Why choosing the right Door Closer for your fire door matters?

Choosing the right door closer for a specific door type or situation can be a challenge.  Door closers for fire-doors are known as ‘controlled closing devices’ in the Building Regulations Approved Document.  Depending on the type, they can be mounted at the top of a door and frame, morticed into the door and frame (concealed or integrated),  or fitted in the floor known as ‘floor springs’.  

When the door is opened, the closer is designed to automatically close and latch the door.  This allows fire and smoke seals to be effective; without the door closing the fire door won’t prevent fire or smoke spread.  Understanding why a door closer is so important and why it’s important to choose the correct closer for your door is critical.  Whilst it’s such a small element in the overall construction of a building, the door closer is actually one of the most important items of hardware to fit and adjust.  

If you select a closer that’s too powerful it could make the door difficult to open and could close too fast causing harm or damage to the frame and hinges.  If the closer is not powerful enough, the door may struggle to close properly due to the need to overcome air pressures.  To choose the right door closer for your door, consider the size of the door, fitting position and application (push-side/pull-side) and aesthetics (colour/concealed/surface mount).

9 Steps to choosing a door closer

Step 1

Ensure that the door and frame are fitted correctly.  Door closers are not designed to overcome poor joinery, twisted doors, frames out of plumb, and excessive or binding smoke seals.  If the door doesn’t close easily with the push of your little finger, then it is very unlikely that a door closer will close the door satisfactorily.

Step 2

Now choose the power size of your door closer.  The EN1154 standard for controlled door closing devices recommends which power size to use for the width and weight of the door. Most closers are sized from 3 to 6 (the higher the number, the higher the power), and often come with power adjustment, eg power size 2 - 5.  Most standard adjustable door closers will arrive factory pre-set at size 3, as this is the minimum recommended power size for fire-door closers.  The important point is to adjust them when fitting to ensure good closing/opening performance in-situ. 

Most door closer manufacturers will advise the maximum door width and weight on their technical data sheet.  Minimal door gaps and excessive smoke seals are good for smoke control, however they restrict air movement and may create adverse air pressures which prevent the door from closing.  If your budget allows, choose a power-adjustable closer that goes to a higher power size than is technically needed.  Power adjustment will give you scope after fitting to increase the power and overcome any unknown hindrances.  Something to note is that power size doesn’t affect the speed of the closer, this is controlled by dedicated speed and latch valves to set the desired speed of close for your situation.

Step 3

Choose your fitting application.  You will most likely want to fit a surface-mounted door closer, unless your door is pre-morticed for a concealed closer.  It is recommended to cut mortices for overhead concealed closers in factory conditions for increased safety and reduced dust on site.  Surface-mounted closers are fixed on the surface of the door and frame and are available in slim profile designs and slide rail options to improve the visual appearance of your doors.  Concealed or integrated closers are fixed inside the door and frame, effectively hidden for visual effect.

Step 4

Decide which side of the door to fit the closer.  You can fit the closer on push-side (Standard arm fixing known as Fig 1) or push-side (Parallel arm fixing known as Fig 66).  However, check that the door closer has been tested for the power size you need in the fitment option you want, as it can affect the rating level.  This information will be on the manufacturer's DoP (Declaration of Performance).  The easiest door closers to choose are ‘universal application', meaning they have all the parts in the kit to fit either push-side, pull-side, left or right-hand side of the door.

Step 5

Select the right corrosion resistance.  Door closers are identified to EN 1670 by a salt-test with grade 0 having no corrosion resistance and grade 4: very high resistance.  Grades 2 - 4 are suitable for most internal situations.

Step 6

Check the fire rating of your door.  Fire rated doors will be zoned according to the fire escapes and construction of the building.  Many 30 minute firedoors will measure 44mm thick and 60 minute FD60 doors will measure 54mm thick, however it is critical to ensure the doors are backed by primary fire test evidence and third-party certification for your situation.  The closer must be fire-rated, look for the rating label fixed to the unit that indicates the fire rating and suitability. 

en1154 rating code

Step 7

Door closers can be beautiful! Choose a door closer finish to match your other hardware.  Most door closers are available in Silver or Satin stainless steel, polished nickel and polished brass finishes.  Rutland door controls make designer finishes including antique brass, bronzes, antique pewter, black and many other RAL colour options.

Step 8

Determine if backcheck is required.  Backcheck will need specifying when ordering as it is an optional feature and not supplied on all door closer models. If the door is thrown open, the Backcheck restricts the door swing, similar to a doorstop, protecting the fire door's integrity and the life span of the closer and door hinges.  On doors that open near furniture or equipment, where "little incentive to take care" is expected, and on external doors, it is recommended to choose backcheck.  In certain exposed sites where extreme wind conditions are experienced, the hydraulic backcheck valve of a door closer may not be adequate, and an additional physical door barrier or stop may be required.

Decide if the situation needs Delayed Action.  If the user requires a delay from when the door is open to when it starts to close, then a Delayed Action door closer can assist.  This is helpful for wheelchair,  walking frames and pushchair users.  Indeed, delayed-action door closers are often used in Public buildings where meeting Doc M / BS8300 may require door closers that assist the less able; giving equal opportunity and access.  If in doubt check with building control if delayed action is needed in your building, or take advice from an architect. 

Rutland offer RIBA-approved CPD training courses on Door Closers.

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