Fire doors and smoke alarms

28 Nov 2017
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United Kingdom
Hi, I've got a 3 storey (including loft conversion) terrace and am currently removing a conservatory that used to contain my kitchen and replacing with a proper extension. Loft conversion was done in 1994 (before I bought house) and there are no fire rated doors in the house so I do not have a protected staircase exit.

The kitchen will have a door to the hall and double doors to the living room, that then has a door to the hall. My building inspector tells me that the door to the hall needs to be fire rated before he will sign off for building regs but that I do not need to replace the lounge door.

The door between the hall and the kitchen will be in exactly the same place as an existing door, and both the old and my proposed new door are glazed softwood.

From reading the Part B document I contend that all that is required is that I do not make the fire safety 'more unsatisfactory than it was before' but the inspector disagrees.

Any thoughts on whether replacing my existing door with a fire door is mandatory or just advisable? (leaving aside the absurdity of replacing one door but not the other)

Also, I am very happy with my current set up of battery powered non-interlinked smoke alarms. The inspector says I need to add a heat detector to the kitchen and interlink it to other alarms in the house - is this right? From the Part B doc. it looks to me like the requirement is only for large houses, new builds or if I create habitable space with no exit to the outside? (which my new room will have)

thanks in advance
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You have to protect the "escape route", so I assume that the lounge door is on the escape route, but the kitchen door to the hall is set further back. But if you can get away with just changing one, then don't rock the boat. But some BCOs will specify fire rated doors, and other just closers on standard doors. An interlinked fire alarms that has a heat sensor in the kitchen will set of those on the upper floors, and warn you to get out before the fire takes hold; even if you're right, you'd be a fool not to do it. The last thing you want, is the fire takes hold at night whilst you're asleep, and you don't hear it till it's too late.
Thanks, you're right about the relative positions of the doors - but the kitchen door, which is further from the staircase, is the one that inspector says should be fire rated. Point taken about not rocking the boat, but I want a sliding glass door in kitchen so if it is fire rated cost goes up by nearly a grand

For the smoke alarms, I can see the point of mains powered interlinked alarms - but it is the heat detector in the kitchen I really object to as they don't go off until room temp is 58 Celsius - bit too late for my comfort. Left to myself I would have a smoke detector in kitchen but wired in so that it is isolated when the cooker extractor hood is turned on - eliminating false alarms but still giving me a quick response if there is a fire when the room is unoccupied. But inspector just says 'regs say you need a heat detector' and that is that. Can he insist that I fit alarms to his spec, or can he only do so (as I think) if the house is either a new build, more than 200 sqm per floor, or I am building a new room without a direct exit to outside?
Believe me, a chip pan fire will soon hit the 58C temperature quite quickly, but you don't want any sort of fancy system switching off the smoke detectors when the fans on, in case the switching doesn't work, and they become disabled. Most problems in the kitchen will be high temperature fires, not smouldering fires from the electrics or from dropped cigarettes, so the regs have been carefully thought out, but you can never anticipate every eventually.

Try and discuss things with the BCO, and point out that if you fit the interlinked alarm, then you'll be dressed and out of the house before the fire gets into the hallway.

The problem you have with contesting his requirements, is that he won't sign off the job, and I'm not sure if it's worth contesting his decision. You could fit radio interlinked bases to the smoke alarms if it's too much hassle to hard wire in 4 core cable though.
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Thanks - I agree with everything you say except 'the regs have been carefully thought out. Once inspector told me I needed a fire door on one door, but not the other, I thought I should do some research - assuming I would scare myself and would voluntarily fit fire doors in the lounge as well. But stats tell a different story - in year to Mar 2017 there were a total of 31 people killed in the UK as a result of accidental fires that started in a kitchen, in the same period of time about 65 men died of breast cancer in the UK. Now, if our doctors told all men that we should have mammograms then we would probably laugh at them and go and find a new doctor - unfortunately I can't do that with my building inspector and am going to have to spend a grand on an unnecessary fire door and fit a smoke alarm system designed by a man whose judgement I do not trust to protect my family
all that is required is that I do not make the fire safety 'more unsatisfactory than it was before'

