Questions about frame labels have come up several times this week, so I guess it’s time for a post. I’ve pulled together some information from various sources and I hope some of you will chime in with your input.
The most common questions on this topic are:
- Can a label on a fire-rated frame be painted?
- The label on my frame has no hourly designation…how do I know what the rating of this frame is?
- What types of labels are allowed to be used on fire-rated frames?
- What if the label is missing and I can’t see any indication of a rating?
Underwriters’ Laboratories has published a short, but informative article about label considerations on fire door frames. On the topic of painting labels, the articles states that “The embossment of the information on the label must be bold enough that it will be easily visible once painted. UL permits and encourages painting of embossed labels so they will not corrode and become illegible once the frames are installed. As such, it has been felt that the painting of an embossed label will not affect the rating of the frame or the legitimacy of the UL label…Labels that do not feature raised embossment of the label information should not be painted, as the paint will obscure the information.” So there you go. According to UL, you can paint over an embossed label as long as the information on the label is still legible. Not all code officials will agree with that…fair warning.
There’s A LOT of information about the hourly designations of fire-rated frames in the UL Certifications Directory, but the most concise answer to whether the hourly designation has to be on the label is in SDI-118. This is a publication of the Steel Door Institute called “Basic Fire Door Requirements,” and it includes a paragraph that sums it up clearly: “Fire doors frames are not affected by the exposure ratings and opening classifications that apply to doors. There are no hourly ratings for a basic fire door frame unless the labeling on the frame specifically states that the frame is rated for something less than 3 hours. If a frame bears a recognized label qualifying it as a fire door frame, it may support a 3-hour, a 1-1/2-hour, a 3/4-hour, or a 1/3-hour door. Frames used in masonry walls may be used with a maximum 3-hour fire door, while frames used in drywall walls are intended to be used with a maximum 1-1/2-hour fire door.” So if there’s no hourly designation on the label, the frame would typically be acceptable for up to 3 hours depending on the wall type, but the rating of the assembly is equal to the lowest-rated component. So if the frame is good for up to 3 hours and it’s a 90-minute door, it’s a 90-minute assembly (if the hardware, glass, etc., are correct). Sidelite, transom, and borrowed lite frames in rated walls will have an hourly designation on the label because they would not qualify for a 3-hour rating.
Here’s what NFPA 80-2007 says about labeling frames for fire doors:
“126.96.36.199* Only labeled door frames shall be used.
A.188.8.131.52 Door frames might carry a label stating the hourly rating. The rating of the installed assembly should carry the rating of the door or the door frame, whichever is less.”
And here’s what NFPA 80-2007 says about labels in general:
“4.2.1* Listed items shall be identified by a label.
A.4.2.1 Labels can be permitted to be of metal, paper, or plastics or can be permitted to be stamped or diecast into the item. Labels should not be removed, defaced, or made illegible while the door is in service. If the label on an existing fire door has been removed or is no longer legible, it is acceptable to verify the rating of the fire door through other means acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction such as an inspection or certification service that provides acceptable documentation.
4.2.2 Labels shall be applied in locations that are readily visible and convenient for identification by the AHJ after installation of the assembly.”
A little vague, but hopefully enough to help us understand the intent, right? And finally, if the frame is supposed to be rated and the label is illegible or there’s no visible label at all, what do you do? I talked to one hospital facility manager (who coincidentally happened to work in the hospital where I was born!), who told me that they have a procedure for removing paint from labels. They apply Sherwin Williams Smart Strip on the label with an artist’s brush, cover it with tape, and come back a couple of hours later to peel it off. I haven’t tried it so I can’t vouch for this procedure, but that’s what works for them. If there’s no label at all, the frame can be evaluated and possibly re-labeled in the field. Intertek offers this service, and UL also offers field evaluations. (Here’s a UL article on this topic).