Q: We recently failed a licensing inspection because the gap at the bottom of the door exceeded 1/8″. The inspector stated “no gap between surfaces greater than one-eighth of an inch is allowed at door and door heads and jambs” . I have researched the NFPA 101 Life Safety Code manual and can not find this stated any where. Can you provide any direction or reference? Thanks
A: Your question did not differentiate between a non-rated corridor door, a smoke compartment door, or a fire-rated door, so I will cover all issues. The NFPA 101 Life Safety Code (LSC, 2000 edition) discusses door gaps and undercuts in a couple various locations:
Non-Rated Corridor Doors
Section 22.214.171.124.1 requires the clearance between the bottom of the door and the floor covering (which is also described as ‘undercut’) to be no more than 1 inch on non-rated corridor doors. This section states that compliance with NFPA 80 is not required, so the gaps on the vertical edges of a non-rated corridor door and the door frame is not regulated, other than the door has to resist the passage of smoke. If this facility is inspected by Joint Commission or CMS, then take a look at the attached CMS S&C Letter 07-18 on door gaps for corridor doors. It allows a gap up to ¼ inch between the door and the frame in non-sprinklers compartments and a gap up to ½ inch between the door and the frame in sprinklered compartments. There are a few exceptions to the above requirements, involving corridor doors to toilet rooms, shower rooms, and sink closets, provide they do not contain any combustibles.
Smoke Compartment Barrier Doors
Section 126.96.36.199 requires doors in the smoke compartment barrier to meet the requirements of 8.3.4, but it also says the door does not have to positively latch. The Annex section for 188.8.131.52 refers to NFPA 105 for guidance, but this is not part of the enforceable section of the LSC. NFPA 105 says doors used in a smoke compartment must meet NFPA 80 requirements, but again, this is not made mandatory by the LSC. But NFPA 105 does require the gap between a smoke compartment door and it’s frame to be no more than 1/8 inch.
So, here is my conclusion: Since there is no other reference in the LSC about smoke compartment doors and the gap between the edge of the door and the frame, then I believe most authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) will stay with the recommendations found in NFPA 105, which is not to exceed 1/8 inch. Likewise, for the door undercut, they will most likely stick with ¾ inch, which is found in NFPA 80.
Fire Rated Doors
Section 184.108.40.206.1 requires door openings in fire rated barriers to meet the requirements of NFPA 80 (1999 edition). Section 1-11.4 of NFPA 80 refers to Table 1-11.4 which requires the clearance between the bottom of the fire rated door and the floor (undercut) where no sill exits to be no more than ¾ inch. The undercut is limited to 5/8 inch where rigid floor tile is used, and the undercut is limited to ½ inch where floor coverings are used. The undercut to a raised non-combustible sill is 3/8 inch. The clearance between the sides of the fire rated door and the frame is limited to 1/8 inch ( plus or minus 1/16 inch) for steel doors, and must not exceed 1/8 inch for wood doors, according to section 2-3.1.7 of NFPA 80 (1999 edition).
So, depending on what door the inspector was looking at, he could be correct.