Lower Bottom Rods

Q: My department is assisting with a fire/smoke barrier door assessment. I have noticed that some of the ¾-hour corridor doors have had the lower bottom rods removed from the latching hardware with cups still visible in the floor. It is unclear why they were removed however the top latches still work and secure the door. There are small screw holes in the door as well where the hardware was removed. My thoughts are the door has been modified and no longer compliant. What are your thoughts?

 A: You are absolutely correct… By your description, the lower bottom rods were required when the door was installed, but have since been removed (They do get hit and bent by carts and are simply removed rather than replaced by poorly informed maintenance staff.) This door no longer meets the UL listing it received by the manufacturer when it was installed, and should be flagged as not passing an annual inspection.

Lower Bottom Rod Latching

Q: My question is regarding a 2-hour fire-rated wall that is separating our physical therapy department and the main hospital. In between the two is a long glass hallway with a dual egress 90-minute fire-rated door. The doors are top latching. I have had an environment of care consultant say that the door has to be top and bottom latching. Their reasoning is because it separates two occupancies. But both occupancies are owned by the hospital, and are not separate entities. Does the dual egress door have to be top and bottom latching?

A: Maybe yes and maybe no… The requirement for a lower bottom rod is dependent on the door assembly manufacturer’s UL listing when they had the door tested. It is not a NFPA standard that all doors have to have a lower bottom rod, but rather it is driven by the manufacturer’s hardware listing from UL.

I have not seen the door assembly but your consultant has. If there is evidence that the lower bottom rod on the fire-rated door assembly was originally installed and now it has been removed, then yes you need to re-install it and have a top and bottom latching connection. This is not uncommon after a few years when the lower bottom rod becomes damaged, and the hospital maintenance just removes it since it latches at the top. If that is the situation for you, then that would be a non-compliant situation.

In some cases, the door manufacturer provides a ‘Fire Pin’ in lieu of the lower bottom rod, which is spring-activated to shoot a pin horizontally from one leaf to the other to hold the door closed during a fire. These ‘Fire Pins’ do not operate until the temperature at the floor reaches 450°F or thereabouts, so there is no chance of the pin activating prior to anyone wanting to use the doors.

Then I’ve been told there are a few door manufacturer’s that have passed the UL testing whereby they are only required to have a latching device at the top of the door, and not at the bottom of the door. I’ve never seen one, but I’ve been told they are out there.

I suggest you contact the distributer of the door in question and ask them what hardware is required in order to maintain the fire-rating from UL. Then maintain that documentation for future reference during a survey.

Corridor Doors Have to Be Fire-Rated?

Q: We have an engineer who is telling us that the 2012 Life Safety Code requires our corridor doors to be fire-rated. He is referencing Table 8.3.4.2 which says exit-access corridor walls that are either 1-hour rated or ½-hour rated require a 20-minute fire-rate door. He says the healthcare occupancy chapter sections 19.3.6.2.4 and 19.3.6.3.2 support this as well. Is this true?

A: Well… it appears your engineer is reading the Life Safety Code wrong. When you want to learn what the Life Safety Code requires pertaining to any subject, you start with the occupancy chapter first, not the core chapters (chapters 1 – 11). Section 19.3.6.3.2 of the 2012 LSC says corridor walls in healthcare occupancies are ½-hour fire-rated and extend from the floor to the deck above. However, in smoke compartments that are protected throughout with approved sprinklers, the corridor walls are permitted to be non-fire-rated, but only resist the passage of smoke and extend from the floor to the ceiling provided the ceiling also resists the passage of smoke.

And according to section 19.3.6.3, doors in corridor walls in healthcare occupancies are only required to resist the passage of smoke, be 1¾-inches thick, solid bonded, wood core, or made of materials that resists fire for a minimum of 20 minutes. This does not mean the door has to be 20-minute rated… just constructed to resist fire for a minimum of 20-minutes.

