A Quick Question came up recently, regarding pairs of corridor doors in health care facilities.  These are not cross-corridor double-egress pairs in smoke barriers (here’s an article on those).  This question is related to pairs of non-fire-rated doors in corridor walls, for example, openings leading to patient rooms.  Here’s the question:

On a pair of non-fire-rated corridor doors in a health care facility, is one automatic flush bolt required for the inactive leaf, or are two bolts required (top and bottom)?

The requirements of the International Building Code (IBC) related to these doors are not specific about the latching requirements, other than to say that positive latching hardware is required.

NFPA 101 – Life Safety Code states:  Corridor doors utilizing an inactive leaf shall have automatic flush bolts on the inactive leaf to provide positive latching.

There are three basic types of flush bolts – manual flush bolts, automatic flush bolts, and constant-latching flush bolts.  Constant-latching flush bolts are a type of automatic flush bolt, where the top bolt latches each time the door is closed.  For pairs of patient room doors, I would use constant-latching flush bolts rather than the other type of automatic flush bolts, as standard automatic flush bolts require the active leaf to be closed in order to project the bolt on the inactive leaf.  Constant-latching bolts will latch the inactive leaf as soon as it is closed.  Manual flush bolts are not permitted for this application, as they do not provide the positive latching required by code for corridor doors in a health care facility.

Whether automatic flush bolts or constant-latching flush bolts are used, there are three possible configurations:

  • Top bolt only
  • Top and bottom bolts
  • Top bolt with an auxiliary fire pin that projects when heated to approx. 450 degrees

Because the current model codes do not require most corridor doors in health care facilities to be fire door assemblies, the top bolt with the auxiliary fire pin would not typically be required.  In most health care applications, it’s best to avoid a bottom bolt and floor strike, but would just a top bolt meet the intent of the Life Safety Code?  The code does say “automatic flush bolts” but are two bolts really needed in order to ensure that the inactive leaf latches?

There is no definitive answer to this question in the code or in the NFPA 101 Handbook, so I asked for an NFPA staff opinion.  The response was that any arrangement where the inactive leaf positively latches when closed should be acceptable to the AHJ.  The intent of this requirement is that if a fire occurs, and hospital staff closes the door forcefully, the door latches and does not rebound into the open position.

In my opinion, a constant-latching bolt mounted at the top should satisfy the positive-latching requirement, but the AHJ will always have the final say when the code is not clear.  This clarification is on my wish list for the 2027 edition of NFPA 101, but in the meantime…have you had experience with this application?  Was one bolt sufficient, or did the AHJ require two?

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