If it was and remains unsatisfactory then the people in the house may not have a safe exit route in the event of a fire. They may die.

in year to Mar 2017 there were a total of 31 people killed in the UK as a result of accidental fires that started in a kitchen,

Death is the worst outcome. Many more than 31 will have suffered the emotional trauma of being trapped at the top of a burning staircase, they will have been rescued so that event is not listed as a fatality. But their lives will be changed by the near death experience. Permanent illness or disability due to smoke inhalation is anither often un-recorded result of a domestic house fire where escape was delayed by unsatisfatory protection of the escape route.
Your statistical argument is flawed. Men don't have mammograms, but men do fit smoke alarms, and generally live in building regs compliant properties.

Fire doors aren't particularly useful, because in practice they're easily left open, but smoke alarms undoubtedly save lives.

Incidentally, 24 adult males were amongst the 71 victims of Grenfell - a fire which started in a kitchen.
The BCO is correct in asking for a Grade D LD2 fire alarm system, as the property has been materially altered and the risk is assessed on that.

Likewise for the fire door requirement on the protected escape route, however I can't visualise the situation that would require a fire door on the kitchen but not the lounge.
I think the OP is going to have trouble fighting this.

From the description the existing room off the protected stairway was a conservatory, albeit that had been "unlawfully" used as a kitchen. The OP has now demolished the conservatory and built a kitchen extension so the door separating the new kitchen extension from the "protected stairway" is "more unsatisfactory" than the original door to the conservatory and should therefore be changed to a fire door. Likewise the automatic smoke/heat detection.

The lounge is unchanged hence why that door can remain.
Thanks all - consensus seems to be inspector is right and I am wrong, which is fair enough.
Don't be hard on yourself James; the inspectors right, and you're just not as right as he is, but you'll come to see the soundness of the interlinked alarm the day it goes off.

As to the door, hunt round and see if you can find an alternative to the one you want; all of us have had issues there, so we feel your pain.
Hi, a few more thoughts on this. My real issue is that I am being asked - by the building inspector - to accept that 'complying with building regs' = 'safe house' and that 'non compliance' = 'dangerous house' when the underlying risks are more complicated

Nakajo - you mention Grenfell. As far as I know (and I appreciate no-one will know for certain until all enquiries are complete) the tower had recently been subject to major refurbishment, which had been signed off as compliant with building regs. Aren't the deaths of 71 people evidence that our existing fire safety regime is catastrophically unfit for purpose?

You also say my statistical argument is flawed - you're right - but I disagree with your statement that we generally live in building regs compliant properties. On my way to the station this morning I walked past maybe 100 houses. One or two may have had a full rewire in the last couple of years since latest Part P/British Standards updates but the vast majority would not be compliant with current regs for electrical safety. I think the most you can say is we generally live in houses that complied with the building regs that were in force at the time they were built or subject to major work - but since then the houses have deteriorated and the regs have got stricter. A second hand car that passed its MOT 10 years ago but has not been tested since is unlikely to be safer than a 3 year old car that has just failed its first MOT because of a failed brake light.

Lastly the Part B approved document is 84 pages long. It has sections on escaping from fire, detecting fire, stopping fire spreading etc. Why is there no section, or any substantial details as far as I can see, on preventing fire from starting? Surely the first, and most important, section should be fire prevention and anything else is then just contingency planning in case the prevention fails?

Anyway, off to choose some new fire alarms...:D On that point is there a reason no-one seems to make combined ionisation and optical alarms?
I'm with you James, I need 11 fire doors.

My house has been rewired and has interlinked alarms.
That suggests you've got 11 doors entering onto the escape route, is that right.
It depends which way I go out.

There's 2 rooms in the loft,
5 and a bathroom on the first floor,
2 on the ground floor at the bottom of the stairs and 2 on the ground floor if I went out the kitchen way.
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