Control over the supply and installation of fire doors has, in the past, been haphazard and therefore dangerous. Graham Hulland, product marketing manager for Dorma Door Controls, explains how you can avoid the pitfalls
1. Hinges
Make sure that the hinges are capable of carrying the door's weight easily and with minimum friction, otherwise no other part of the fire door's hardware will function efficiently. Low-friction bearings or journal supports are best. The metal should be checked to ensure it has a high melting point – above 800 °C. Steel and stainless steel are suitable, but brass depends on the supplier: the cheaper the brass, the more zinc it is likely to contain, so the lower the melting point will be. Also, check for evidence of inclusion in fire tests, or Certifire approval.

Always select for durability and load-bearing capacity against BS EN 1935, published in March of this year.

BS 7352, which preceded BS EN 1935 will run until December 2003, but be aware that this standard allows a hinge to be stamped without having been tested first.

It is wise to ask for third-party test evidence.

When the door is in position check it has not dropped.

If it drags on the floor, it will not self-close, and the gap at the top between door and frame will be enlarged, leading to early burn-through under fire attack.

2. Door closers
These are essential on all fire doors, other than those locked shut. Public buildings are often kitted out with the cheapest models available, which are frequently deficient in several aspects. There should always be evidence of suitability-for-use on fire doors, such as fire test evidence or Certifire approval, and closers should always be selected for durability against BS EN 1154.

The closer should be able to close the door from any angle to which it can be opened. This must be done in a safe, controlled manner. BS EN 1154 recommends that no closer less than power-size three should be fitted to a fire door, as the smaller sizes may struggle to close a door that has been opened to 90° or beyond.

If there is a latch on the door, it should be checked that the closer will still work if its spring bolt is resting against the tongue of the strike plate. All too often, strike plates are badly fitted, door closers are too weak, hinges bind and smoke or acoustic seals protrude.

The closer should be installed and commissioned according to the maker's instructions. Even slight deviations from the installation guide can cause significant changes in closing force, which in turn leads to poor or overstrong performance.

The closing speeds of the doors must be adjusted to give controlled closing. Slammers are dangerous to users, annoying to nearby workers or residents, and likely to damage the fit of the frame in the wall – so creating a potential bypass path for fire.

Check that all the functions have been correctly commissioned. It is not unusual to find good-quality closers performing like cheap spring hinges because the fitter did not bother to adjust controls such as the delayed action function, which stops the opened door from closing for a few seconds while people pass through.

3. Floor springs
Most of the checks are similar to those for overhead door closers mentioned above. Additionally, check that top centres and bottom straps are securely fixed, and holding the door plumb. Floor springs are covered by BS EN 1154.

4. Electromagnetic devices
Be sure to specify electromagnetic devices with the performance standards laid out in BS EN 1155, introduced last year. If using separate magnets, ensure that they are fitted on the same horizontal plane as the closing device to prevent the door from twisting, and make sure they are level with the top rail if used with overhead closers.

Specify closers or floor springs with integral magnets. They are neater, give more options for hold-open angle, and stay out of the way of cleaning equipment. They also ensure that the door is under no stress when held open. Separate magnets may look the cheapest option initially, but they can cause problems by being in the way when floors are cleaned or by requiring ceiling brackets when fixed at high level. And they may not be strong enough to withstand the battering they receive from careless users.

The door closer or floor spring element of a door that is electromagnetically held open or "swing free" should be checked as above. Additionally, it should be ensured that the door closes easily when the current is cut.

5. Maintenance
Regular and thorough maintenance of fire doors is a vital aspect of fire protection in buildings. This is recognised in British and European Standards: BS 8214, covering non-metallic fire door assemblies, for example, requires that "all essential ironmongery should be inspected at intervals of six months" and that these inspections include "fully functional testing for … hinges and/or pivots, mortice latch or lock, surface-mounted door closers of floor-mounted springs".

Fire proofing