Code Minute with the Yeoman – 001 Doors

Old Doors

Doors can tell us a lot about existing facilities.  Fire walls, barriers and other fire resistive assemblies may not be 100% apparent in wall construction but if there is an opening in the wall, it must be protected and may provide enough clues to draw conclusions about the existing conditions.
This is not the old Door to whom I am referring.
Ordinarily, we look for labels on doors that come from the factory.  These may tell us what the rating is.  The protection afforded to the door can lead us to the wall rating based on the building code.  Certain walls will require specific ratings on doors and windows within them.  Two hour fire walls typically mean a 90 minute opening protective.  A one hour fire barrier or partition typically needs a 45 minute rated door.  Cross corridor doors in a one hour smoke barrier are typically 20 minute rated.  The labels are normally on the hinge side of the door about 5 feet off the floor.  But not always.
On these doors, you can see the labels on both sides on the hinge rail where we would expect to find them.
What happens when there is no label but you’re pretty sure that the door should be rated?  It may even have wire glazing in the opening, but there is no label on the side.  Well, here is where I have to break my “No Selfie” rule.  Up until recently, some door manufacturers placed the labels on the top rail of the door.  This can be challenging to see in a standard walk-around evaluation of a building.  But if you place your phone camera on selfie mode (and stretch real high), you can usually find the label, if it is there.
No style points but I can read that this door is a 20 minute fire door.
Unfortunately, there are times where you just have no luck.  The label may be on the side but it is painted over.  Or missing.  
Here is a door that probably did have a label on it, based on the rectangular surface marking.
In these cases, qualified contractors can field certify doors and relabel them.  Quite frankly we see this a lot.  And with NFPA 2012 requiring yearly inspections of all fire doors in nursing facilities and hospitals, the absence of labels should be addressed in any CMS type facility.
And here’s a bonus…
Can you find the door in the above photo?  Obviously, there is a set of uneven doors there, but the facility has “hidden” the door from dementia patients.  They went so far as to include a lit candle in the vision panel and allow light to come through around the flame to make it look like it is burning.  The problem is, in the very first section covering doors in the International Building Code, it says “Means of egress doors shall be readily distinguishable from the adjacent construction and finishes…” and “shall not be concealed by curtains, drapes, decorations or similar materials.”

The above case, which may dissuade dementia residents from focusing on getting out, is probably not meeting the intent of the code here.  I always imagine egress features as if I was looking at them through a haze of smoke and ash, because that is when you need to see the way out the most, right?  This paint job is rather convincing.  In a smoke filled building it may be too convincing.
The information presented above is intended for general information only.  It is in no way intended to provide building or life safety guidance for any specific project or for any specific jurisdiction.  Always consult your local authorities or hire a professional for any particular project issue.