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Dec 22 2016

QQ: Can I remove the hardware from a fire door and permanently close it?

Category: Fire Doors,Quick QuestionLori @ 2:28 pm Comments (5)

I love it when a question arrives in my inbox just as I’m thinking about what to address in my next post.  Yesterday I received a question from an AHJ, about a condominium complex.  Each condo has a fire door as the main entrance between the corridor and the dwelling unit, but there is another door (AKA “butler’s entry”) between the corridor and the kitchen.  Some of the condo owners want to permanently close the extra doors and expand their kitchens.  The new cabinets and appliances would cover the extra door on the kitchen side.

The fire marshal for this jurisdiction was concerned about firefighters attempting entry through the unusable doors, and would require the hardware to be removed from the corridor side to avoid confusion during a fire (in some locations, inoperable doors might also require signage).  So the AHJ’s question was whether the corridor-side hardware could be removed, without losing the protection of the fire door assembly.

Removing the hardware causes the obvious problem of the holes left in the door and frame, and how to fill and/or cover them.  There’s also the question of whether screwing or nailing the door closed will provide as much protection as the active latchbolt required for a fire door.  BUT the overriding factor which led me to say “no” to the AHJ’s question, is this paragraph in NFPA 80:

5.1.6 Removal of Door or Window. Where a fire door or fire window opening no longer functions as an opening, or the door or window is removed and not replaced, the opening shall be filled to maintain the required rating of the wall assembly.

When a fire door is no longer acting as a door, it must be removed and the opening filled with construction equivalent to the wall rating.  The rating of a fire door is usually less than the rating of the wall, and this is because there is (theoretically) no fuel load against a door.  But if the door is permanently closed and a new kitchen is built on the other side, the higher performance of the wall is needed because of the increased fuel load – for example a 1-hour wall instead of a 20-minute door.  The NFPA 80 Handbook clarifies that this practice will ensure that the fire barrier remains continuous without any weak spots that might affect the barrier’s performance during a fire.

Of course, the AHJ has the power to approve a solution that he believes is equivalent to the requirements stated in the applicable code.  This could include permanently closing the door and adding some additional material on the inside to increase the fire resistance of the opening.  But if the plan is to just close the door and install cabinets or place furniture on the condo side, my answer is still “no.”  🙂

5 Responses to “QQ: Can I remove the hardware from a fire door and permanently close it?”

  1. Nitramnaed says:

    We do this all the time for fire and exit doors on the non-egress side. It’s a aesthetic issue. It looks much better to leave the door in place than to try to “patch in” existing materials.
    As mentioned, the logic here is that as long as the infill behind the door maintains the integrity and continuation of the existing firewall the door just becomes a decor item.
    Yes, the AHJ usually asks us to remove the lockset and provide a cover plate. I’ve never been asked to provide a sign unless it’s on the egress side of the door.

  2. Reba says:

    If hardware is replaced on a fire rated door from a cylindrical lock to a panic bar, does the HM frame need to be filled at the former latch location? Does it constitute a hole in the frame?
    What section in NFPA 80 requires this? 5.1.3?

    • Lori says:

      Hi Reba –

      In order to install fire exit hardware, the label on the door is supposed to state that fire exit hardware will be used. NFPA 80-2013 states that holes must be filled here:

      5.5.7 When holes are left in a door or frame due to changes or removal of hardware or plant-ons, the holes shall be repaired by the following methods:
      (1) Install steel fasteners that completely fill the holes
      (2) Fill the screw or bolt holes with the same material as thedoor or frame

      – Lori

  3. Reba says:

    As a follow up, once the bolt holes are filled, are the frames required to be inspected by a door inspection service under 5.2.3 and 5.1.3? Would the frames require relabeling?

    • Lori says:

      Hi Reba –

      If you fill the holes as required by NFPA 80, in my opinion the doors and frames will not need to be relabeled.

      – Lori

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