According to section 4.4.2.3, whenever there is a conflict between the occupancy chapters and the core chapters, the information in the occupancy chapter governs. The information your engineer saw in Table 8.3.4.2 is general information and applies to all occupancies. However, the existing healthcare occupancy chapter differs with information in Table 8.3.4.2, which means the information in the occupancy chapter governs.

I don’t see what you are referring to regarding 19.3.6.3.2. It does not say doors have to be 20-minute rated. It says doors do not have to be 1¾-inches thick, solid bonded, wood core, and resists fire for 20-minutes for certain areas such as toilets rooms, bathrooms, and shower rooms. It is giving you a break for being an existing healthcare occupancy. In some very old hospitals, they installed doors that were not 1¾-inches thick, and this section is permitting them to remain.

And section 19.3.6.2.4 is stating what I’ve already mentioned: Corridor walls in smoke compartments that are fully protected with sprinklers are permitted to be non-fire-rated smoke resistant partitions that extend from the floor to the ceiling, provided the ceiling also resists the passage of smoke.

Fire-Rated Doors in Fire-Rated Barriers?

Q: If the health care facility is fully sprinklered do doors in a corridor, where the walls are fire rated, do the doors have to be fire rated? I read in NFPA 101 that they do not….

A: Where do you read that…? I would like to know what you’re reading to be able to provide you with a better answer.

Generally speaking, where you have a fire-rated barrier, you usually need to have fire-rated doors in openings in the fire-rated barriers. But there are some exceptions:

  • Fire-rated barriers that separate an atrium from the rest of the facility are not required to have fire-rated doors.
  • Corridor walls in existing healthcare occupancies located in a smoke compartment that is not fully sprinklered, are required to be 30-minute fire-rated and the corridor doors are permitted to be non-fire-rated, but must limit the passage of smoke.
  • Some building codes that require fire-rated corridor walls do not require fire-rated doors in the openings. But this is not a LSC issue.
  • Smoke barriers that separate smoke compartments are required to be rated (1-hour for new construction) but doors in smoke barriers are not required to be fire-rated.

 

Door Lever Hardware

Q: Is there a Life Safety Code requirement for door lever hardware to have a return, so as to not “hook” passing clothing, straps, purses during emergency evacuations? I swear I remember this for healthcare occupancies from somewhere, but can no longer find it in the Life Safety Code.

A: No, the 2012 Life Safety Code does not require a return on door lever handles to prevent hooking clothing during egress. But my good friend Lori Greene (www.idighardware.com) tells me the return is only required by the California Referenced Standards Code, which says: Levers.  The lever of lever-actuated levers or locks shall be curved with a return to within 1/2″ of the face of the door to prevent catching on the clothing of persons during egress. Since this is not a requirement of the NFPA or ICC codes or standards, it would only apply in California.

Closet Doors

Q: Are closet doors located inside a corridor considered corridor doors and do they have to meet life and safety codes referring to corridor doors?

A: It depends…. What does your Life Safety drawings say?

Section 19.3.6.3 of the 2012 LSC requires doors in the corridor to be positive latching. If the closet door is in the corridor wall then it must be positive latching. However, there may be a possibility that the corridor wall could run behind the closet, provided the back of the closet wall meets the requirements of 19.3.6.2 for construction of corridor walls.

But your Life Safety drawings need to specifically identify that the corridor wall runs behind the closet. If they do not, then the surveyor has no choice but to hold your closet doors compliant to 19.3.6.3 for positive latching corridor doors.

Strange Observations -Disabled Latches

Continuing in a series of strange things that I have seen while consulting at hospitals…

Boy… I bet you’ve never had this problem at your facility, eh?

[Sarcasm]

This is why you need to do frequent rounds (i.e. weekly, if needed) to spot these trends and nip it in the bud.

Healthcare staff will frequently tape over a latch on a door or on a strike on the frame to make it easier to gain access to a utility room.

Door Frames

Q: I had an independent Life Safety inspection and during the inspection the inspector cited me for my 2-hour fire door frames not having a fire rating visible. I explained that we went to a fire rated continuous hinge on these doors that covered the labels. He said that that was not enough, he needed to see a label. Should I remove each hinge and take a picture of the fire rating labels?

