Grill The Fire Expert: Hold that Door

Rules for Closing and Release


Q: Can I install a door holder on an interior stairway exit door in a restaurant? If so, do I install smoke detectors on either side of the door?

A: For this purpose the International Building Code (IBC) will be referenced, since 46 states (including Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia) have now adopted one or more of the International Codes at the state or jurisdictional level. The rules for door release can be found in Chapter Seven of the 2003 IBC, in the section titled “Fire-Resistance-Rated Construction.” Under 715.3.7 “Door Closing,” it lists which fire and smoke doors are permitted:


1. Doors installed across a corridor.
2. Doors that protect openings in horizontal exits, exits or exit access corridors required to be of fire-resistance-rated construction.
3. Doors that protect openings in walls required to be fire-resistance rated by Table 302.1.1.
4. Doors installed in smoke barriers in accordance with Section 709.5.
5. Doors installed in fire partitions in accordance with Section 708.6.
6. Doors installed in a fire wall in accordance with Section 705.8.

The IBC allows these fire doors to be self-closing or automatic-closing if they are installed “in accordance with this door closing section.” It exempts (adjoining) doors between guestrooms in hotels, motels, and boarding houses. To answer the first part of your question, yes, your door appears to qualify under #2 since the door is protecting an opening in an exit.
Therefore, if you wish to keep these kinds of doors held open, you must follow the IBC rules listed in this door closing section, as well as Section 907.10 “Fire Protection Systems,” and the applicable rules in other standards they refer you to (i.e. NFPA 72 and 80).

Now you have to locate 5.14.6 “Smoke Detectors for Door Release Service” in your National Fire Alarm Code book. It is here you will find the answer to the second part of your question regarding whether you should “install smoke detectors on either side of the door.” (Just the hallway side, per 5.14.6.5.2.)

Next, back in the IBC, this same “door closing” section that sent you to 907.10 (and in turn, NFPA 72), also refers you to NFPA 80 where it states that “automatic-closing fire door assemblies shall be self-closing in accordance with NFPA 80.” Section 1-10.3 in NFPA 80, states that “detectors for the release of fire doors shall be permitted to be part of an overall system, such as a fire alarm, water flow alarm, or carbon dioxide release system that releases the door.” This is helpful because it expands your options, since the “door closing” section of the IBC only mentions smoke detectors.
Also, NFPA 80 Section 1-10.4 reaffirms the IBC rules for the proper installation of any smoke detector(s) used for door release by stating: “Where smoke detectors are used, they shall be located in accordance with NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm Code.” Both the IBC and NFPA 72 require that doors using automatic closing shall not have more than a 10-second delay before the door starts to close, after the smoke detector is actuated.

Greg Kessinger, SET, CFPS, president of an alarm installing company since 1981, teaches NICET training classes to fire alarm system designers and installers and continuing education seminars for Ohio’s fire alarm inspectors. You can reach him at 888-910-2272; e-mail: Greg@firealarm.org; or visit his website at www.FireAlarm.org.