Fire doors made by five different suppliers have failed fire safety tests and have been withdrawn from the market, the government has announced, in the latest fallout from the Grenfell Tower disaster.
James Brokenshire, the communities secretary, has ordered the major suppliers of the doors to meet this week to plan how to rectify the problem. It is likely to mean front doors across the country will have to be replaced.
The government tested the doors after it emerged that front doors used in Grenfell Tower, where 72 people died following the fire on 14 June 2017, only resisted flames for 15 minutes instead of the 30 minutes that was expected.
Fire doors are vital for the compartmentalisation of fires that prevents spread. The inquiry into the Grenfell blaze has heard that compartmentalisation failed, causing flames and smoke to sweep through the building.
The products which have failed government tests so far are glazed and unglazed doors supplied by Manse Masterdor and Masterdor Limited and glazed composite doors supplied by Specialist Building Products Limited, trading as Permadoor; Solar Windows Limited; and Birtley Group Limited, trading as Bowater by Birtley.
These represent some of the main suppliers in the market and one fire safety expert said there were tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of them fitted across the country.
The fire doors were tested at the Building Research Establishment and were supposed to withstand fire for 30 minutes, but some failed in 19 minutes.
“I now have enough evidence to suggest that there is a broader issue across the fire door market,” said Brokenshire.
“That is why I am calling on suppliers to meet this week and provide reassurance that they are gripping this issue properly. I want to see a clear plan of action to rectify existing problems and ensure such failures are not repeated in the future.
“Whilst our expert panel assures me the risk remains low I want to assure the public that the government is doing everything it can to ensure construction products are of the highest safety standards and accurately tested and marketed.”
Brokenshire has tasked National Trading Standards with overseeing local investigations that are taking place.
“I am not surprised these have failed,” said Arnold Tarling, a fire safety engineer. “If you have a solid wooden door you know it is going to work, but if it is thin plastic and aluminium I don’t see how it can work. The reason these doors are used is they are cheap. There are tens of thousands of them across the country, possibly hundreds of thousands, because they are cheap. We are finding that you get what you pay for.”
The National Fire Chiefs Council has advised that the additional risk to public safety is low but the government has issued advice reiterating that in the event of a fire people should follow existing fire procedures for the building, that residents should test smoke alarms regularly and ensure that their front door is fitted with a working self-closing device.