How to choose fire doors for a Victorian house (part 1)

Sunday, January 25, 2015 0 , , , Permalink 2

When I bought my house the survey highlighted that fire doors weren’t installed. This was strange because the loft had previously been converted and a building regulations certificate had been issued. Fire doors are normally required to create a protected means of escape from a converted loft to the nearest exit so that if a fire starts in one of the adjoining rooms a person in the loft can get out.

The existing white panel doors looked tatty and had to be replaced anyway. In the end I decided to install fire doors now to avoid problems later when getting further alterations in the loft reassessed by the council.

Get advice about fire door regulations

Fire safety regulations were not something I’d ever considered in great detail before so I spent a lot of time reading up on technical guidance and emailing Newcastle City Council’s planning department for advice. I’ll not bore you with that detail here! If you want to find out more you should read Approved Document B on fire safety, BWF Certifire advice or start with general fire regulation guidance.

Upgrade original doors instead

None of my doors are original, but if you have genuine Victorian doors you might be able to upgrade them to fire doors using special intumescent paint and strips. When a closed door gets hot the intumescent coating expands to help seal in the fire and slow down its progress. Check with a specialist joiner or your local council’s planning department for more information.

Take inspiration from existing original features

Match up new fire doors to existing doors or get ideas from period features elsewhere in your house. The panels on the bay windows in my living room and front bedroom have simple flat panels with non-raised mouldings.

Bedroom bay window panel

Bedroom bay window panel

I chose an oak veneer 4-panel door (the Islington by Door Deals) because the flat panels and mouldings are a close match to my existing bay window panels and I loved the pattern of the grain.

4-panel fire door ready for varnishing

4-panel fire door ready for varnishing

Choose fire-rated door furniture

I couldn’t get the traditional porcelain door knobs I’d had my eye on because they weren’t fire resistant. It took me ages to decide on another style of knob (and I mean weeks!) but in the end I went for antique brass door knobs (Goodrich by Carlisle Brass) with a reeded design that mirrors the reeded moulding on my window recess. I don’t think anyone apart from me would ever notice this…

Window recess reeded moulding

Reeded moulding on window recess

Goodrich brass door knob

Goodrich brass door knob

If you have door knobs rather than handles you’ll need to buy a longer latch so that there’s room to turn the handle without catching your knuckles on the frame. After some trial and error I went for the 127mm Altro Heavy Duty Tubular Latch in Florentine bronze.

Hinges also need to be fire resistant and you’ll need three 4-inch hinges for each fire door. I chose Florentine bronze hinges by Carlisle Brass.

Brass hinge - CE approved

Brass hinge – CE approved

Keep original frames if possible

Fire doors are normally installed in a new door frame which has a grove all the way round to hold a plastic (intumescant) strip which expands when hot to create a fire resistant seal. If you’ve got original door frames it might be possible to keep them and instead router a channel into the edges of the door to hold the intumescent strip.

I’ll explain more about fitting and varnishing the doors in part two – coming soon!