a declaration of performance (DOP) before being placed on the market for use in the situations specified.

Recent changes to standards

Standards are constantly being amended, revised, and drafted. The following list includes some of the most relevant ones to the ironmongery industry, with GAI having been on the drafting panels for many of these:

  • PAS 24:2022 Enhanced security performance requirements for doorsets and windows in the UK
  • TS 17814 2022 Building hardware. Master Key System data protection guidance
  • EN 17610:2022 Building hardware – Environmental product declarations – Product category rules complementary to EN 15804 for building hardware
  • EN 17352:2022 – Power operated pedestrian entrance control equipment. Safety in use
  • EN 12320:2021 Padlocks and padlock fittings. Requirements and test methods
  • EN 15684: 2021 Mechatronic cylinders
  • EN 17372:2021 Power operated swing door drive operators
  • EN 16867:2020 Mechatronic door furniture

The following standards are in the process of being created or revised and are due to be published within the next 12 to 18 months:

  • prEN 15685 Multipoint locks and their locking plates
  • EN 12209:2016 Mechanically operated locks, latches and locking plates
  • EN 16005:2012 Power operated pedestrian doorsets. Safety in use
  • EN 1303:2015 Cylinders for locks 
  • BS 8214:2017 Fire Door Assemblies Code of Practice
  • EN 1906:2012 Lever handles and knobs
  • BS 5499-10+A1 – Guidance for the selection and use of safety signs and fire safety notices

Who should specify my fire door hardware?

When asking someone to specify any of the hardware on a fire door it is important that you have confidence they have the appropriate skills, knowledge, experience, and behaviour, and are up to date on the relevant legislation and regulations.

This is where those involved in fire safety should look for a GAI Registered Professional such as a Registered Architectural Ironmonger (RegAI) to carry out the work. A RegAI is a fully qualified Guild member who has achieved comprehensive qualifications and continues to maintain their skills, knowledge, and understanding of regulations, standards, and products through an annual programme of continuing professional development (CPD). GAI Registered Professionals represent the highest possible standard of education and professionalism in the architectural ironmongery sector, and provide a clear demonstration of competence at a time when the publication of the Building Safety Act makes this more relevant than ever.

By carefully considering all the issues raised here and involving fully qualified GAI Registered Professionals and fire door inspectors when appropriate, fire safety specialists will be able to create a meaningful strategy to ensure any fire doors they are working with are specified, installed, maintained, and operating to their peak efficiency.

For further information on fire door hardware specification, visit for the GAI’s latest specifier guide, plus the GAI Specifier Resource Book which showcases award-winning projects and products, and carries technical updates and articles on competence, standards, legislation, and more. For more on the inspection and maintenance of fire doors and fire door hardware, visit for user guides, maintenance guides, checklists, and more.

Fire & Risk Management is the UK’s market leading fire safety journal, published 10 times a year, and is available exclusively to FPA members in digital and print format depending on your requirements. You can find out more about our membership scheme here.

Douglas Masterson is Technical Manager at the Guild of Architectural Ironmongers (GAI)