Apartments & Fire Doors: What Are The Regulations? - Jamesons | Strata Managers Sydney

Apartments & Fire Doors: What Are The Regulations?

14 October 2019

Whether at a hotel, at work, or someplace else entirely, we’ve all had to deal with fire doors at certain points. These large, heavy doors are designed to prevent the spread of fire in a building and, used correctly, can be very effective at doing so. But how, exactly, do fire doors work, and what are the current regulations surrounding their function in strata schemes?

Fire doors vs. fire exits

First, it’s important to differentiate between fire doors and fire exits. As the name infers, fire exits refer to those doors that take people from the inside of a building outside. They can remain open in times of fire to allow for the easier passage of occupants, and do not need to be fire-resistant.

Fire doors, generally speaking, are those doors inside a building that are specially designed to prevent the spread of any fires and accompanying smoke. They must be able to shut automatically, have a seal around the door edges that can block any gaps when a fire occurs, and need to remain closed at all times.

How fire doors work

The relative heaviness of fire doors is key to their successful functioning. This is because they are generally made of a composite material that is not only fire-resistant, but also designed with the purpose of staying cool in the presence of extreme heat.

When an apartment building is designed, one of the key factors that need to be considered is the placement of these fire doors. The fire doors act to separate the building into separate compartments, each containing either one or multiple apartments, with the express intention of limiting a fire’s spread to that compartment. Two main kinds of fire doors are commonly used in strata schemes: Sole Occupancy Unit Fire Rating Level -/60/30, and Common Property Fire Door -/120/30. Let’s unpack what these numbers stand for:

  • The dash (-) at the start refers to the door’s structural adequacy. What this basically means is that the door is non-load-bearing, yet still able to provide insulation protection.
  • The first number refers to the door’s integrity, or how long it will inhibit flames for. The Common Property Fire Door, then, is designed to inhibit flames for 120 minutes, or two hours.
  • The second number represents how long the door should not increase in temperature in the presence of fire. Both kinds of doors mentioned are designed to stay cool for 30 minutes.

Regulations regarding fire doors

The Building Code of Australia (BCA) requires that qualified fire safety consultants undertake regular inspections of fire doors in strata schemes. For Common Property Fire Doors, this process should take place every six months; for Sole Occupancy Unit Fire Doors, an annual check-up will suffice.

For strata schemes in NSW, fire doors are also not allowed to have deadbolts. This is because this prevents doors from self-latching. In addition, according to Australian Standard AS1851(2005), there must be no gaps between fire doors and their containing frames, as this can allow fire and smoke to pass through and breach the compartment.

Of course, each and every fire door must be adorned with the appropriate signage that says, “Fire Door – Do Not Obstruct – Do Not Keep Open”. This sign must be securely fastened to each door, and any doors that also function as exits are required to have this sign on both sides.

If you’re looking to know more about fire door regulations or any other strata regulations, check out the comprehensive Jamesons document bank. To see what our areas of expertise are, see our list of services here.