Ask The Expert


Hello Robert,

We enjoy your column. The Health Department just cited us and said we need trash doors and a device that allows the doors to close one at a time. Do you know what they are talking about? We can’t seem to get an answer. Thank you,

Ted M.

Hi Ted,

The device is called a controller. It allows both doors to close simultaneously, but the door with the astragal will remain open about 25% until the first door closes and locks. Then the second door will close and secure that area in case of fire. Without the controller, if the astragal side closed first, the second door could not close shut. Once both fire doors are closed properly, that room is considered fire proof.

During a fire, a draft or wind is naturally generated and will push the doors open unless they are properly closed, allowing the fire to spread.

Another device that should be in this room, especially if you have multi-floors, is a trash chute door. It has a sliding panel, fastened on wheels to a track and is mounted on an angle and is held open by springs and a 155 degree lead fusible link.

Hypothetically, let’s say someone throws trash down the chute with a lit cigarette which catches the trash on fire. Once the temperature reaches 155 degrees, the lead fusible link holding the chute door will melt causing the door to close. This prevents the fire from spreading up the chute and throughout the rest of the building.

You have to make sure that door moves freely with no obstructions. Inspect every couple of months or so to make sure the track is clean and well lubricated.

Hello Robert,

One of the maintenance guys at our complex is using an electrical closet as his shop. I have complained to the board that this is not safe, but it continues. If you agree this is not the best idea, I can show them your response and hopefully this will put an end to it. Thank you,

Bill D.

Hi Bill,

I absolutely agree. This is not a good idea. I don’t know what kind of work he is doing in there, but the only people that need to be in an electrical closet are electricians.

For example, if he is sanding and has finite dust particles floating in the air, that’s no different than a bomb. If one of the electrical panels were to spark, collectively that dust in the air would explode. Just like a bomb. Remember a few years ago in Las Vegas when the flour factory blew up? They found out that one of the fluorescent lights had a short in it and the flour dust got into it. That’s why anything electric is totally sealed in those types of factories.

Is he doing any painting in there? Thinners and lacquers are extremely flammable and are not to be stored in an electrical closet.

Nobody should be working in an electrical closet, except for electricians. And nothing should be stored in there, not even a broom. It’s not a storage closet.

Robert Lamoureux of IMS Construction, Valencia, CA, has 30 years experience as commercial General, Electrical and Plumbing contractor. The opinions expressed in “Ask the Expert” are not to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor after a thorough visual inspection has been made. Submit questions to:

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