If you’ve sent me an email and I haven’t replied, it’s because I came back from the BHMA meeting buried under more than 700 emails (not including junk mail!).  If you’re desperate, send me another one telling me that you REALLY NEED HELP NOW.  If you’re not desperate, I’m working my way through the pile.  Sorry for the delay!


I wish I had all the answers, but sometimes a question comes up that doesn’t have a black and white answer.  At least, there isn’t a clear answer until a code change proposal goes through the looong process to attempt to modify the applicable code or standard.  This can take years.  For example, I already have changes on my code development wish list that would be part of the 2021 IBC if approved.  And even if a particular change to the 2021 IBC is approved, a state might not adopt that edition until several years later (by then, all of my kids will have graduated from high school!).

Ives Continuous HingeAnyway…here’s one of those questions/issues that’s on the wish list – but this one is for the 2019 edition of NFPA 80.  Two paragraphs were added in the 2013 edition of NFPA 80 to address continuous hinges used on fire doors.  These also appear in 80-2016: The length of continuous hinges shall be within 1 in. (25 mm) of the height of the door leaves. Continuous hinges shall be labeled and shall meet the requirements of ANSI/BHMA A156.26, American National Standard for Continuous Hinges.

I’ve seen these sections many times and never noticed a potential problem, until it came up twice in the last couple of weeks.  The issue has to do with this section of NFPA 80: The clearances between the top and vertical edges of the door and the frame, and the meeting edges of doors swinging in pairs, shall be 1⁄8 in. ± 1⁄16 in. (3.18 mm ± 1.59 mm) for steel doors and shall not exceed 1⁄8 in. (3.18 mm) for wood doors.

The maximum clearance between the vertical edge of the door and the frame is 1/8-inch for wood fire doors, and 3/16-inch for steel fire doors.  A full-mortise continuous hinge (the most common kind of continuous hinge) requires a clearance larger than this (+/- 5/16-inch) in order to accommodate the thickness of the two hinge leaves.  AND…If the hinge is allowed to be 1 inch shorter than the door leaf, that leaves a gap – potentially 1 inch x 5/16-inch (+/-), which is not within the clearance limitations stated in NFPA 80.

Does that mean that a continuous hinge can’t be used on a fire door?  NO – it doesn’t!  If a continuous hinge has been successfully tested and is listed for use on a fire door assembly, the manufacturer can provide information for the AHJ, as covered in NFPA 80 section 1.4 – Equivalency.  This test data and product information should be sufficient for the AHJ to determine that the product is acceptable for use on a fire door, even if the larger clearance dimension is not specifically addressed in NFPA 80.  This also applies to other new, modified, or improved products which meet the intent of the standard.

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