Vault Doors & Vault Room Ventilation, Part 2

There is a basic contradiction with vault rooms: You need them to be air tight in case of a fire, but you also need them to have good air quality the rest of the time. How do you accomplish both goals?

  • It is absolutely critical that you buy a vault door from a reputable manufacturer like Fort Knox, Graffunder or American Security who is telling you the truth about their product. There are very few doors that have ever been tested for fire resistance because of the high cost of testing. So almost every manufacturer who claims to have a 1, 2 or 3 hour “fire rated” door is starting out by lying to you. Equating several layers of drywall on the inside of the door with a “fire rating” is just plain bogus. Most of the heat and smoke pass through between the door and frame. If the door does not seal tight all the time it will not be effective at keeping out heat and smoke. Just putting on one or two heat expanding seals won’t do the job either.

I am certainly not an expert in this area, but following is basic information on fire and smoke dampers:

  • Fire dampers protect against fire spreading through ductwork or other access points into a room. My understanding is that the most common and cheapest fire dampers are controlled by thermal links. A piece of metal melts (or somehow changes position) at a relatively low temperature which allows a spring to quickly close the damper. It seems to me that if a thermal link is used at the opening to the vault, lots of heat would already have passed into the room before the damper closes. There are other methods of control.
  • Smoke dampers keep smoke from spreading through ductwork or other openings. They are usually controlled by electric, pneumatic or spring loaded actuators.
  • There are also combination fire and smoke dampers.
  • Dampers can be round or rectangular, as small as 4” x 4”. Use products that have been tested by U. L. for air leakage.
  • Greenheck, Metal-Fab and Ruskin are among the damper manufacturers; I found the folks at Ruskin to be very helpful.
  • Dampers/actuators can be connected remotely to fire alarms, smoke detectors, humidity monitors, etc.
  • For maximum protection inside your vault room, if money is no object: A blower outside the home, or a plenum fan, could force air into the vault room in case of fire. Pressurizing the room will prevent smoke and heat infiltration through the door, vent openings, etc.

Now, about buying a quality, American made vault door from an honest dealer, the best thing to do is call Hoogerhyde Safe.  We can deliver it locally or have it shipped anywhere in the country.