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Selling Firestop from a liability standpoint is difficult but not if you are armed with the facts.
Most distributor salespeople that are selling firestop are selling it because the customer asks for it. But over and over again they have to convince the customer to buy it. Why don’t more contractors buy firestop? “It is required by code,” is what the salesman says. But is it? Selling firestop is not just furnishing material. It creates a partnership between the contractor and the salesman.
The contractor knows that it is required in some places and not required in other places. Is this true? No it is required by all of the model building codes. The only difference is the degree of code enforcement, or the intensity of inspection. Some contractors respond, “The inspector has signed off.” He thinks he is in the clear, but the building is still not built to code. Just because the inspector signs off doesn’t mean everything is correct, it just means he didn’t catch the offending condition.
Firestop is a life safety issue. It is required by all of the model building codes as well as NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, a typical mention in most jobs. Because firestopping is a life safety issue taking it lightly can have dire consequences.
If someone dies in a building fire what happens? The investigative agencies go into full swing. One of the first questions asked was this building built to the applicable building code. Investigators will ask the building inspectors who will respond in the affirmative if they were the ones that signed off. Then the investigators will sift through the building looking for the reasons for the spread of the fire. Firestopping was developed to limit the spread of the fire and toxic gases. So what if the investigators find the firestop was installed improperly or not installed at all?
Contractors have been caught screwing sprinkler heads into gypsum walls without the backing of pipes full of water. This is out and out fraud. What is the difference between this and a contractor mixing food coloring into drywall mud to make it look like firestop. Recently one of our distributors caught a contractor mixing drywall mud with spray firestop material to stretch it out. Is this ignorance or fraud?
Was the contractor trained in how to install the firestop? Was he informed to the importance of doing the job right? Did he care? Was the General Contractor or Construction Manager properly supervising him? Whose responsibility was it anyway?
An article written by a lawyer, specializing in Construction Law, a General Contractor erected a building, which subsequently burned. The State building code under which the building was constructed required the installation of a firestop in an open plenum space above a false ceiling. The insurance company that carried the policy on the effected building brought suit. The court quoted general law “ a builder is charged with an ordinary duty of care to refrain from creating an imminently dangerous or Immanently defective condition, concealed from and unknown to subsequent users of the building.”
Specifically, the court found that the builder breached its duty of ordinary care by failing to erect and construct the building in conformity with the State Building Code, thereby violating the section of the code, which required the installation of the afor mentioned firestops. Furthermore the building code required that all buildings be constructed in a safe manner and for the intended use and occupancy.
The court found that the builder reasonably should have anticipated that an imminently dangerous condition or defective condition would have been created by failing to install fire resistant partitions with the required rating. The contractor can plead that it wasn’t in the specs and drawings but all he has to do is bring it to the architects attention and he is due an extra because it is required by the building code. The court held that it was still his responsibility as a builder to see to it that the firestop was installed.
In another court case an architect settled with an apartment complex for over $400k damages caused in a fire based on his failure to design the structure to include the required firestops. Then the architect sued the building departments for their negligence in inspecting the building and plan review. The court ruled the building departments were not liable. They did not cause the plans and construction to lack the required protection.
Even if the General contractor assigns the firestop to another contractor or list of contractors he is still responsible for the construction of the building and it is his ultimate responsibility to his customer to provide the building according to the applicable building codes.
As a salesperson show the contractor, project manager excerpts from the code that illustrates the requirement for firestops. Tell him how you will help him meet those requirements through supplying the proper submittals for the job, training the installer or installers, and working with the building officials so that a problem doesn’t develop.
Firestopping is not limited to just the product, whether packaged in a tube or pail. Firestopping is the combination of several items that makeup a Firestop System. Firestop Systems are fire tested and listed with UL. They include the wall or floor, a penetrating item or gap, and the firestop material.
Installations instructions per tested and listed system are published in laboratory directories and are freely available to authorities having jurisdiction for inspection and for compliance with local building codes.
