Convenience is key when it comes to maintaining the integrity of vital systems and utilities of any given structure. And that’s where access doors become a vital part of any building. This means that when maintenance personnel need to make a certain change to a building’s facilities – adjusting water pressure, switching out a digital port or adapter, or redistributing electrical power to another area – they don’t need to smash the drywall or ceiling to get to these systems.
Smart builders would have placed an access door right where an important valve or switch was located during the construction process, eliminating the need for altering the structure when the time comes. It also saves on having to re-apply wall or ceiling material once adjustments have been made.
Installing an access door or panel has become an integral part of the construction process over the years. More and more construction companies, contractors, and even Do-It-Yourself enthusiasts have come to recognize the importance of having easy access to cables and pipes hidden behind a wall or ceiling without having to make any substantial damage, alteration, and subsequent re-installation. Aside from convenience, security has also become a – shall we say – hot-button topic as well.
The heat is on
There are many types of access door to consider based on any specific building requirement and, going further, one type of access door is a popular step up, answering the need for additional safety and peace of mind: fire-rated access doors
Now, a regular and non-fire rated access door is enough for all your general construction needs which is most of the time. However, much like any situation where security and specific requirements are needed, fire rated access doors are there to address all concerns. As its name implies, a fire rated access door provides features which make it safe from the flames and heat of fire. But there’s more to it than that. A proper fire rated access door must meet certain standards and requirements by appropriate ratings bodies before being recognized as safe and able to do what it’s supposed to do.
Organizations such as Warnock Hersey and UL are tasked with testing and rating the safety of such products as fire rated doors. Both have some of the most recognizable marks in the construction and manufacturing industries and serve as a seal of assurance for any given product.
The Warnock Hersey mark is the leading product safety and performance indicator for construction and building products in North America. Having this indicates conformity to important building codes, association criteria, and material performance standards and safety.
The same goes for the Underwriters Laboratories (more popularly known as UL) mark. As one of a handful of companies acknowledged as a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), UL tests, verifies, and audits a multitude of products and safety standards for commercial and consumer use.
Insulated and uninsulated
Fire rated access doors are installed to maintain and match the integrity of an existing fire rated wall or ceiling. There are also two kinds: insulated and uninsulated. Here’s where certification from Warnock Hersey and UL come into play.
Insulated doors are thicker because they contain insulation material composed of certain materials such as mineral wool. If an insulated fire rated access door is installed on a non-combustible wall, it is rated according to UL standards that dictate it must last anywhere between 1 ½ to 2 hours. When the insulated fire rated access door is installed on a non-combustible ceiling, it falls under the Warnock Hersey rating which says it should last at least 3 hours. The time shrinks dramatically when the wall or ceiling material is combustible.
Uninsulated fire rated access doors do not have insulation material tucked inside their doors and are generally for wall installations only. These uninsulated doors carry a UL rating of 1 ½ to 2 hours.
To prevent any kind of heat, smoke, and flame passing through, both fire rated access door types have a required self-locking spring mechanism which automatically closes the door always. Suffice to say, having a fire rated access door open at any time negates the integrity of its main function.
Fire rated access doors also qualify as medium to high security doors, which come with optional detention-type locks or keys.
Resistance is futile
It must be noted that there is a huge difference between a fire rated access door and a fire resistant one.
Fire resistant access doors offer some protection from heat and flame, but not any better than your non-fire rated and regular steel or aluminum door. These types of doors have a pan-style or recessed door which can be inserted with fire-rated gypsum board that maintains the fire-resistant quality of the entire installation.
Recessed doors can also be inserted with various types of fire-rated tiles or wallboard which match a ceiling or wall’s overall design, making the door almost invisible as it blends in with the design aesthetic.
Alone, fire resistant access doors don’t do much, but they afford more flexibility when it comes to special wall and ceiling designs. If you match them with the perfect fire rated materials you’re good to go.
Install where appropriate
In a perfect world, everything should be fireproof. Pragmatically, it doesn’t make sense to use insulation material where it’s not needed – like on a water valve or simple ceiling access. Fire rated access doors make the most sense at mental institutions, and correctional and medical facilities, where security and health risks have a high possibility of occurring on a daily basis.
Do you need a fire rated access door in the home? Not necessarily unless it’s the electrical system you’re trying to protect. Everything else can be tucked away by an access door or panel which can be easily opened with a screwdriver or flip of a latch.
There is a huge variety of fire rated security doors, both insulated and uninsulated, at www.accessdoorsandpanels.com And with a wide range of brands to choose from, there’s bound to be something that meets your requirements.