Is it OK to Wedge Open a Fire Door?

Fire doors save lives, but only when closed. Discover why wedging them open is dangerous and safe alternatives for convenience without compromising safety.
Mar 13, 2024
9 minute read

The only way a fire door can work is if it’s closed.

To cut a long story short: should you ever wedge open fire doors? Absolutely not.

We understand that a door that closes on you can be frustrating, and that life can be easier with them being open. And we’ve seen it all. All the ingenious ways to keeping the fire door open; from the typical door wedge to the fire extinguisher, to the bent over spoon and gym weight as backup. But, let’s keep the dumbbells in the gym, and weigh up the reasons why you should never allow fire doors to be wedged and propped open.

In this blog post we will cover:

  • Why fire doors are often propped open
  • The potential dangers of wedging open a fire door
  • Legal and safe alternatives for fire door management

Understanding the Fire Door Dilemma

Fire doors play a pivotal role in maintaining the safety of buildings. Yet, one question persistently echoes through the halls of residential properties, hospitals, schools, and offices alike: "Is it OK to wedge open a fire door?" The simple answer is no.

In today's world, we crave convenience. We don't want doors constantly shutting in our faces, interrupting our day. But there's a chasm between appreciating the convenience of an open door and recognising the lifesaving role of a fire door.

To truly understand the risks, we need to understand what is a fire door and it's purpose.

Fire doors aren't just doors; they are a specially-designed door that prevents the spread of fire and smoke between compartments in a building. But their role becomes redundant if they're left ajar. It's like wearing a raincoat with a huge hole; the protection is lost.

The Potential Dangers of Wedging Open a Fire Door

Legal Implications

Fire doors are not just a safety measure but a legal requirement. Keeping them propped open not only endangers lives but also violates the fire safety regulations, leading to hefty fines and potential jail time.

Physical Damages

Consistent wedging deteriorates the door's closing mechanism. A compromised door is a liability during a fire, reducing its effectiveness as a protective barrier.‍

Vision and Breathing Difficulties

Smoke, which travels faster than flames, can easily spread if fire doors are left open. This not only clouds vision – making evacuation challenging – but also consumes breathable air, posing a severe health risk.

The Chimney Effect

When fire doors are wedged open, they facilitate what's known as the "chimney effect." This phenomenon allows smoke and flames to travel upwards quickly, turning stairwells or corridors into chimneys. This rapid upward movement of smoke can trap people on upper floors, cutting off their escape routes and making evacuations more challenging and dangerous.‍

Real-life Tragedies

History has shown us the devastating consequences of neglecting fire door safety. In multiple incidents worldwide, the improper use of fire doors has led to the unnecessary loss of life. For instance, during the infamous hotel fires where fire doors were either missing or left open, smoke and fire spread rapidly, resulting in numerous fatalities. Such incidents underscore the importance of fire door safety.

Safe Alternatives and Why They Matter

Understanding the importance of keeping fire doors closed is only half the battle. The next step is implementing safe alternatives that align with convenience without compromising safety.

Why Resort to Alternatives?

It's undeniable that fire doors can be cumbersome. They can hinder movement (especially in high-traffic areas), obstruct airflow during sweltering weather, and pose challenges for those with mobility issues. With these challenges in mind, let's look at the viable solutions that the industry offers.

Legal Fire Door Hold Open Solutions

Instead of resorting to hazardous methods, like wedging, consider fire door retainers and closers. These devices legally keep the door open but ensure its automatic closure when a fire or smoke alarm triggers.

  • Acoustic Fire Door Retainers
  • Magnetic Fire Door Retainers
  • Free Swing and Hold Open Overhead Door Closers

Acoustic Fire Door Retainers

These devices are attached directly to the fire door and use sound detection technology. They keep doors open until a predetermined noise level, like that of a fire alarm, is detected. Upon detection, the retainer retracts, allowing the door to close automatically.

Magnetic Fire Door Retainers

These devices utilise electromagnetism. Connected to a building's fire alarm system, the power to the magnet is cut off when the alarm sounds, ensuring the door closes.

Free Swing Overhead Door Closers

These devices are a combination of both a door closer and a retainer. They allow fire doors to operate like regular doors, providing the convenience of free movement. Users can open the door, leave it in any position, and it will stay there until manually moved or when prompted by an alarm. In the event of a fire or when the smoke alarm triggers, the closer's mechanism ensures the door shuts automatically. This is especially beneficial in places like care homes or schools where doors might need to be left open regularly, but there's also a need for quick automatic closing in emergencies.

Final Thoughts

The safety of a building's occupants should never be compromised for convenience. As we have learnt in this post, wedging a fire door is not a minor oversight. It's consequences can be catastrophic. With this in mind, property managers and residents can ensure a safer living and working environment through legal and safe alternatives.


Do fire doors need to be self-closing?

  • Yes, to ensure they remain closed and fulfil their protective role.

When is it acceptable to hold a fire door open?

  • Only when equipped with a retainer that responds to fire or smoke alarms.

What's the primary role of a fire door?

  • To resist fire for at least 30 minutes, facilitating safe evacuation and preventing fire spread.