I continue to receive questions about this topic, so it’s time to update my 2017 post with new code references. Today’s Quick Question is:
Is it acceptable by code to install a louver (fusible link or other type) in a fire door?
In response, I have another question…
Where is the fire door located?
The answer to whether or not a specific type and size of louver can be installed in a fire door depends on the manufacturers’ listings. BUT there are several locations within the model codes where louvers are prohibited in doors. This is because a louver – even a fusible link louver designed to close when a certain temperature is reached – will allow smoke to pass into the area protected by the door. In some cases, louvers are prohibited even when the door is not required to be fire-rated.
If the manufacturers’ listings allow the louver, and louvers are not prohibited in the location where the door will be installed, the louver is probably acceptable. BUT those locations are very limited considering the places where louvers are not allowed…
The 2021 edition of the International Building Code (IBC) prohibits louvers in the following locations:
- Double-egress cross-corridor pairs in smoke barriers in institutional occupancies (709.5, Exception 1)
- Doors in smoke partitions (710.5.2.1), except where allowed in corridor doors in I-2 occupancies per section 407.3.1.1 (new in 2021):
- To provide makeup air for exhaust systems in accordance with Section 1020.7, Exception 1, doors are permitted to have louvers or to have a clearance between the bottom of the door and the floor surface that is 2/3 inch (19.1 mm) maximum.
- Fire doors in corridors and smoke barriers required to meet smoke and draft control requirements (7184.108.40.206.1)
The 2021 edition of NFPA 101 – Life Safety Code prohibits louvers in the following locations*:
- Opening protectives in smoke partitions (220.127.116.11)
- Opening protectives in smoke barriers (18.104.22.168)
- Corridor walls separating sleeping rooms in lodging or rooming houses (22.214.171.124)
- Walls or doors of exit access corridors in new and existing hotels and dormitories, with some exceptions (126.96.36.199/188.8.131.52)
- Walls or doors of exit access corridors in new and existing apartment buildings (184.108.40.206/220.127.116.11)
- Walls or doors in corridor walls for separation of sleeping rooms in new and existing residential board and care facilities, with some exceptions for properly-installed heating and utility installations (18.104.22.168.6/22.214.171.124.5)
*Refer to the occupancy chapters for exceptions regarding janitor closets, as well as doors to toilet rooms, bathrooms, shower rooms, sink closets, and similar auxiliary spaces in certain occupancies where the rooms meet the stated criteria.
For other editions of these codes, you can search for the word “louver” and easily find all references. A smoke-actuated louver which closes upon detection of smoke might be approved by the AHJ as an equivalency if it is deemed reliable and meets the intent of the codes.