Fire Curtains vs Fire Doors vs Fire-Resistant Glazing

Updated: Mar 4

When fireproofing your building you will face many choices, each with their own reasons that make them suitable, or not, for your project.

Choosing between them can be confusing and research can be time-consuming. But compartmentalisation principles must be upheld, and to do so, you are likely to be considering between either Fire Curtains, Fire Doors, or Fire-resistant Glazing.

But which is right for you and your project?

Fire Curtains

Best utilised to cover lifts and lift shafts, as boundary protection, between atria, and to cover high-risk areas, Active Fire and Smoke Curtain systems are most definitely not a solution for every Fire Protection situation.

Active Fire Curtain systems will deploy the Fire Curtain automatically once the control panel receives the fire signal, which can come from a variety of sources. The curtain begins to descend, at a constant, consistent speed and slots in between steel guide rails, if applicable. It will cease deployment when the steel bottom bar reaches and creates a seal with, the floor, which alongside the intumescent smoke seals, if applicable, will contain smoke and fire spread.

This seal creates, or upholds, compartmentation principles and allows the Fire Curtain to limit and spread of smoke and fire for between 30- 120-minutes, depending on the curtain specifications.

 The black box on this staff image highlights the slightly deployed bottom bar, which is usually hidden behind the false ceiling, leaving it invisible to building users.

The black box on this staff image highlights the slightly deployed bottom bar, which is usually hidden behind the false ceiling, leaving it invisible to building users.

Active Fire Curtain systems are the best option for:

  • open plan or flexible floorspaces.

  • Retrofitting, due to the unobtrusive installation process Fire Curtains can be designed and installed around existing features and can be fitted sympathetically, so they do not interrupt the style and flow of the space.

  • Clients who do not wish to see fire protection. If the aesthetics of a space are important, Fire Curtains can be fitted inside a false ceiling, so it is only visible once deployed in event of a fire. There is also a wide range of RAL finishes available for headboxes, side guides, and bottom bars.

  • Uniquely- shaped spaces, for example, freestanding staircases or welcome desks inside an atrium could be protected, regardless of shape.

Active Fire Curtains are not suitable for:

− fitting in to existing plasterboard wall and door layouts, as they are designed to replace these.

− Areas that utilise lots of sharp machinery or objects, as these may pierce the fabric.

− Projects that require structural gaps, or anti-space, for example for ventilation or movement purposes.

− Covering external doorways. Fire Curtains can stop fire and smoke but would be easy pickings for a potential intruder.

Set of double white fire doors with a silver push bar, under a glowing red EXIT light

Fire Doors

Fire Doors[1] are utilised alongside non-loadbearing plasterboard fire-resistant walls to provide a continuation of fireproofing for domestic, commercial, or industrial properties. Fire Doors are constructed to resist flame and smoke spread for an allotted period and ensure they are kept within the ‘compartment’ in which the fire started.

Fire Doors achieve this by having an increased thickness, an increase on the standard 35-40mm, and by their construction, which relies on its core of varied materials. Intumescent strips also line the door frame and when a fire begins, these swell due to the increase in heat, providing a barrier between the environments on either side of the Fire Door, which ensures compartmentalisation and stops the spread of fire and smoke around the door frame.

Table to describe fire door types and expected thicknesses. Fire Door type 30 minutes, 44mm thickness. Fire Door type 60 minutes, 54mm thickness.

Building regulations stipulate that fire doors are necessary in the following key areas of a domestic property:

− ‘A 2-storey house which has a door leading from an integral garage into the house

− New build or renovated domestic properties which have 3 or more storeys (including loft conversions) must have fire doors to every habitable room off the stairwell.’[2]

Fire Doors are effective if:

  • the loss of usable surrounding space is not problematic, or

  • the room layout utilises non-loadbearing plasterboard walls, or

  • the space has a pre-existing layout that includes retaining doorways.

  • The space requires more hardwearing fire protection, as Fire Curtains or Fire-Resistant Glazing is more likely to be damaged during use.

  • If the budget of a project is lower.

  • Protection is required on a shorter lead time.

  • The client would like a very large range of colours and finishes.

Fire Doors are less effective if:

− the room is dark and lacks natural light, or

− the client requires an open floorplan, for aesthetic reasons, or to provide more flexible zoning options.

− The doorway requires being left open, as this will involve the additional fitting of fire door retainers and door closers.

− Doorways are going to be frequently blocked.

− Doors are required to be locked while the building is in use.

Fire resistant glazing panels with orange flames behind the glass and smoke leaking through.

Fire-Resistant Glazing

Fire-Resistant Glazing is specially manufactured to provide a period of protection against fire and smoke spread during a Fire Resistance Test. [3] The level of resistance depends on the type used, and some feature a degree of insulation from the heat of the fire. As such, it can also be used to provide and uphold compartmentation principles in a building.

Fire-Resistant glazing comes in many types and utilises many additional materials to ensure it is effective, as explored by IFSEC and the Glass and Glazing Federation (GGF).

  • Wired: In a fire, the glass fractures but the wire mesh holds the glass together to maintain integrity.

  • Ceramic: The glass has a near-zero thermal expansion coefficient and a very high softening point, which maintains integrity.

  • Heat Soaked Modified Thermally Toughened Soda Lime Silicate Safety: The toughening process develops high stresses which retain the integrity of the glass.

  • Resin Laminated: Integrity is achieved with a resin-based interlayer which resists fire and flaming.

  • Modified Toughened Laminated: The toughening process produces high stresses which retain the integrity of the glass.

  • Thermally Toughened Borosilicate Safety: This type of glass remains intact due to its composition and low thermal expansion.

  • Laminated Intumescent: These have an intumescent interlayer or interlayers which turn opaque and swell on exposure to fire.

  • Gel Laminated: These also have an intumescent interlayer(s) which are formulated to turn opaque and swell on exposure to fire.[4]

Fire-Resistant Glazing is best utilised when:

  • spaces require enclosing but clients want to keep light and visual flow throughout the room.

  • The design of the space requires floor-to-ceiling windows.

  • Bespoke sizing is required.

Fire-Resistant Glazing is not best for situations if:

− very large singular pane sizes are required, test evidence and glazing manufacturers can advise on the largest size that is available, and is suitable, for your project.

− The weight of the installation could be problematic, as fire-resistant glazing can be very heavy.

− Clients would prefer an open plan layout.

− Low budget projects.

− The location of the room makes accidental damage likely, as any scratches or chippings will require an entirely new pane.

So now you are armed with the facts.

By exploring all possible options for your upcoming project, you can be sure that you are making an informed choice and will end your project content with the aesthetic you envisioned, and the fire protection you need.

Which Fire Protection measure do you prefer and why? Let us know below!


[1] Image from, ‘The interactive fire door: the essential visual guide to meeting your legal obligations,’ published by Adam Bannister on 08.03.2017, <>

[2], ‘Do I need fire doors in my home?’ <> 20.01.2022

[3] Image from, ‘Your guide to fire-resistant glass and glazing,’ published by Ron Alalouff on 12.2.2021, <>

[4], ‘Your guide to fire-resistant glass and glazing,’ published by Ron Alalouff on 12.2.2021, <>

Cover image from, courtesy of Plato Terentev

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