Laminating a Fire Door

You can't modify a fire-rated door without voiding the rating. Here are some details about the rules. April 4, 2011

Does anyone know if it is against code to laminate a fire door with Plam?

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor A:
It used to void the label, not sure if it still does. Same with veneering a fire door.

From contributor D:
As I understand it, any alteration of a labeled door will void the rating, hence the code-conformity. Drilling a peep site, planing an edge, adding wood to faces - anything - will void the label, even if you were to add steel (non-flammable) to one side.

Plastic laminate will void the label in my opinion. It is not possible to get an altered door re-labeled. The only exemption is to change the need for the rating with sprinklers on either side of the door, for instance.

From contributor A:
There's no code against it, you just make the door not meet code. We used to laminate doors for a steel door manufacturer. They bought a few, tested them at their expense, then they would send them to us to laminate and they would label the doors. When we changed adhesive in 2005, that was the end of that customer. They didn't want to restest - I think they went somewhere that allowed higher VOCs.

From the original questioner:
If I understand correctly, you can not modify the door in any way without a field inspection. Which puts me in a quandary on what to suggest to the customer, in that according to what I read he can't even refinish the doors.

From contributor G:
If the code requires a FR door, a field inspection will not do. You will have to have the door manufactured complete by someone holding the certificate to produce and label FR doors. As to how much leeway the manufacturer has in altering surfaces before he has to re-test and re-certify a door design that has been previously approved, that will be in the language of the certifying agency (UL) requirements and the documentation of what was originally approved in the door testing and approval certificate. If you want a custom surface and a code label, you will have to find a FR certified manufacturer who will build it for you. Sorry. It's a bugger, but it comes up every 6 months on WW and the answer is always the same. The door cannot be modified without voiding the code approval label.

From the original questioner:
Okay, it is what it is. I just wanted to be able to present the best option to the customer, which apparently is no option. Fire doors seem to be worse than elevators interiors.

From contributor J:
Does the applicable part of the code call for "labeled" or "rated" door? We're not deep into fire doors, but my understanding is that any 1-3/4" solid core door is rated for 20 minutes. Therefore, if you only need a 20 minute rating and the existing is 1-3/4" solid core, you should be able to modify the existing. As always, consultation with the Code Officer beforehand goes a long way toward avoiding misunderstandings!

From contributor N:
How about a coat of paint? Would a faux finish work for you?

From the original questioner:
This is a hospital environment - oxygen tanks, etc., so I don't think the 20 minute thing would apply. From what I'm reading it says altering the door in anyway, and to me that includes painting.

From contributor M:
Not an expert, but 20 minutes, 1 hour, and 2 hour all have their own specs. Typical residential house has a 20 minute door from house to garage. A solid core slab, or a frame and panel door with a panel of a certain thickness, qualifies. These are not tagged and any ink type stamping is usually covered with paint or finish. We actually veneer or glue a mock frame and panel on 1-3/4" solid core doors all the time that were hung by an approved shop. Not saying this is right or wrong, and not saying where I live, but the customers want the interiors to match. Haven't had an issue yet once we have pointed out that is indeed a solid core door with a false face.

A 1 hour or 2 hour door is typical of a commercial project and a whole different animal. Based on how many hotels have painted doors, I don't think that paint or finish qualifies as altering, but who knows these days.

From contributor T:
You can buy a plastic laminated door from any number of manufacturers with any fire rating you need, but you can not laminate an existing fire-rated door without voiding the label. That's considered a field modification, and that's a no-no. You can, however, paint or re-finish that door without voiding the label (just don't paint over or remove the label).

From the original questioner:
Thanks - that is useful. Do you know of some reference material to that end?

From contributor T:
All fire-related issues begin with the pamphlet NFPA-80, published by the National Fire Protection Assoc. It contains the guidelines that all fire door manufacturers must adhere to. Each manufacturer has its own set of approvals and restrictions. Beyond that, each distributor that buys from the manufacturer has its own restrictions they have to follow.

So before that fire label gets nailed on the hinge side of the door, it has already been sized and machined for the proper opening. No other modifications are allowed outside of the certified machine shop, with the following exceptions: through bolt holes for mounting hardware; function holes for mortise locks; and trimming up to 1/2" from the bottom.

The label on your fire door may contain the manufacturer's name. If so, you could contact them about a possible replacement. The serial number on the label should be all the information they need to get it replaced.