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Is it ok to wedge a Fire Door open?

Date: 04/01/2023 | Format: Article | Read: 15 mins

The simple answer is no!

It is hazardous to the people / equipment in the buildings, voids compliance, often voids insurance and is also illegal.

That being said, there are a number of solutions as mentioned in this article which show how you can legally keep a Fire Door open via various electronic solutions.

Some solutions are simple to install, and others are slightly more complex, however, can provide greater flexibility / control of the door.

In this article we are going to discuss:

Why can’t a Fire Door be propped open?

A Fire Door is designed to slow the spread of heat, smoke and fire from one environment to the next.

A door left wide open simply can’t protect to the standards needed for that door. This can sometimes be up to 240 minutes. No matter how well the door has been designed, reducing the spread of heat, smoke or fire for 240 minutes with the door wide open is simply unrealistic.

Smoke travels very quickly, which is a key cause of injury and death when a fire breaks out. Being wedged open also allows a much greater volume of air to circulate, therefore potentially feeding any fires.

Actively propping open a Fire Door is directly reducing the safety of the building, and surrounding buildings.

It is therefore quite common to hear of fines and sometimes even court cases when it comes to these violations. If an incident were to happen, and doors were left propped open, then this will certainly be mentioned in the case.

Why are Fire Doors wedged open?

DDA disability user of fire doors with hands free automation

There are a number of instances where holding a Fire Door open might be advantageous.

More often than not, Fire Doors are propped open illegally out of selfish convenience. People weigh up in their heads that keeping it open for a short period of time is worthwhile for the draft or ease of carrying goods, and assume at some point it will miraculously close itself.

Common reasons for doors to be held open:

  • Heavy doors or ill maintained closers create an undesirable experience for the users.
  • DDA / Equal opportunities.
  • Faulty door hardware.
  • High traffic areas.
  • General mobility – heavy goods, trollies, prams, carrying drinks or other items that mean the hands are not free.
  • Environmental – heat, smell, or fresh air in general. Also, the need to hear activities going on in adjacent rooms.

How to hold Fire Doors open legally - Fire Door retainers

Whilst there are an ever increasing number of solutions developing on the market, there is a common theme that runs throughout.

The vast majority of the solutions will release a door once the device detects a fire alarm going off.

Once the door is released, the door then relies on either a mechanical device to shut the door, such as a mechanical closer, or via a powered device such as a powered door closer.

Most systems rely on a battery-operated release mechanism and then use a non-powered mechanical door closer to do the work of closing the door. This means minimal time of installation and limited infrastructure changes.

There are however more flexible solutions which are mains powered, and that are linked with various Access Control Systems. These systems can lock doors to allow greater flexibly when it comes to the control of access of an area. Access rights can then change once an alarm goes off.

Some of the common search terms people look for when researching these various technologies are as follows:

  • Fire Door Holders
  • Fire Door Release
  • Fire Door Magnet
  • Fire Door Guards
  • Fire Door Stopper
  • Fire Door Hold Open Devices
  • Acoustically Activated Fire Door Retainers
  • Free-Swing Door Closers
  • Electromagnetic Hold Open Devices
  • Magnetic Door Closers

With that being said about the various terminologies, here are some of the most common devices we install within a commercial environment.

Acoustic Fire Door Retainers

Being one of the most popular solutions, as it’s relativity cheap to buy and easy to install.

Given that it’s surface mounted, it can be applied to many door types.

Typical Characteristics:

  • Often a standalone piece of equipment.
  • Easy to install to the face of a door.
  • Device has some kind of door hold open / door stop functionality that releases when fire alarm is detected to go off.
  • Relies on separate device to pull the door closed, if required.
  • Battery operated only.


Factors to consider:

  • No connectivity, therefore shouldn’t be used on a door that requires Access Control.
  • Equality may require people of all abilities to be able to use the device. Normally situated at the bottom of a door, some users may struggle to use accordingly.
  • Changing of batteries will need to be factored into maintenance plans.

Magnetic Fire Door Retainers

Similar to an Acoustic Fire Door retainer, the magnetic variant will trigger on a fire alarm going off. The difference here, is that the door is held by an electromagnet.

Typical Characteristics:

  • Female element often attached to the floor, or a wall, and the male to the door leaf.
  • Mains powered.
  • If electricity fails, & / or the fire alarm system is compromised, the door will auto release.
  • Relies on a door closer or other device to shut the door.

Factors to consider:

  • Cabling required to put in place, requiring certified engineers such as ourselves.
  • Sometimes location of device can be problematic (wall not within range), or upgrading door hardware can be expensive e.g. a door upgraded so it can open 180 degrees.

Free swing overhead door closers

Providing a more flexible solution, whilst not being too costly, a Free Swing Overhead Door Closer combines the technology of multiple platforms into one solution. Coming in battery and mains driven variants to suit client needs.

Key Characteristics:

  • 1 unit with both key functions – release on alarm and retraction of the door.
  • Can often replace like for like with current door closer.
  • Can hold open to a wide range of angles.
  • Can be set to not only hold open, but also to swing freely, reducing the weight of the door and stops the door from retracting.
  • Battery or mains driven.
  • Some variants have additional functionality, such as closing when lights go out.

Factors to consider:

  • Battery replacements need to be factored into maintenance if battery operated.
  • Mains power will be required, if not battery operated.
  • Depending on variant, the hardware may need physically wiring into the fire alarm.

Hands Free Access Control / Automation

There are many solutions which fit under this section, however the principles are simple.

Within this system you have devices that trigger when there is a fire, actioning the automatic closing of the door. However, during times when there isn’t a fire alarm going off, sensors can activate the opening of the doors, without the need of pressing any buttons, or opening any doors manually.

The trigger to open the door could be a PIR sensor (motion) or could be PIR in collaboration with Access Control Media. This Access Control Media can limit the users access rights, to certain areas, in normal operation.

Whilst this solution is the most complex, it certainly provides more flexibility, and ease of use.


Key characteristics:

  • Powered closing of door.
  • Links with Access Control Systems as a whole, therefore providing greater control of access.
  • Separate protocol when fire alarm goes off, allowing the shutting of the door.
  • Most systems will have battery backup, in case of power outage.
  • Hands free beneficial for high traffic usage, heavy goods, DDA / equality opportunities, and antimicrobial protocols (reducing the spread of viruses and bacteria).
  • Particularly useful for heavy doors, or specialist doors e.g. hygiene doors, security doors or large doors.


Factors to consider:

  • Higher initial install cost, and maintenance. Once again requiring certified engineers such as ourselves.
  • Power subject to mains stability, and battery pack capacity.

More information, please see our page on Hands Free Access Control.

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