The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG), on 18th July 2019, finally issued a long expected short summary note of the results of the tests they initiated on timber fire doors on the advice of their Expert Panel (as part of the overall response to re-establish confidence after the Grenfell fire).
It’s all GOOD NEWS! Though no surprise at all to the specialist door sector.
Timber fire doors rated for 30 minutes fire resistance from 25 suppliers were tested in a standard furnace test of the type that has been carried out by door manufacturers many hundreds of times over the years. A total of 50 separate tests are recorded in the Ministry note, carried out from 15.10.18 to 16.03.19.
We now have the formal reporting of the results. All doors passed, very well. For the early tests the Ministry asked for testing to be terminated at 36 minutes. For the subsequent tests the test duration was extended to onset of integrity failure in accordance with the standard test criteria. Many of the doors succeeded in going beyond 35 minutes, some even going successfully beyond 50 minutes.
The results point to three main conclusions that should emphasise a high degree of confidence in timber fire doors:
a) High level confirmation of the performance of timber fire doors: no failures at all; and typically a significant safety margin test overrun for a number of doors.
b) Consistency of performance, from one supplier to another across the sector.
c) Confirmation of the established test convention for timber fire doors for the door to be tested in what is deemed to be the weaker leaf opening direction, into the furnace.
It is particularly important to note that the convention of testing timber fire doors with the leaf opening into the test furnace for symmetric door leaf constructions is suitably supported by the tests. That is a well-established rule, derived from testing over the years across the sector, in combination with an established understanding of the door technology in fire. The convention is supported by UK test houses in the testing they carry out. And is confirmed in the clauses of test standard BS EN 1634-1, based on a Europe-wide consensus as part of the EN standards process, as well as by BS 476 as a test principle.
ASDMA’s advice for timber fire doors remains as it has always been. That is for doors to be properly supported in-depth by a continuous process of both formal and research & development testing established over several years. Testing is carried out across the sector, not only by door manufacturers but also by main door component and door blank providers as well. There is, in effect, a tremendous multiplication of testing across the specialist timber door sector. That in-depth understanding of the door technology within the sector should be taken by specifiers, clients and authorities alike to provide a justified high level of confidence in the specialist door sector. Testing is a way of life.
Appropriate test evidence can be found in individual test reports and better from technical assessment evaluations which take into account a number of relevant and appropriate test reports that go together to define the scope of design and application. In addition, manufacturers should also be covered by third-party product certification, which includes regular review and auditing of product consistency, testing and factory control processes linked with overview of quality systems.