Printed from the blog of Lori Greene, AHC/CDC, CCPR, FDAI
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May 20 2009

Opening Force for Fire Doors, Part 1

Category: Accessibility,Door Closers,Fire DoorsLori @ 10:03 pm Comments (2)


I got an email today about a fire rated door that would not reliably close with the closer adjusted to provide 5 pounds of opening force.  I did a post on opening force for accessibility a while back, but it’s important to note that fire-rated doors are not required to open with 5 pounds of force.  This is clearly stated in the accessibility standards.  Appendix A of NFPA 80 includes the following paragraph which recommends a size 3 closer for a 3′ interior door.  The spring size on most newer closers is usually adjustable in the field, and some LCN closers include a gauge which indicates the spring size as you’re adjusting the closer.

A. Adequate spring power is essential for hydraulic door closers to close a fire door with sufficient force to overcome the resistance of the latching mechanism. However, too much spring power causes opening resistance and makes it difficult for the handicapped, the infirm, and young children to open doors. Closers are classified in sizes from 2 to 6, with an increased closing force for higher numbers. Generally, a size 4 minimum closer should be used on exterior fire doors and a size 3 minimum closer should be used on interior fire doors. Door widths greater than 31⁄6 ft (0.97 m) exterior and 31⁄3 ft (1.02 m) interior, parallel or single lever arm applications, and abnormal air pressures usually require an increase to the next size.  A combination of these factors could necessitate an increase of two sizes. Individual manufacturer recommendations should be consulted.  Spring hinges should be adjusted to achieve positive latching when allowed to close freely from an open position of 30 degrees.

Photo courtesy of LCN Closers.

For Part 2 of “Opening Force for Fire Doors,” click here.

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2 Responses to “Opening Force for Fire Doors, Part 1”

  1. Cadmus Brown says:

    We recently had an individual in a wheelchair moved into one of our office buildings with 3’0X9’0 door going into the copy room. The copy room is across the hall from a break room containing a microwave oven and refrigerator.
    The opening to the copy room is a labeled fire opening. The person in the wheelchair is asking that the closer be removed. I have reset the tension to the lowest resistance that will still close the door, and the back check has been set to allow opening wide enough for wheelchair entry. If this is not satisfactory to her, are there any other steps I might take. This is a recurring issue.

    • Lori says:

      Hi Cadmus –

      If the door is required to be fire rated, then it has to close and latch. There are hold-open devices that can be used to hold a fire door open, but they must be released by either the fire alarm system or an on-board smoke detector. You might want to look at the Glynn Johnson SensaGuard 280, which I think would work well for this application as long as you are ok with leaving the door in the open position.

      I have sometimes seen fire doors installed where they were not required, so if you think this might be the case you should talk to your local fire marshal to see if you need to maintain the label and the operational requirements.

      – Lori

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