• Timber fire door sales have fallen a further 5%.
• Just over 26,000 timber fire-rated doors were sold in the first quarter.
• Some manufacturers still have plenty of work.
• There has been an increase in enquiries for BWF-CERTIFIRE Scheme membership.

Although times for fire door manufacturers are undoubtedly tight, Richard Lambert, chief executive of the British Woodworking Federation, can see some positives in the latest batch of quarterly figures.

“After the steep 38% drop in sales in the previous quarter, falling only a further 5% doesn’t seem quite so bad,” he said. “The difficulty is knowing whether it’s a levelling off or a pause.

“As I talk to BWF members, the message I get is that things are tight, and the doors market is tighter than most, but not uniformly so. Looking across the breadth of the construction sector, we can see that this is still a slowdown, not a recession. There is still activity in social housing and in some of the commercial sectors, and all need fire doors. This explains why some companies still have plenty of work.

“In times like these, the gut instinct is to cut costs and compete on price. But perhaps you should be thinking with your head rather than your gut. If there is less work around, the clients are going to have more options and be more selective. The way to keep the business you have and win new contracts is to offer something that gives you an edge and guarantees the quality of your products. Maybe that explains the increase in enquiries for BWF-CERTIFIRE Scheme membership in recent months.”

The sample

This quarter’s report is based on interviewing 45 joinery companies in April 2008, sampled by company size (in volume and number of employees) and region to ensure a balanced spread.

The sample is made up of joinery companies carrying out further work on manufactured timber fire-rated doors without affecting the performance – for example, fitting vision panels or making frames to suit. It is made up to include companies certificated for these processes by the BWF-CERTIFIRE Fire Door & Doorset Scheme, companies certificated by other certification schemes, and companies whose alterations to fire doors are not covered by any certification scheme. The sample does not include prime fire door manufacturers.

The charts show joinery companies’ volume sales of timber fire doors and sales by door type, rating and customer base. As this is now the fourth survey of its kind, we can start to show trends and these will become even clearer as the report builds momentum and enables year-on-year comparisons.

Just over 26,000 timber fire-rated doors were sold in January to March 2008 by the sample of companies interviewed – down from just under 28,000 in October to December 2007.

Forty per cent of fire doors bought in by joinery companies are completed fire doors, with the remaining 60% being door blanks; the proportion of door blanks is a little higher this quarter but the ratio remains broadly similar to previous surveys.

30-minute fire resistance

Timber doors with a 30-minute fire resistance continue to account for the majority of all timber fire door sales (87%), while 50% of timber fire doors were sold with a filled aperture, which includes vision panels, air vents and letter plates, and the remaining 50% had no aperture. None were sold with an unfilled aperture. This split remains broadly similar to previous quarters. Most timber fire doors are sold as door leafs (50%) or doorsets (45%). Only a small proportion are sold as door kits (5%).

The survey also asks for the average price of a door set, door kit and door leaf and found that in April this year they were £356, £115 and £150 respectively.

By customer, joinery companies mainly sell to building contractors with 64% of their sales going to this group. The remaining sales are split among installers, merchants, other joinery businesses or other companies.

Sixty-two per cent of the companies interviewed reported selling timber fire-rated frames. From this sample just over 10,500 timber fire-rated frames were sold in January to March 2008. Sales ranged from three to 2,000 timber fire-rated frames.

Of those selling timber fire-rated frames, 73% were manufactured in house and the remaining 27% were bought in from an external supplier.