Many facilities now tag their fire door assemblies with a unique number to help facilitate their annual fire door inspections. These questions came up recently:
Does NFPA 80 allow small signs on fire door frames? Are there limitations on the size, material, and method of attachment?
NFPA 80 addresses signage installed on fire DOORS – those requirements are covered in this Decoded article. But what about signs on FRAMES? Clearly they are not as common, but I have seen plenty of opening-number signs on the faces of frames. Since NFPA 80 refers specifically to signs installed on the face of the door, I asked for an opinion from NFPA staff.
We agree that it’s not currently stated in NFPA 80, and it probably should be – hopefully it will be added to a future edition. In the meantime, most AHJs would likely allow small signs to be attached to fire door frames, but may enforce similar restrictions to those that are applicable to fire doors:
- The area of the sign must not be greater than 5% of the area of the frame.
- The sign must be attached with adhesive, not with mechanical fasteners like screws or rivets.
- Signage must not obstruct the proper operation of the door.
- NFPA 80 doesn’t address the material to be used for signs – the intent is that the sign does not compromise the integrity of the assembly and does not contribute to fire development or become an obstruction. A small sign attached with adhesive is unlikely to have any impact on the performance of the assembly.
If the AHJ will not allow the opening-number tags, the other option would be to install them on the face of the door instead of the face of the frame, in compliance with the requirements of NFPA 80.
What is your experience with this?
Thank you to Deputy Jeff Tock of Allegion for the photo!
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And what if the signage is painted on either the fire rated door or frame? Does the 5% of area rule still apply? Are there or should there be standards for the paint itself? Well, you got me a thinking. I look forward to any answers you find as I have not run these past any AHJ.
Hi Martin –
As far as I know, painting text on a fire door is not a problem, although there are accessibility standards that the letters have to meet and the signage can’t disguise the door or the operable hardware for egress purposes.
This is a common practice in hospital in my experience. There were about 4,000 corridor door in one facility I supervised. I would approach this from basic principles. What is the practical thermodynamic effect on the frame of a 1 inch wide 2 inch long plastic label? This is not likely to produce warping of the frame in a fire situation. The thin label material would not affect warping like an oversize door sign has been shown to affect a door. So inspector, not to worry.
I am further compelled to relate a real conversation durine a fire inspection. In the 1970’s hospital trash cans came under fire at our facility. At that time the health inspector suggested that thin plastic can liners be used. Metal trash cans were commonly in use. The fire inspector’s first inspection after we started using them resulted in a comment that we could not use them because they were flammable! I said: “Really? The plastic bag cannot represent more fuel than about 2 ounces but look, inside that bag sits about 3 pounds of Omaha World Herald!” He looked at me for about 30 seconds and said: “Forget I said that.” I never did. Keep basic principles in focus – what is important.
Hi Jerry –
I’m with you…I try to think about the intent of the code requirements along with using some common sense. BUT – there are many inspectors who are trying to enforce the language of the codes and standards literally. Like if NFPA 80 says signs can be attached to doors, but doesn’t say they can be attached to frames, they can’t be attached to frames. Anyone who understands how these codes and standards are developed would likely assume that the omission was an oversight, but not everyone operates that way. Many of these inconsistencies are very minor, but I think it’s best if they get cleared up in the codes and standards. Not everyone is willing/able to make their point with the inspector the way you did.
P.S. I love your stories. Keep ’em coming. 🙂
Back. I like the practical nature of these comments. You had me thinking as I walked about today. Saw fire doors with “Authorized Personnel Only” “High Pressure Gas” “Biohazard Zone” “PPE Must Be Worn” and some WHMIS labels. One door had to have three signs and I quickly realized to even have 1″ (2.5 cm) high print makes the signage over 5% of the door. No inspector has said anything but clairity in code would be nice. And regulation is funny on some of this. If you make a LONG list of what CAN be done, it is easy to interpret thing not said CANNOT be done. That is legally sound here in Canada.