Every Building Inspector should not only look for a professional installation, but also that the instructions were followed to assure a proper installation according to the tested system.
It is important to understand the terminology used by UL and other laboratories. Testing labs like UL do not approve firestop systems. Only the authority having jurisdiction approves details used on a project.
The UL Classification designation denotes that a product has been tested for use per a specific standard. Many products such as cell phones, electronic equipment, etc., have a UL classification with the UL logo, but have not been evaluated as a firestop.
The UL designation indicates that the product has been tested as a system and this system along with installation instructions is published in a directory for reference.
There are thousands of tested and listed systems. Each one belongs to a particular manufacturer and are tested ONLY for a particular product and specific applications. Different manufacturers’ products may never be substituted into a design for another manufacturers tested system.
UL terminology for through penetration firestop systems:
The first character defines the assembly being penetrated. The 2nd set of characters further defines the type of assembly. The first number defines the penetrant type. The final 3 numbers complete the system number and are assigned sequentially as the listings are generated.
By looking at system number CAJ1079 for example, one could deduce immediately that the listing is applicable for a metallic pipe penetrating through a concrete floor or wall. The actual listed system must be referenced for specific requirements.
UL terminology for fire resistive joint systems:
The 1st two characters define the type of construction joint. The 2nd designation defines the movement capability of the system. The first number defines the joint width. The final 3 numbers complete the system number and are assigned sequentially as the listings are generated.
By looking at system number HWD0034, one could deduce immediately that the listing is applicable for a head of wall joint that is two inches or less. The actual listed system must be referenced for specific requirements.
In order to ensure that the correct listed system in being used, you must gather all the information needed by asking the right questions.
There are five steps to selecting the appropriate through-penetration firestop system. These steps are:
- Determine the type of wall or floor assembly (concrete, cement block or gypsum, etc.)
- Determine the type of penetration (plastic or metal pipe, conduit, wires, etc.)
- Determine the opening size
- Determine rating requirements (F-rating, T-ratings, 1 hr, 2 hr, etc.)
- Determine any other special conditions.
The same method holds true for finding the right fire resistive joint system.
There are six steps to selecting the appropriate joint system. These steps are:
- What types of building assemblies form the joint?
- What materials are the assemblies constructed from?
- What is the required hourly rating?
- What is the width of the joint?
- How much movement is required?
- Are there any special conditions?
There are six questions to ask in selecting the appropriate perimeter barrier system. These questions are:
- What is the composition of the exterior wall?
- What supports the exterior wall?
- What is the required hourly rating?
- What is the width of the joint?
- How much movement is required?
- Are there any special conditions?
Installation is the final chapter for firestopping. Once installed, the firestop material must stay in place until it is needed to perform its function. Providing passive fire protection and life safety is possible only if the firestop material is installed correctly. Remember that the material itself has no real rating—only the tested system provides safety. For instance, a plumbing contractor who is installing supply and wastewater systems on a project will make holes through fire-resistance rated assemblies, run the necessary piping through the penetrations, and then close the holes with the appropriate firestop system. This process involves understanding what the building code requires, knowing the rating of the assembly, and selecting the appropriate tested and listed firestop system to install in conjunction with the correct material required by that system.
Although in many cases firestopping systems are installed by the contractor who is performing the actual work, it is possible for many different types of contractors to install a firestop. It is fairly common for general contractors to take on the responsibility for installing the firestop, and sometimes projects require all of the firestop to be installed by a single contractor or even by a specialty contractor whose primary business is firestop installation. A contractor installing firestop must select products that are appropriate to the specific application. Many different types of firestopping materials and products are available today. Understanding that no universal product will work for every firestop application is the first step to selecting the right product. While some fairly general statements can be made about firestop materials and their appropriate uses, keep in mind that every tested system is manufacturer or product specific. One product cannot be interchanged with another firestop manufacturer’s material.
Intumescent refers to a material that expands when exposed to sufficient heat. A good way to describe this action is to consider black snake fireworks. When ignited, black snakes continuously create ashes that look like snakes due to intumescent reaction.
