Past to Present: the History of Fire-Rated Doors


21 September 2023



Over in the UK, commercial door makers, architects and construction teams are currently marking Fire Door Week (19-25 September 2023). And from across the pond, we’re raising a glass!

In the world of commercial door manufacturing, safety has always been paramount – and fire-rated doors are an integral part of any architecture or construction project.

In our latest blog, we’re going to take you on a journey through the history of the fire door – from their humble beginnings to the sophisticated solutions we have today.

Fire-rated doors: the early years

The concept of a fire-rated door dates back centuries.
Fire-resistant architecture dates back to Roman times (naturally!) Those clever Romans used a construction technique called ‘testudo’ where clay tiles were used to create arches around doors and ceilings to provide structural support *and* work as a flame retardant, with the clay working to slow down the spread of fire and smoke.

In Mediaeval times, while there were no specific door structures, castles and fortresses incorporated walkway features that could be deemed early forms of fire protection. Thick stone walls, narrow windows, and the separation of different functional areas within the building were intended to slow down the spread of fire.

These rudimentary doors provided precious moments for occupants to escape and for firefighters to contain the blaze.

Fire doors during the Industrial Revolution

From the late 18th century to the early days of the 20th century, construction techniques and materials advanced, paving the way for the first purpose-built fire-rated doors.

And as buildings grew taller, the need for fire protection became more pressing. The late 19th century saw the introduction of fire-rated doors made from materials like asbestos, which had heat-resistant properties.

20th century innovations in fire doors

Fire door tech in the 20th century was (terrible pun alert…) on fire. Steel became the go-to material for door manufactures and was used to engineer pieces that could withstand fire, heat, and smoke – and provide vital fire separation and compartmentalization in buildings.

Modern marvels

In recent years, fire-rated doors have evolved beyond their primary function and become aesthetically pleasing on top! While their main function is obviously still preventing the spread of fire and smoke, modern fire-rated doors now like to blend safety with good looks. And today you can choose from various styles, finishes, and configurations for equal parts safety and visual appeal!

Into the future of fire-rated doors

The millennium brought with it a raft of technological advancements to fire-rated door manufacturing. (Ready for the science bit?) Cutting-edge materials, such as intumescent compounds, are now in use. These compounds expand when exposed to heat to create an insulating barrier that slows down the transfer of heat. Add to that, new automated door systems and smart technology, and fire-rated doors really are firing on all cylinders, enabling users to control, monitor, and integrate their doors with their building management systems.

Fire-rated doors require gold standards

Throughout history, the development of fire-rated doors has been mirrored by developments in safety standards and building codes. Here in Canada, the Canadian Fire Safety Association (CFSA) provides resources, education, and support related to fire safety codes and standards – and has played a role in shaping the requirements for fire-rated doors, ensuring their reliability and effectiveness.

Conclusion: fire doors have come a long way!

From their humble beginnings as makeshift barriers to their current iteration as highly engineered, visually appealing safety solutions, fire-rated doors have come a long way. We look forward to seeing what comes next as technology continues to advance!

Certified fire doors are crucial for protecting your building and its occupants in the event of a fire – and they’re easy to get right when you know how. Here at Select Door we supply a wide range of fire-rated doors and we’re always on hand to help with any of your queries. We’d love to hear from you.