¦ Just over 41,100 timber fire doors were sold by the survey’s respondents in the first quarter.
¦ The percentage sold by large companies has bounced back.
¦ More than two-thirds of sales are to building contractors.
¦ Most companies are aware of changes to Building Regulations.

Signs of improvement continue to develop in the fire doors market, reflecting a growing sense of a better year to come, according to British Woodworking Federation chief executive Richard Lambert.

“You could say things are genuinely better as the numbers move upwards, or just not as bad as last year – but that feels so much less awful than it did,” he said, commenting on the findings of Rigby Research’s latest survey on behalf of the BWF CERTIFIRE Fire Door & Doorset Scheme. “Nevertheless, as you look at this, and the parallel surveys we run with builders merchants and prime fire door manufacturers, there is a definite sense of an improving market, even if it is still some distance from where it once was.”

Unglazed apertures

Mr Lambert said he would not read much into the slight drop in the proportion of doors sold with unglazed apertures. “One quarter’s result against the trend doesn’t mark a turn, and there’s a similar drop in doors with glazed aperture. I’ll stay worried and watch how it moves. Nor will I think that we’ve turned the corner on supplying compatible frames just yet.

“The fire door market has been propped up for the past 18 months by the steady flow of work from the public sector investment programme. I’ve expressed my concern elsewhere that the deficit hawks in an incoming Conservative administration would look to cut construction spending, because it appears to be an easy way to be seen to be doing something and has big numbers attached to it. This is already being borne out by education secretary Michael Gove’s early briefings that he will cancel any Building Schools for the Future projects for which contracts are not already signed. The deficit has to be brought under control, but if the private sector is not strong enough to keep the recovery going, is a double-dip recession the price worth paying to do so?”

This quarter’s report is based on interviewing 45 joinery companies in April 2010, 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 includes 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 scheme. The sample does not include prime fire door manufacturers.

Just over 41,100 timber fire-rated doors were sold in January to March 2010 by the sample of companies interviewed. This compares with around 29,500 between October to December 2009 – and 43,300 in January to March 2009. As the sample of companies is different each quarter, the volumes will vary depending on the mix of firms interviewed. However, the number of firms in each size band is generally comparable.

The table shows the percentage of total volume sales by company size and the total number of timber fire-rated doors sold each quarter. The percentage of fire doors sold by large companies has bounced back after declining significantly in the second and third quarters of 2009.

Most timber fire doors are sold as door leafs or doorsets. Only a small proportion are sold as door kits.

The survey also asks for the average price of a doorset, door kit and door leaf. The average price of a door leaf has been steadily increasing over the past four quarters.

By customer, joinery companies mainly sell to building contractors, with over two-thirds of sales going to this group. Installers account for 15%, with the remainder going to merchants, joinery businesses or other companies.

Fire-rated frames

Forty-one out of the 45 joinery companies interviewed (91%) reported selling timber fire-rated frames. From this sample, more than 28,800 timber fire-rated frames were sold in January to March 2010, the highest number recorded since this research started. Sales ranged from 2-12,000 timber fire-rated frames.

Of those selling timber fire-rated frames, 88% were manufactured in-house and the remaining 12% were bought in from an external supplier.

Lastly, joinery companies were asked if they were aware of changes to Building Regulations (Approved Document B) that came into effect in 2007 and may affect fire door sales. Thirty-six companies (80%) of the 45 interviewed were aware and the remaining nine (20%) were unaware of the changes.