Sometimes I receive a question and I know the answer is “of course!” (or “of course not!”) but then I have to prove it, which is not always easy.  Here’s today’s question:

Does painting or refinishing a fire door in the field void the label?

Fire doors and frames are painted in the field every day, so it must be allowed by the codes and standards, right?  But what if the code official says it’s not?

Just for clarification, this post is not about painting over the fire door label – that’s a different topic.  It’s about whether painting/staining the door is considered a field modification that would require the door to be relabeled in the field.  The model codes and NFPA 80 do not specifically address this, but there are a couple of helpful paragraphs in the NFPA 80 Handbook.

These paragraphs are both in reference to sections of NFPA 80 that talk about field modifications.  Field modifications are alterations that require approval from the listing lab.  If approval is not granted, the fire door assemblies would have to be relabeled in the field.  The Handbook clarifies:

One frequently asked question regards painting a door. Generally, fire doors are permitted to be painted by the facility/building owner. The one caveat to painting fire doors is that moving parts (e.g., hinges, latches, and door closer arms) need to be able to move freely. Layers of  accumulated paint can inhibit the operation of these items and prevent door leaves from functioning properly. In these cases, the old layers of paint will need to be removed to restore the moving parts to their proper operation. Paragraph has a specific requirement regarding the accumulation of paint on moving parts.

The performance of fire door assemblies depends greatly on their installation. Paragraph identifies work that can be performed on-site as part of the installation process. Routine maintenance work such as cleaning, painting/staining, and adjusting door hardware is also allowed.  Changing out broken or worn-out hardware items is permitted, as long at the work involved is covered in Repair work expressly covered in Section 5.5 is also allowed. When work requires cutting, mortising, or boring into door frames and doors (for other purposes than allowed in it falls under the category of field modifications (see 5.1.5).

Based on the NFPA 80 Handbook, field painting/staining is not considered a field modification.  Therefore, it does not require approval from the listing lab, or relabeling of the door.  With that said, care must be taken not to paint over labels so they become illegible, or to affect the operation of the hardware.

Any questions?

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