Intumescent firestop materials are one of the primary groups of products utilized in applications where one of the components in the assembly will deteriorate or burn away during fire exposure. The intumescent activity of the firestop closes the void that is created when the item melts or burns away, thus maintaining the integrity of the rate assembly. Intumescent firestop materials can come in many forms, from caulks to metallic collars with intumescent strip linings, with each product being designed for a specific purpose.
Simple mastics or sealants commonly are used to seal penetration firestopping as well as construction joint firestop applications. These sealants are available in various forms and chemical formulations, but the one thing they all have in common is that their performance is solely dependant on the system in which they are tested.
Firestop sealants in caulk, self-leveling, and spray grade are readily available in silicone, latex, and solvent-based products. They often require the addition of a backing material in the system for support. Sealants are probably the most recognized group of firestop products as firestop caulk is common to most construction projects because of its numerous applications.
Another common product group is firestop devices, which range from simple collars to more complex sleeves and cast-in-place devices that are stand-alone firestop products.
A firestop collar or pipe collar usually consists of a metallic ring with an intumescent strip applied to the interior circumference of the metal housing. The collar is placed around a penetrating item, usually a non-metallic pipe, and permanently affixed to the fire-rated assembly. Firestop intumescent sleeves are metallic sheets with intumescent material adhered to one side. These sleeves can be placed around penetrating items and inserted into the wall to provide passive fire protection. One of the benefits of this type of device is that it allows for protection where collars cannot, such as when a penetration is at an angle. A cast-in-place firestop device usually has a plastic outer housing similar to a concrete sleeve with the addition of intumescent material affixed to the interior of the sleeve. These devices are attached to the form decking of poured in-place concrete structures prior to the concrete floor being poured.
For More Information
There are numerous types of firestop products and even more firestop applications in the ever-changing world of commercial construction. The best place to find in-depth information about products is the firestop manufacturers’ websites.
When you utilize tested applications and correctly install the firestop product, you ensure life safety for the people occupying the building.
Insert from “Stop Fire in its Tracks” by Riley Archer
Requirements for firestopping in building codes date to before the development of the International Building Code (IBC), which most states and local authorities follow today.
Although the IBC has gone through significant changes since its advent and not all types of construction require firestopping or fire-rated assemblies, one item that has stayed constant is that firestopping is required if a fire resistance-rated assembly is penetrated. IBC Chapter 7, “Fire and Smoke Protection Features,” outlines the requirements for fire resistance-rated assemblies and passive fire protection including firestopping for the various construction types. The sections in Chapter 7 provide detailed information on the minimum requirements for fire and smoke protection. (It is important to note that the IBC varies in content and requirements from version to version. The International Code Council, which develops the IBC, currently maintains a code-development cycle of three years. Because of the gap between code development and jurisdictional code adoption, the requirements will vary from state to state. Although the 2009 IBC is now available, some states are still using the 2003 or 2006 versions.)
The 2009 International Building Code provides requirements for firestopping in Sections 713 and 714, but in previous versions firestopping was located in Sections 712 and 713. The protection of penetrations of horizontal assemblies and fire resistance-rated wall assemblies is described in Section 713. Section 714 governs joints installed in or between fire resistance-rated assemblies and requires an approved fire resistance-rated system to be installed. The code requirements for firestop and smoke stop installations provide protection of the structure, and they also help maintain a minimum degree of protection for occupants who live or work in a structure and for fire safety personnel who must enter the building if a fire occurs.
A closer look at IBC (2009) Section 713 shows exactly what is required for protection when fire-resistant assemblies are penetrated. Section 722.214.171.124 states that through penetrations shall be installed and protected with an approved firestop system tested to ASTM E814 or UL 1479. The section also states that the fire-resistance rating of the firestop system (F rating) must be at least equal to the fire-resistance rating of the assembly penetrated. In Section 7126.96.36.199.2, the code goes further to state that through penetrations of fire resistance-rated floors must have F and T ratings of at least one hour, but not less than the fire resistance rating of the floor penetrated. The code contains an exception for the T rating if the penetrating item is concealed in a wall cavity. However, when selecting systems for floor penetrations, it is necessary to find an approved firestop system that satisfies the F rating as well as the T rating when both are required.
