One of the biggest mistakes I have seen in the fire door industry is people unknowingly installing a fire door upside down, back to front or both upside down and back to front.

It’s just a door isn’t it? Does it really matter which way it is installed?

Well, for those of you out there who work on, or install fire doors, here’s a little tip.

“You can install a fire door upside down and back to front, so make sure you know what you are doing when working with fire doors”.

Here is a picture to help me explain.

The internal core of a fire door does not necessarily have the strength to hold fixings such as screws. For this reason, metal reinforcing plates are installed which wrap around the internal core and provide a way for fixings to hold in the door. Fixings such as screws fix through the metal reinforcing plates which hold the hardware to the door (i.e. the door closer, the hinges and the lock).

As you can see, the closer plate is located on the top left where the door closer would be installed. Now think if we turn the door upside down where would the metal reinforcing plate be, the metal plate needed to ensure a firm fixing of the closer to the fire door?

Along the same lines, imagine we put the hinges on the right of the the door instead of the left. Same thing, the hinge screws would be fixing into a internal core which most probably could not hold them.

A simple check when installing a fire door is to look for marks identifying the “TOP HINGE” (usually stamped or written on the hinge side of the door). If we know where the top hinge is then we know which way the door needs to be hung.

Another way manufacturers use to identify the top hinge is to drill a small hole approximately 5mm-8mm diameter into the top edge strip on the side of the hinge plates.

If you don’t find any markings indicating the top hinge and you cannot locate the hole identifying the top hinge you have one more trick you can use to identify where the top hinge side of the door may be. The plates are metal and what can we use to identify metal? A magnet. The facing on the core is only 3mm to 4mm thick so if you have a relatively strong magnet and slide it across the face of the door you will feel when the magnet comes across the metal plates. By scanning the door face with a magnet, and knowing what the door looks like behind the facing, you will in most cases me able to identify where all the plates are installed (i.e. closer plate, lock plate and hinge plates) and which way the door needs to be hung.

A Little Problem I Have Seen

If you come across a door and see the door closer coming away from the door, two things could have occurred. Firstly the door make be installed incorrectly so there is no plate there for the closer to fix to so over time it works it’s way loose (big problem probably requiring the replacement of the door) or the second thing could be that over time the screw fixings have just worn away and no longer hold in the metal plate.

If this is the problem (usually identified by trying to tighten the screw with the screw just turning without tightening) think about it.

If we put a longer screw in (a quick fix I have seen more times than I can care to remember) will it make a difference? Probably not. The original hole the screw was in has most probably worn over time and is now wider so a longer screw will not solve the issue. Initially it may hold in the core of the door but it to will come loose. As the hole in the plate is most probably wider, you will need to replace the screw with a bigger gauge screw (i.e. a thicker screw, not a longer screw). Using a screw with a bigger gauge allows the new screw to bite into the metal plate again and give a firm and strong fixing for the closer.

So we have decided to put a new screw in, what screw do we use?

A common issue I see is the use of the wrong type of screw. Now you know the screw is fixing into metal not timber we need to use a metal thread screw, not a timber thread screw.

Metal Thread Screw

Timber Thread Screw

As you can see in these pictures, there is a big difference between a screw for timber and a screw for metal.

If we consider that the facing on the door is only 3mm to 4mm thick and the metal plate is only in general 0.6mm to 0.9mm thick, any screw which does not have a thread for the first 5mm will not engage in the metal plate and is useless for this application.

You will also note that the metal thread screw has far more rotations of the thread which in effect means that it will bite into a much thinner material (e.g. the metal plate as opposed to a block of timber).

If you have these screws in your work place or at home just have a look at the way the screw is constructed, the spacing between the threads and the fact that you know what is inside a fire door and you will see how useless a timber thread screw is when it comes to fire doors.

In summary, a fire door is there to one day possibly save your life or the life of someone you know by allowing them to get safely out of a burning building. If you don’t understand what a fire door is and how it is constructed we may inadvertently undertake repairs on them which are not capable of working. If a closer is not fixed properly to the door and there is a fire the risk is that door may not close. The last thing people are thinking about in a raging fire is closing the door behind them.

The little things like the type of screw we use seem so insignificant but can have a devastating outcome. I hope you understand a little more now than you did before you started reading this entry and as always if you don’t agree with something I have written by all means let me know.

Have a great day and thanks for dropping by.


If you found this article useful or otherwise please provide comments or suggestions so I can improve on future posts.

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