Mark Kuhn’s latest post is a great reminder about holiday decorating and the considerations for fire doors and other doors in a means of egress.  Happy Holidays!


Fire exit blocked by holiday display“Tis the season to decorate your doors at work or school….BUT WAIT!”

A couple of weeks ago, I attended some training classes held locally in Charleston, West Virginia. In one of the sessions, Jeff Tock, Allegion trainer extraordinaire, was teaching about fire door inspections. We were privileged to have in attendance about a dozen West Virginia State Fire Marshals. In the state of West Virginia, the state fire marshal’s office handles most of the AHJ duties, from plan review to site inspections, so it was awesome to have them attend.  

During one of our breaks, I was talking to a group of fire marshals about signage on fire doors. Signage is one of the 13 criteria for fire door inspections in NFPA 80. Evidently, the fire marshal gets a Grinch-like reputation during the holiday season for making people take down their festive door decorations. They had great pictures of some very beautiful work that I’m sure took quite a long time and not a small amount of money and effort to create, only to be told by the fire marshal that unfortunately their masterpiece violates the fire code. 

I thought based on my discussion with the fire marshals, I would take this opportunity to talk about the limitations for signage on fire doors.  

SO…why does a code exist, that would keep you from putting a sign (decoration) on a fire door? It’s all about FUEL! A sign is literally adding fuel to the fire. Because of this, NFPA has regulated exactly how big a sign attached to a fire door assembly can be. By the way, the signage code was recently updated in the 2022 version of NFPA 80 (here’s a post with the details).

Before the 2022 version of NFPA 80, signage was limited to 5% of the area of the face of the door and had to be attached with adhesive. But the 2022 version distinguishes between vinyl signs and metal signs, and allows metal signs to be screwed to the face of the door (with some VERY specific limitations). For the first time, the standard also addresses signs that are painted or stenciled on the door…they are allowed without a size restriction, but let’s not forget that we cannot camouflage our means of egress! And one last note – signs are still NOT permitted on the glass of a fire door assembly.

So before you spend a lot of time and effort decorating your office, classroom, or other door with a festive holiday scene, please make sure that your canvas is NOT a fire door.  


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