• The proportion of doors sold without apertures is growing.
• Timber fire doors with a 30min fire resistance continue to account for the majority of sales.
• The average price for a door leaf has been drifting downwards.
• Two-thirds of sales go to building contractors.

The latest quarterly review of timber fire door sales, compiled by Rigby Research, shows that there is still business to be had in the sector.

“This survey is not intended to produce evidence of detailed market trends, so I’m careful not to read more into it than can be justified,” said BWF chief executive Richard Lambert, “but the first thing that strikes me is that there is still work out there, even if the market has dropped away significantly.

“It’s interesting to look at some of the underlying trends. We’ve seen a gradual increase over the quarters in the proportion of doors being bought in as door blanks, which could indicate that the projects in train are not specifying standard door sizes which can be sourced from the major manufacturers. We’ve also seen a narrowing of the spread of prices for door leaves, which is perhaps inevitable as the market gets tougher and more competitive.

“I’m slightly concerned at the growth in the proportion of doors sold without apertures. I hope this does not mean that contractors are looking to shave down their costs by cutting and glazing vision panels on site. If you’re not certificated to process a door, then the moment you cut into it you break the certification, and the responsibility for its performance falls on you.”

This quarter’s report is based on interviewing 45 joinery companies in January 2009, 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 shown here show joinery companies’ volume sales of timber fire doors and sales by door type, rating and customer base.

Just over 35,200 timber fire rated doors were sold in October to December 2008 by the sample of joinery companies interviewed. This compares with around 70,000 between July and September 2008 – and almost 28,000 in October to December last year. The table shows the percentage of total volume sales by company size and the total number of timber fire rated doors sold each quarter. Volumes vary each quarter depending on the mix of companies interviewed.

Chart 1 shows the percentage breakdown of timber fire doors that are bought-in by joinery companies as completed fire doors or door blanks and shows that the latter has risen to 51% from 43% in the previous quarter.

Chart 2 shows the percentage breakdown of sales by fire door rating and reveals that timber doors with a 30 minute fire resistance continue to account for the majority of all timber fire door sales. A very small number of doors with 90 and 120 minute resistance were sold, but not enough to register on the chart.

As for door type (chart 3), 61% of timber fire doors are sold with no aperture – a proportion that has been gradually rising in recent quarters. Thirty-eight per cent have a filled aperture, which includes vision panels, air vents and letter plates, and less than 1% are sold with an unfilled aperture. Most timber fire doors are sold as door leafs (54%) or door sets (36%) and only a small proportion are sold as door kits (10%) (chart 4).

The survey also asks for the average price of a door set, door kit and door leaf and found that in January they were £269, £430 and £103 respectively. The average price for a door leaf has been decreasing in recent quarters.

By customer, joinery companies mainly sell to building contractors – with over two-thirds of their sales going to this group. The remaining sales go mainly to installers, with small numbers to merchants, other joinery businesses or other companies (chart 5).

Forty-two out of the 45 joinery companies interviewed this quarter (93%) reported selling timber fire-rated frames. From this sample over 24,900 timber fire-rated frames were sold in July to September 2008, with sales ranging from one to 5,000 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.