I spent the last two days teaching code classes for my coworkers in the New England office.  I began working in this office in 1994, and this group includes some of my favorite people – even though teaching them can sometimes be like herding cats.  At one point today I had to offer to do a cartwheel to hold their attention (it worked!).  Code classes can be tough to teach, because people’s eyes tend to glaze over after the first few minutes.  But this week’s classes went really well and I think the group learned a lot.

A quick question came up during the class, as I was talking about a change to NFPA 80:

Can a rectangular or oblong hole be prepped in an existing fire door in the field?

For many years, I’ve been teaching that the maximum hole size that can be drilled as a job-site preparation on an existing fire door assembly is 1-inch diameter, with the exception of cylinder holes which can be any size.  Beginning with the 2016 edition of NFPA 80, the standard states holes larger than 1-inch diameter are acceptable if allowed by the listings of the door manufacturer and the hardware manufacturer.

When I spoke with NFPA about the new requirements, NFPA staff confirmed that the holes for job-site preparations are limited to round holes, so rectangular or oblong holes (or any other shape besides round) would not be allowed as a job-site preparation.  However, permission could be requested from the listing lab, via the door or frame manufacturer, to perform a field modification and cut the non-round holes.  If permission for the field modification is granted by the listing lab, the door or frame that is modified is not required to be relabeled after the alteration is made.

I have included a short excerpt from NFPA 80 below, and additional information can be found in the following articles and posts:

In NFPA 80, the first paragraph below describes the types of job site preparations that can be done in the field, and the “round holes” are mentioned in the second paragraph.  The third paragraph includes the 1-inch limitation, but as I always say, “keep reading”, and the final paragraph is where the larger holes are referenced.

Have you had any experience with drilling larger round holes in existing fire doors, or with the approval process for a field modification?

Code Excerpts: NFPA 80

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