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Feb 02 2015

WWYD? Fire Door Closing Cycle

Category: Code Development,FDAI,Fire Doors,WWYD?Lori @ 1:48 pm Comments (12)

Update:  This post has been updated for my monthly column in Doors & Hardware.  The new article is here.

Stair DoorI was asked this question last week – when testing a swinging fire door to determine whether it closes and latches properly, what degree of opening is used?  Do you open the door fully?  Does the door have to close and latch from any position?

Great question, and as with many code issues, it depends on which code or standard you’re trying to comply with.  NFPA 80 (2013) includes a requirement for positive latching on each door operation:* All closing mechanisms shall be adjusted to overcome the resistance of the latch mechanism so that positive latching is achieved on each door operation.

I don’t see anything in this section that states a specific degree of opening; the phrase “on each door operation” could be interpreted as a requirement for the door to close when opened to a variety of positions (read on).

The related paragraph in NFPA 80’s Annex A (Explanatory Material – for informational purposes) talks about the importance of properly-adjusted closers which can overcome the resistance of the latch.  The annex also cautions against too much spring power, which can make the door difficult to open.  A size-3 closer is recommended for interior fire door applications, with an increase to a size-4 for some conditions.  This section states that “spring hinges should be adjusted to achieve positive latching when allowed to close freely from an open position of 30 degrees.”

In NFPA 80’s inspection requirements, one of the inspection criteria listed in section (2013 edition) is:

(7) The self-closing device is operational; that is, the active door completely closes when operated from the full open position.

We could conclude that the intent of NFPA 80 is for fire doors to close and latch when operated from the full open position, except that Annex A is inconsistent by suggesting 30 degrees of opening for fire doors with spring hinges.  I’ve put this on my wish list to try to address with a future code change proposal.

I didn’t find anything specific in the IBC or NFPA 101 (let me know if I missed it!), but I found this in the 2012 International Fire Code (IFC) Commentary:

703.2.3 Door operation. Swinging fire doors shall close from the full-open position and latch automatically. The door closer shall exert enough force to close and latch the door from any partially open position.

IFC Commentary: Fire doors must be closed to be effective. Swinging fire doors should be frequently checked to make sure they close and latch on their own power from any position.

So, if a fire marshal is enforcing the IFC, then the door would have to close and latch from any position.  I’m not sure how feasible this is, or whether a fire marshal would expect a fire door to close and latch from every possible position, but it would certainly meet the intent of the requirement – for fire doors to be closed and latched during a fire.

What would you do?  What degree(s) of opening would you test to ensure that a fire door will close and latch properly?

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12 Responses to “WWYD? Fire Door Closing Cycle”

  1. John Dalrymple says:

    I think that 70 degrees is reasonable. At this position a door closer will have to go through both sweep and latch speeds and the delay setting will not be operative.

  2. Joel Niemi says:

    Based on the spring hinges on the door between my garage and laundry room, I think the key thing here is the spring hinge vs. real closer. The wider that a springe-hinged door is open, the greater the closing force (since there is no control over the closing speed, like with a real closer). If the door is just opened a little way, wide enough to get through but not all of the way, the door does not slam closed as well. And we do want fire doors to close (and latch).

    That said, 45 degrees might be an easier to check (intuitive) amount of opening.

  3. Jack Ostergaard says:

    Don’t know exactly how to word this but the door should be checked from somewhere in the backcheck range and from somewhere in the latch speed range. Those are the two extremes of the closer cycle and should cover “any position”.

  4. Cda says:

    I check from different positions

    But I expect it to close from any position it can be in.

    A person going through the door is not going to open it a certain amount of degrees.

    And if held open by a door holder, the door is normally almost in full open position.

  5. Daniel Davis FDAI says:

    When I am installing or performing maintenance on fire doors I personally like to make sure they close and latch from any position.
    You never know what occupants will be doing through out there day.

    When I am inspecting Fire Door Assemblies I like to check the door from the fully open position if more than 90 degrees (required), 90 degree, position and the 45 degree position.

    If an assembly is properly installed it should close and latch from ANY position, but sometime things like air pressure or latch bolt binding can prevent this.

  6. Neil Ashdown says:

    Check for closing from fully open to try your best to replicate normal every day use of the door. Then hold the door 3 to 4 inches off the latch keep (or jamb if no latch) to make sure it closes fully and overcomes any latch / strike resistance from such an acute angle.

    Closer type will have huge effect on closing performance and don’t forget the issue of resistance from brush seals.

  7. David Barbaree says:

    A knowledgeable Allegion rep (Tim Slaughter) taught me to check the doors from just a few degrees of opening or even with the latch resting against the strike. If the closer can’t pull it closed that last inch, there is a door function problem that must be addressed. Many carpenters have the habit of increasing the closing speed to latch the door. This can mask a door binding or rubbing on the frame, perimeter seals, or threshold. I found an instance where the closer spring tension had been cranked up all the way to compensate for rusty hinges that were no longer operating freely.
    A door assembly that will operate smoothly for many years starts with tight design specs, followed by installers who follow those specs. Finally an inspection (and correction) of the final door assembly.

  8. Ken Grayling says:

    I always open the door fully to check it closes and latches without slamming, then sdee if it will latch when released with the latch actually resting on the strike. I was caught out early in my career by a curious piston-action close by Charles Moody called the ‘Dictator’ (Hopefully an English perversion that never crossed the Atlantic).

  9. Vernon Kelley says:

    I check a labeled door from 3 locations:

    3-4 inches from the strike,

    90 degrees, and

    From the door’s farthest possible open position. This is to check for unintended hold-open issues, such as a door that drags on the floor, a surface closer that has an arm that “hyper-extends” or an old floor check with a hold open feature. (Hey, it was a great idea back in 1972!)

  10. faisal says:

    as well as my knowledge and is my concern it should be 30 degree latching speed only for proper latch

  11. Jim Elder says:

    I have special Division 8 spec for electrically monitored doors that requires a three part test to be conducted. One of those tests requires the door to be opened, then allowed to close until the latchbolt touches the lip of the strike. The door is then released and it must latch fully and properly in order to pass. I would almost guarantee that most doors will not pass this test…. particularly those that have been in for a while. Hats off to door contractors who do this test themselves as a measure of quality assurance.

  12. David Federico says:

    If you read most if not all of the door closer installation instructions they always state door should be tested from full 90 degrees of opening ( I know who reads instructions) but it does state that for proper closing . A proper adjusted closer should allow a door to close from 5-7 seconds from the 90 degrees position. If the door closer is set to open at 120 or 180 it should still be tested at the 90 degree mark . This however does not include a barrier free opening, as a delay closure or automatic operator will have a longer closing period . Also this does not account for static air or pressure issues.

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