(6) Door closer/spring hinges are operational and door is self-closing.

(6) Door closer/spring hinges are operational and door is self-closing.

Of all the potential issues with a fire door, problems with the closing device seem to be the most common.  Although there are many code-compliant ways to hold open a fire door using electrified products, fire doors are often improperly held open with wood wedges or more creative means.  When a fire door is held open improperly, it can’t perform its intended function during a fire by closing and compartmentalizing the building.

In NFPA 80, door operation is divided into 3 categories:

1) Self-Closing Doors – Doors equipped with a closing device to cause the door to close and latch each time it is opened.

2) Automatic-Closing Doors – Doors equipped with a labeled fail-safe hold-open mechanism which holds the door open or allows the door to swing freely but will close and latch the door upon actuation of the fire alarm system.

3) Power-Operated Fire Doors – Doors equipped with automatic operators.  The automatic operator must be disconnected upon fire alarm, allowing the door to close and latch.

The spring size of a closer indicates the amount of closing force exerted by the spring inside of the closer.  Most of today’s closers have adjustable spring power.  NFPA 80 recommends a size 3 closer for a 3′ wide interior door.  Note that fire doors are not required to meet the opening force requirements of the accessibility standards.

These are examples of unacceptable hold-open mechanisms (click photo to enlarge):

Fire Extinguisher Kitty Hold Open Valve Hold-Open Hard Drive

I have to take a moment here to mention spring hinges.  Although NFPA 80 does allow spring hinges to be used as a closing device on a fire door, Annex A states that spring hinges should be adjusted to achieve positive latching from an open position of 30 degrees.  In 20+ years in the hardware industry, I don’t think I’ve seen a door with spring hinges that would reliably close and latch from 30 degrees.  Spring hinges do not control a door the way a door closer does, they simply try to get enough momentum to overcome the friction of the latch.  Given the smokeseal that is installed on many fire doors today, and the increased use of pressurization for smoke control, doors with spring hinges have become even less reliable.  The low cost of spring hinges and the benefit of not having a visible door closer are offset by the difficulty in getting the door closed and keeping the spring hinges properly adjusted, not to mention the negative impact on life safety and security.

Source: NFPA 80 2007, 2010 – 6.1.4 (closers), A6.4.1.4 (closing force and spring hinges)

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