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09/24 - Buying, Investing

What Are Fire Shutters?

What Are Fire Shutters? |

Buying a Home With Fire Shutters

Working with as many buyers as we do and seeing homes of all different ages, sizes and styles, we have to be aware of every unique characteristic of a home. And, we need to be able to explain what these features are and the purpose they serve. Now, the Toronto area has a lot of older homes with common and understandable systems. However, this does not necessarily translate to newer construction in both the custom home and condo markets. Often, these types of new properties have advances in technology as well as building materials, code, and safety. Because of this, we are constantly updating our knowledge to advise buyer and seller clients. This includes understanding fire shutters – a product that you do not see often, but enough that it needs an explanation. 


What Are Fire Shutters?

As you know, every home has smoke detectors and fire alarms in multiple places.  Condos also have sprinkler systems that extend within each unit. Likewise, a fire shutter is a fire safety feature that has applications in commercial buildings. And now, these fire shutters are finding their way into the residential property market. This is an extension of a wider strategy to develop more efficient ways to reduce the risk of fires. In other words, fire shutters stop home fires from traveling far once they start.

Moreover, fire rated doors and walls are made to stop a fire or at least prevent its spread for a certain amount of time. The purpose is to allow people to escape the building and stop or slow the spread of fire until emergency services can arrive. These are fixed items. A fire shutter acts much in the same way; however, it only goes into action by moving into place when required.


How do fire shutters work?

Fire shutters might be connected to and triggered by the fire alarm, or have a built-in smoke or heat detector. Some may have both. And, some types will roll down under their own weight, and others will have mechanics that close the door using a quick motorized system. Additionally, certain motorized door fire shutter systems are designed to close downwards only to a certain point and act as a smoke barrier so people can still escape underneath the opening at the bottom. The purpose of fire shutters is to:

  1. Limit the damage a fire can do;
  2. Stop it from spreading; and
  3. Prevent loss of life through compartmentalization.  

Everything about residential fire shutters thus far is with the understanding that a homeowner has concerns about fire safety and chooses to install them as a preventative measure. However, there may be other reasons to install one. In some cases, owners and builders are made to install fire shutters. This might come as part of the agreement for architectural plan approval and the granting of permits. The Ontario building code has mandatory setbacks and distances. Specifically, there is code for how much distance should be between a neighbouring structure or opening and another structure or window and door opening.

Walking around Toronto, you might see many newly built houses on narrow lots with no window openings on the sides. The reason is that the house is too close to the neighbour for the city to allow the new building to have openings there. But in some cases, the committee of adjustment will grant permission for a window and shutter combination. For example, if the distance between property walls is close to meeting the setback, the installation of a fire shutter might present as a safety precaution.


The Installation of Fire Shutters

In either case, proper installation is a must, to ensure that the shutters operate correctly in any fire situation. This includes power outages. If they fail to operate correctly or at all, they could inadvertently help the fire to spread or trap people on the wrong side. There are many quality companies who can advise you on the right product for the situation and all the safety features built into the device.

Hopefully, you will never in your life have to see a fire shutter in action. Unless, you’re seeing it is a display of how it works. If you notice one on the outside of a house or condo building, you now know what it is and why it is there.      



This article is written by Fox Marin Sales Representative, Ian Busher. With an extensive background in carpentry and contracting, Ian is our resident “Renovations Expert”! He takes pride in his ability to assess the quality and condition of a house. This, in tandem with his talent for speaking to the feasibility and cost of potential renovations, and his eye for the aesthetic details of a property, makes him a powerful partner for anyone looking to buy a home in the Toronto real estate market.