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What defines an external doorset?

We are often asked by customers, What constitutes an external doorset? – particularly in the context of legislation requiring external fire-rated doorsets to be UKCA marked (or CE marked for the European market). It’s a fair question, because some of the language around doorsets can be a little confusing and misleading. In this blog we set out how internal and external doorsets are defined, what currently requires UKCA (and/or CE) marking, and what cannot be marked.

First off – the average external doorset is not a fire door

Fundamentally, an external doorset is one that separates the outside elements (rain, snow or shine) from indoors. And as a general rule, external doorsets are not required to provide fire resistance or have any fire rating. This is for fairly logical reasons – fire very rarely threatens a building from outside, and if a fire within a building reaches the entrance door, there’s no particular virtue in trying to keep it contained within the building. 

For this reason, the intention and performance requirements of an internal fire door are very different to an external fire door.

The differences between an internal and external fire door

An internal fire door is designed to compartmentalise a section of a building in the event of a fire and protect an escape route through it for a minimum length of time (typically between 30 and 240 minutes).

In contrast, an external fire door is, by definition, at the end of an escape route (i.e. at the boundary to the outside and safety). It is different from an internal fire door in that a) it doesn’t need to have fire-resisting properties and b) it doesn’t need to be kept closed. Provided that this external door complies with the regulations for fire doors (clear signage, method of opening from the inside and never being blocked), it can be classified as a fire door.

The fact that it is called an external fire door, when it doesn’t have fire-resisting properties, can seem counterintuitive. Those unfamiliar with the detail of the legislation may well ask, why is it called a fire door in that case? The purpose of an external fire door is to enable the swift exit of people to safety rather than resist fire – a final exit door if you like.

External fire-rated doorsets must be UKCA marked

All fire-rated external doorsets in the UK must carry UKCA marking to demonstrate conformity to the following harmonised or designated standards:

  • BS EN 14351-1:2006+A2:2016 identifies material independent performance characteristics, except resistance to fire and smoke control characteristics, that are applicable to external doorsets
  • BS EN 16034:2014 identifies performance characteristics related to fire resistance and smoke control for pedestrian doorsets.

Internal fire doors cannot be UKCA marked (yet)

It is mandatory for the manufacturer of any product that is covered by a harmonised standard (now called a designated standard in the UK) to draw up a declaration of performance (DOP) and affix the UKCA and/or CE marking to the product. However, the standard covering internal doorsets (BS EN 14351-2) is not yet a harmonised/designated standard, as it has not been published in the Official Journal of the European Union, despite being approved by the European Committee for Standardisation. As a result, it is not currently possible to UKCA and/or CE mark internal doorsets, because there is no harmonised standard that can be referenced to do so.

Entrance doors to apartments are classed as internal doors

Apartment entrance doors within a building do have to be fire-rated. This is obviously because fire breaking out within any apartment should be contained as long as possible to prevent it spreading to other apartments, and to preserve the common corridors and stairwells as safe for exiting. Such fire doors will be required to have relevant fire and smoke performance test evidence in order to satisfy Building Regulations – EN 1634 or BS 476 (although this latter standard is due to be phased out by the UK Government). 

In summary

To re-cap, external doorsets are purely those that separate outdoors from indoors. UK Building Regulations don’t generally require them to be fire-rated, but if they are, they must be UKCA marked. However, some doors that are perceived as ‘external doors’ may be used as entrance doors to apartments within multiple occupancy buildings, and these are required by law to be fire-rated. However, because they are viewed as internal doors, they cannot be UKCA marked for that purpose, per se, because it is not currently possible to UKCA or CE mark internal doorsets.

Naturally, Brexit has added additional layers of complexity to this complex subject, but we’re always on hand to help cut through any confusion around UCKA and/or CE marking – just call us on 01246 604654.