Self-Closing Fire Doors

Self-closing fire doors.

Fire possibilities are a big deal and fire-safety codes are designed to help put people in a better position to handle themselves should a fire occur.

One such code regards fire doors.

What is a fire door?  One that seals an opening, like the house or a bedroom, against the possibility of a fire progressing from one area to another.

When there is a garage attached to the house a fire door is required between the two spaces.

Fire doors are what you think they are - metal and insulated and made to forestall the progression of a fire from the garage into the house.

One code requirement is this one: 

This is from the International Residency Code, subscribed to by Virginia.  It regards the special hinge in the photo.

That hinge is a self-closing, or so-called tension hinge.  It is one of two for that door.  When set with the proper tension they should close an open door completely.

What does the code say? 

IRC 716.5.9  Door closing.  Fire doors should be self- or automatic-closing in accordance with this section. 

And further, 716.5.9.2  Automatic-closing fire door assemblies shall be self closing in accordance with NFPA 80.

What does the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 80 say?   5.2.4 Swinging Doors with Builders Hardware or Fire Door Hardware.  (6) The self-closing device is operational, that is, the active door completely closes when operated from the full open position.

The hinge you see in the photo above satisfies all this criteria, WHEN IT IS SET PROPERLY.

Often, in new construction, as I found on this house, the hinges are not set with the proper tension and do not work.  Adjusting the hinges is a simple matter, and the tension can be set to completely close the door.  This not only protects against the progression of a fire, but also carbon monoxide.

What do I do when I see improperly-set fire door hinges during a new construction inspection?  I observe and report!  And inform my client.

My recommendation:  home inspections are just as necessary on new construction as on old.  They are worth every penny.  What would be the catastrophic cost of a home buyer not knowing about a simple thing as a self-closing hinge and then having a fire or carbon monoxide problem happen in the house?  A home inspection is a minuscule cost in comparison.  Home inspectors are informed and do everything they can to pass that information on to their clients.  And they are worth the cost on new and on old construction.
 

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Jay performs inspections Monday through Saturday, throughout Northern Virginia, from his office in Bristow to Leesburg and Centreville, to Great Falls and Vienna and everywhere in between!