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May 02 2010

Smoke – NFPA 80

Category: Fire Doors,SmokeLori @ 11:04 pm Comments (13)

Click image to purchase NFPA 80.NFPA 80 – Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives, is a document which most of us in the hardware industry began studying in our earliest hardware school courses and refer back to throughout our careers.  This standard is THE publication on fire doors, and is referenced by all of the codes and standards used in the U.S. that have anything to say about fire doors.  You’d think that because of the close relationship between fire doors and smoke doors (some fire doors ARE smoke doors, after all) that NFPA 80 would have something to say about smoke.  As it turns out, not much.

Chapter 1 says that NFPA 80 regulates and sets the national standards for assemblies used to protect openings against the spread of fire and smoke.  Chapter 2 lists NFPA 105 as one of the standards referenced by NFPA 80.  Annex D mentions that the primary purpose for 20- and 30-minute rated doors is for use when smoke control is a primary consideration, and Annex A mentions “smoke” in two paragraphs:

“A.3.3.7 Automatic-Closing Door. It is recognized that closed fire doors protect openings against the spread of fire and smoke. Automatic-closing doors normally are open, and while they are very reliable, there is always the possibility that they will not close when required due to blockage, maintenance problems, or other unforeseen difficulties. Therefore, it is desirable that when buildings are unoccupied, these doors are closed.”

“A.9.3 Where door assemblies are used for smoke or draft control, gasketing or reduced clearances might be necessary. (See NFPA 105, Standard for the Installation of Smoke Door Assemblies and Other Opening Protectives.)”

So NFPA 80 isn’t the place to find detailed information about smoke doors – go straight to NFPA 105 for that.  But this is a good time to explain some terminology that is mentioned in both NFPA 80 and NFPA 105 – self-closing doors vs. automatic-closing doors.  Here’s how NFPA 80 defines those terms:

“3.3.101  Self-Closing Doors.  Doors that, when opened and released, return to the closed position.”

“3.3.7*  Automatic-Closing Door.  A door that normally is open but that closes when the automatic-closing device is activated.”

So a self-closing door is typically a door with a door closer or spring hinges, which closes each time it is opened.  An automatic closing door has a hold-open device, which releases and allows the door to close.  Although NFPA 80 defines an automatic-closing device as “a device that causes the door or window to close when activated by a fusible link or detector,” most of the building codes and fire/life safety codes require an automatic-closing device to release upon smoke detection rather than by the release of a fusible link.  More on that as I get into what those codes have to say about smoke.

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13 Responses to “Smoke – NFPA 80”

  1. Marge says:

    An existing fire rated barrier has fire rated doors with vision glass which is covered with home-made curtains. The doors are not the cross-cooridor doors, just part of the fire rated barrier. Although vision glass is not required for the location, can curtains be installed with spring rods (not daamging the door)?

    • Lori says:

      Hi Marge –

      Anything attached to a fire door is required to be listed for use on a fire door. Assuming that the curtains are covering just the vision lite and not obscuring the door opening, your question isn’t specifically addressed by the codes and standards, but in my opinion it goes against the intent of NFPA 80. If you consider the curtains similar to signage, signs on fire doors have to be no more than 5% of the door area, and attached with adhesive (no screws). So far, so good. But signage is not allowed to be attached to glass, because it could impact how that glass behaves in a fire situation. The intent is to prevent the transfer of fire from one side of the door to the other, and the curtains could have an affect on that. Ultimately it would be up to the Authority Having Jurisdiction.

      – Lori

  2. Carl Engleman says:

    I am a fire inspector and was advised that magnetic release doors that are tied into the fire alarm system have a release of 18 seconds from time of activation until closing but I can’t find a code reference to this. If you could provide information whether manufacturer specs or code this would be helpful, thank you

    • Lori says:

      Hi Carl –

      The only similar requirement that I know of is a smoke-activated door has to begin closing within 10 seconds after the smoke detector is actuated. I’m not sure which code you’re using but here it is in the 2012 IBC:

      716.5.9.3 Smoke-activated doors. Automatic-closing doors installed in the following locations shall be automatic-closing by the actuation of smoke detectors installed in accordance with Section 907.3 or by loss of power to the smoke detector or hold-open device. Doors that are automatic-closing by
      smoke detection shall not have more than a 10-second delay before the door starts to close after the smoke detector is actuated:
      1. Doors installed across a corridor.
      2. Doors that protect openings in exits or corridors required to be of fire-resistance-rated construction.
      3. Doors that protect openings in walls that are capable of resisting the passage of smoke in accordance with Section 509.4.
      4. Doors installed in smoke barriers in accordance with Section 709.5.
      5. Doors installed in fire partitions in accordance with Section 708.6.
      6. Doors installed in a fire wall in accordance with Section 706.8.
      7. Doors installed in shaft enclosures in accordance with Section 713.7.
      8. Doors installed in refuse and laundry chutes and access and termination rooms in accordance with Section 713.13. Automatic-closing chute intake doors
      installed in refuse and laundry chutes shall also meet the requirements of Sections 716.5.9 and 716.
      9. Doors installed in the walls for compartmentation of underground buildings in accordance with Section 405.4.2.
      10. Doors installed in the elevator lobby walls of underground buildings in accordance with Section 405.4.3.
      11. Doors installed in smoke partitions in accordance with Section 710.5.2.3.

      If you find something different, I’d love to know.

      – Lori

  3. Joe Glaski says:

    Hi Lori,

    Can you refer me to the code section for mounting heights of mag locks on egress doors


    • Lori says:

      Hi Joe –

      There’s an article here:, that talks about the required clear opening width and height, including the requirement for door openings to be at least 80 inches high. There is an exception that allows doors closers and door stops to protrude down to 78″ above the floor, but mag-locks are not mentioned so it would up to the AHJ whether to allow a mag-lock to protrude below 80″ AFF: “1010.1.1.1 Projections into clear width. There shall not be projections into the required clear width lower than 34 inches (864 mm) above the floor or ground. Projections into the clear opening width between 34 inches (864 mm) and 80 inches (2032 mm) above the floor or ground shall not exceed 4 inches (102 mm). Exception: Door closers and door stops shall be permitted to be 78 inches (1980 mm) minimum above the floor.”

  4. Joe Glaski says:

    HI Lori,

    My question is two fold” first I have fire exit hardware that is original installation in 1975 of a healthcare hospital and doors frames not UL fire labeled. Do I need to have the hardware and frames labeled by a certified UL company i.e. Interteck or another authorized UL company? I believe there is a code reverence staring that door frames installed prior or in the 70’s do not need to be labeled however I can not locate the code section anywhere.



    • Lori says:

      Hi Joe –

      Sorry for the delay…the system didn’t send me the usual email telling me that you had left a comment! I haven’t seen a code section like that…the first question will be – are fire door assemblies required for these locations? I think the final answer about the labels will be up to the AHJ. If a rating is required, you could try to have the material certified and labeled in the field. It’s not inexpensive, but it’s less expensive than new fire door assemblies if the original material is acceptable.

      – Lori

  5. Joe Glaski says:

    Hi Lori,

    We have fire doors that have protective guards on the doors to prevent damage to the fire doors. Question is – The guards are not listed, we purchased them through Grainger to install on the fire doors so trash cart, linen carts and food carts do not damage the doors.

    Is this a code violation and if so can you reference the code. Also are there listed products for this type of application.

    Thank you

    • Lori says:

      Hi Joe –

      I looked into this a while back and in my opinion it’s a grey area. Although we’ve all been taught that every item on a fire door assembly has to be listed for that purpose, I don’t see anything in NFPA 80 that specifies that. The standard addresses each type of hardware – for example, latches must be listed, hinges must meet the requirements of 80 or must be listed, gasketing has to be listed, but it doesn’t address accessory items that don’t fall into those categories. I asked UL and Intertek and both said that anything installed on a fire door assembly had to be listed/labeled, which would mean that you can’t use non-listed protective guards, but I can’t show you anything in a code or standard to support that.

      – Lori

  6. Joe Glaski says:


    Thank you for the response, I agree its a grey area. I found some AHJ’s allow the guards while other AHJ’s do not.


  7. Crystal says:

    I am reviewing building code plans that have a rated corridor. One of the doors on the rated corridor has a delayed closer. This is at a laundry room, so I understand why that would be specified. I find that the 2012 IBC 716.5.9.3 specifies a 10-second delay at an smoke-activated door, but this is a self-closing device with a delay. IBC 716.5.9.2 refers to NFPA 80 for automatic closing devices. Does this standard have limitations on the delay of the device? If so, what is is and in what section?

    • Lori says:

      Hi Crystal –

      As you said, a delayed action closer is considered self-closing, not automatic-closing, and the 10-second period to initiate the closing cycle applies to automatic-closing doors. The IBC is silent on delayed action closers, so a code change proposal was submitted for the 2018 edition. The committee approved a modified version of the submitted proposal, and if approved by the voting members it will be part of the 2018 IBC. The voting results should be released within the next month or so. The proposal allows delayed action closers to be used on fire doors. In my opinion, it’s an excellent application for a laundry room because it will help prevent the use of a wood wedge or other non-compliant hold-open.

      – Lori

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