The ‘third’ way to prove building safety is being neglected

Helen Hewitt of the British Woodworking Federation’s Fire Door Alliance warns that third-party certification of fire doors is lagging, despite the emergence of the Building Safety Act and greater awareness of the importance of specifing third-party certified fire doors.

Since the introduction of the Building Safety Act in 2022, those with responsibility for fire doors and other fire safety systems in a building are held to a far greater level of accountability. Higher standards are now demanded over the way buildings are designed, constructed, and maintained.

When it comes to fire doors, third-party certification – the process of testing and verifying a fire door’s design, performance, manufacturing process and assurance of procedures – is a ready-made solution to ensuring compliance with the new legislation. It is the only way to be certain over a fire door or doorsets performance in the event of a fire. 

So, what are the advantages of fire door third-party certification for housebuilders and developers, and how well are these advantages currently understood? 


Not only does third-party certification provide crucial evidence that a fire door is fit for purpose, it helps organisations in complying with regulations. The key advantages of third-party certification are:


Third-party certified door display labels or plugs offer traceability throughout the construction supply chain, including important information about the door’s component parts.


All fire door designs should be tested to BS 476 Part 22 or the European equivalent BS EN 1634 Part 1 by a UKAS-approved test facility. Each fire door design must be tested as a complete assembly at least every five years, and annually for high-volume products. 


All members involved in the manufacture and conversion of fire doors, or their associated components are audited annually by their certification provider. The aim is to ensure that fire doors or components use the same materials identified in the original test for that specific design.


The order management, design and manufacturing processes are assessed. A quality management system following the principles of ISO 9001:2015 and a Factory Production Control System (FPCS) are requirements of the BWF Fire Door Alliance to ensure that standards are consistently maintained. 


All staff involved in the manufacture and sale of fire doors or components are required to undertake regular training to ensure they understand the latest Building Regulations and can offer correct advice to their customers.


Recent research from the BWF Fire Door Alliance found that awareness of third-party certification among those with responsibility for fire doors has increased since 2022, when the new legislation was first introduced.  The primary reason that third-party certified doors are specified is to provide robust proof of performance. This was only the third priority when we last carried out research in 2022, highlighting a wider understanding of the role third party certification can play in achieving compliance. 

Despite improved understanding over third certification and its benefits, other approaches – which don’t offer the same traceability and reassurance over performance – are still being adopted. An increasing number of those with responsibility with fire doors also look to fire test certificates as proof of performance, but these are simply one-off test results. They don’t offer the guarantee over repeatability or manufacturing consistency that third party certification does. 


Concerningly, growing awareness of third-party certification and greater intention to specify third-party certified doors hasn’t yet translated into greater uptake. 

So, what are the main reasons for this? With pressure on budgets, it’s unsurprising that cost is the barrier cited by most. Rising inflation rates and other spending pressures are undoubtedly creating a challenging environment for the construction industry to work within. It’s important however not to solely consider cost, and instead assess overall value of building products. 

Third-party certified doors provide evidence that the responsible person has fulfilled their duties under the new regulations. The cost of failing to ensure these safeguards are in place can be significant for those responsible for a building’s safety, and those involved in their design and construction. 


While third-party certified fire doors can offer many benefits, they will not perform as they are designed to in the event of a fire if they haven’t been installed correctly. Installation of a fire door is as critical as the product specification and should only be carried out by a competent individual who’s trained to install fire doors. A fire door should always be supplied with installation instructions from the manufacturer that are specific to the particular product. 

There are several factors to consider when installing a fire door, including: 

Checking compatibility: The certification information needs to be checked to ensure that only compatible ironmongery and intumescent seals are used which are conformity marked when required. 

Glazing apertures: Ensure they are never cut on-site as this will invalidate the fire door’s certified status, and to always ensure the gap between the edge of the door and the frame is not too large. 

Frame specification: It is important to ensure that the frame specification is correct for the door’s fire rating and that the Building Regulations are strictly adhered to. 

Quality assured training sessions:
For those new to fire door installation, it’s vital to seek such quality assured training in order to be able to demonstrate competence.

The only way to be certain that fire doors and door sets will perform as they are intended is through third party certification, and we believe it should be a minimum requirement for all fire doors and doorsets. We would urge developers to fully explore its benefits in order to create a new benchmark for building safety in the UK. 

Helen Hewitt is chief executive officer of the Fire Door Alliance (FDA) – part of the British Woodworking Federation