It’s a depressingly familiar scenario for many timber product manufacturers and suppliers. After a long process to educate, inform and influence the client, architect and specifier, a contract goes out to the contractor who promptly swaps your product for an inferior alternative which is probably cheaper or just something they think can do the same job just as well. It can’t.

This may be serious for your business sales but when it comes to fire safety, it is also extremely serious in terms of the performance of a building and the safety of the occupants.

This is why the BWF-CERTIFIRE Fire Door and Doorset Scheme is launching a new campaign this month to urge contractors to ‘stick to the spec’, warning that cutting corners to cut costs when installing fire doors is also putting contractors and their clients at unacceptable risk.

The campaign will involve three months of online advertising to reach contractors, backed up with PR, events, a video and a series of downloadable fact cards at

"Given the current financial pressures on contractors and the construction supply chain, sometimes spending cuts are a necessary evil to ensure building projects succeed," said John Fletcher, manager of the BWF-CERTIFIRE Scheme.

"However, value engineering brings with it a whole set of new risks when it comes to fire safety, for contractors and clients alike. This is one of those areas where sticking to specification, and using only third-party certificated fire doors and components, will actually reduce risk and costs for the construction industry. Fire safety calls for complete confidence. Half measures just don’t cut it."

He highlighted four major areas where contractors and their clients may be most vulnerable:

Non-compliance with Building Regulations: Not all ‘fire doors’ satisfy the Building Regulations in the way they may have used to.

Where a building is erected or extended, or has undergone a material change of use, and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRO) applies to that building or extension, Regulation 38 of the Building Regulations now requires that a package of fire safety information – ‘as built’ information which records the fire safety design of the building or extension – must be assembled and given to the person responsible for the premises. This information should include all fire safety design measures in appropriate detail and with sufficient accuracy to help the client operate and maintain the building in reasonable safety, and is likely to include certificates covering fire doors and components. BWF-CERTIFIRE has published a fact card on this topic:

Non-compliance with the RRO: Everyone involved in the life of a fire door, from its specification to maintaining it in use, is responsible for that product and its role in protecting property and saving lives. But increasingly it is the client, the building owner, who is suffering the punitive fines and even jail terms for non-compliance with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, commonly known as the RRO. Installing third-party certificated products, and then ensuring regular maintenance checks by a qualified fire door inspector, is the simplest route for contractors to ensure their clients’ compliance with the RRO.

Lack of adequate insurance protection: Fire losses in the UK now run to £3.4m per day. Unsurprisingly, there is increasing scrutiny on building elements like fire doors by insurers, brokers, surveyors and loss adjusters. Leading insurers follow the advice of fire risk experts at RISCAuthority who now require all fire protection products to be third-party certificated and installed by adequately trained specialist installers. Clients are well advised to follow this advice too, in order to ensure adequate insurance protection and more affordable premiums.

Insufficient protection for life or property: It is important to remember the simple fact that fire doors are installed to save lives. Diligent fire door manufacturers within the BWF-CERTIFIRE scheme work hard to design and test their products to ensure they perform in a highly specific way during a fire. By compromising the original specification in any way, a fire door installation risks catastrophic failure in the event of a fire. Key to this point is that a fire door does not simply comprise the door itself, but includes the associated ironmongery, windows, frame and seals. Any small change to any single component within this set-up will impact on the door’s performance. Attempt to save costs by fitting a fire door to an unspecified frame or to replace the ironmongery, for example, and the fire door will no longer be either compliant or fit for purpose.

"Despite an astonishing 26 million fire doors labelled in the last 15 years, there is still a worrying level of ignorance about fire safety legislation and the critical importance of passive fire protection measures such as fire doors," said John Fletcher.

"Of course contractors always feel the pressure to bring a job in, on, or under, budget," he added. "Choosing cheaper untested products may save the client money, but if a fire breaks out it will cost far more in lives and property. Our advice for all contractors is very straightforward: reduce risk, stay safe, and for goodness sake, stick to the specification."