(The reply for this question comes from Lori Greene, Manager of Codes & Resources at Allegion. Visit Lori’s website on doors and hardware at www.idighardware.com)

A: This topic has come up before, and I asked some AHJs about it since the answer is not found in the codes and standards.  The consensus was that the label should be documented with photos before the hinges are installed – close-up photos to show what is written on the label, and wider photos to show the location of the door.

I’m sure it’s a pain to get this documentation now, but I think that’s the only way to do it for a retrofit situation unless you want to have the doors relabeled.  For new doors and frames, the labels can be applied in another location – on the frame head, and for the doors – either on top or on the lock edge.

Corridor Doors

Q: I have a healthcare occupancy under existing construction. The building was built back in the 50’s and 60’s, with a major renovation in 1992. The available plans have indicated the fire-rated walls and doors, but there are other doors not specifically designated as smoke doors or fire-rated doors. My question is, what doors would fall under the description of corridor doors? Would it be all doors that exit directly into the egress corridor? Some of these doors are to normally occupied offices, some are to patient rooms, and some are to conference rooms that are only occupied during meetings.

A: Corridor doors are those that separate the corridor from a room, suite, or area. They are not cross-corridor doors that separate a corridor from another corridor. Do not be fooled by a double set of doors, as they can be either corridor doors (an entrance to a room, or suite), or cross-corridor doors (smoke barrier doors, or privacy doors in a corridor).

Here is a summary of the Life Safety Code requirements for corridor doors:

  • Corridor doors must comply with section 19.3.6.3 of the 2012 LSC, and have certain requirements that they must meet, such as:
    • They must resist the passage of smoke (no holes in them)
    • They must be 1¾-inch thick, solid-bonded wood core
    • Constructed with materials that resist fire for a minimum of 20 minutes (NOTE: This does not mean the corridor doors must be 20-minute fire rated).
  • Corridor doors to toilet rooms, bathrooms, shower rooms, sink closets and similar auxiliary spaces that do not contain flammable or combustible materials are not required to comply with the above requirements.
  • In smoke compartments protected throughout by automatic sprinklers the corridor door construction requirements listed above are not mandatory, but the corridor doors must resist the passage of smoke (no holes).
  • Corridor doors are not required to meet the NFPA 80 standards for fire-rated door assemblies, unless the door also serves a fire-rated barrier.
  • The clearance between the bottom of the corridor door and the floor (i.e. undercuts) must not exceed 1 inch.
  • The corridor doors must have positive latching hardware.
  • Corridor doors to toilet rooms, bathrooms, shower rooms, sink closets, and similar auxiliary spaces that do not contain flammable or combustible materials are not required to have positive latching hardware.

You will notice section 19.3.6.3 does not say anything about self-closing devices for corridor doors, because they are not required on corridor doors, unless the corridor serves another purpose, such as a smoke barrier, horizontal exit, or hazardous area.

Check with your state and local authorities before you make any modifications, to determine if they have other regulations or requirements regarding corridor doors.

Window Frame Rating

Q: Can you verify what a window frame rating should be in a 1-hr load bearing wall? Does the frame need to maintain the 1-hr rating of the wall or can it be 45-minutes? This window is in a load bearing wall that separates a corridor from an office.

A: Since windows are openings in fire-rated barriers, I turn to NFPA 80-2010, section 17.1.3 on window frames. This section says fire window frame assemblies must be permanently labeled for such use. The Annex section of A.17.1.3 says the labeled assembly includes the frame and can include a ventilator, glazing material, retaining members, mullions, and hardware, if applicable.

The label reading ‘Fire Window Frame’ includes the design and construction of the frame, ventilator, glazing material retaining numbers, and hardware. Table 8.3.4.2 of the 2012 Life Safety Code provides the minimum fire protection ratings for opening protectives in fire-rated barriers. According to “Exit Access Corridors” on this table, fire window assemblies in 1-hour corridor walls are permitted to be ¾ hour fire rated. So the frame would also be ¾ hour rated.