Section 710 in the 2009 IBC explains the protection requirements for smoke barriers in construction. It seems simple enough that a smoke barrier just needs to stop smoke, correct? Unfortunately, life is never that simple and neither is the building code. Smoke barriers are required to restrict the movement of smoke by definition, but when you look more closely you will see that Section 710.3 requires smoke barriers to also maintain a one-hour fire-resistance rating. Thus, if the smoke barrier assemblies must have a minimum one hour fire-resistance rating and must stop the movement of smoke, then what are the requirements for penetrations? All penetrations through smoke barrier assemblies must comply with Section 713, which, as mentioned, governs all firestopping for penetrations in the IBC. All penetrations in smoke barriers must be firestopped, but they also must stop smoke, which means that they need to have an L rating. Section 713.5 states that penetrations of smoke barriers must be tested to UL 1479 air-leakage testing and maintain an L rating of no more than 5 cubic feet per minute per square foot or 50 cubic feet per minute per any 100 square feet.
Understanding the specific requirements for construction that are prescribed in the building code is an elemental part of the construction process. Codes dictating passive fire protection ensure a minimum standard for passive life safety and property protection. The building codes are effective only when properly followed and enforced. No one wishes to be trapped in a burning building that was not firestopped to code. Maintaining minimum safety standards is what the building codes do for all of us.
Insert from “Stop Fire in its Tracks” by Riley Archer
Both the industry at large and the building and code officials recognize the established test standard ASTM E814 or UL 1479, “Fire Tests of Through-Penetration Firestops.” This standard was first published in 1981 and had at its roots one of the oldest fire tests, ASTM E119, “Fire Tests of Building Construction and Materials.” ASTM E814 (UL 1479) mandates that the fire endurance of the firestop system configuration be not less than that of the fire rated assembly when tested under a minimum positive pressure and to the standard time-temperature curve. After the successful passage of the fire endurance portion of the test, the entire assembly is subjected to the erosion, impact, and cooling effects of a high pressure fireman’s hose. Both the fire endurance as well as the high pressure hose portions must be successfully passed to meet the requirements of this standard.
From Yours, Mine or Ours Who is Responsible for the Firestopping? Click to see complete article.
by Randy G. Clark
Since I first got my start in firestopping more than eighteen years ago, I have seen many changes take place within this very young industry. The number of manufacturers having listings for firestop systems has increased more than three-fold. The model codes have gone from unclear firestopping references to specific language within a section devoted exclusively to firestopping. With these code refinements came increased enforcement by the local building officials. Architects have become much more aware of the need to provide clear and specific details of the firestop conditions needed within their building designs. Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineers are now automatically incorporating proper firestopping techniques, which influence the design of their individual service runs. The types of products offered were only a few, but now they include: Sealants, putties, mortars, pillows, boards, wrap strips, devices, etc. Though there have been many changes, there seems to be one persistent questions: Whose responsibility is it to do the firestopping? Before we deal with this issue, we need to review the following: What is firestopping, why do we need to firestop, and how are firestopping materials tested?
One way to look at firestopping would be to say that it is a material or a combination of materials used to re-establish the fire integrity of a rated wall or floor assembly after its rating has been compromised by the inclusion or exclusion of a penetrant. To simplify, one must maintain the time rated integrity of an assembly after any alteration. As an example, when an insulated pipe is installed through a two hour rated gypsum wall, that pipe has destroyed the original rating of the wall. If the contractor follows a tested firestop configuration and properly installs the listed firestop materials, the original rating of the wall with its penetrant is maintained.
Why do we need to firestop? First of all, firestopping is one of the requirements of the various building codes. All major building codes have at their foundation fire codes. The integrity of a building during a fire condition must be maintained in order to have a safe evacuation of its occupants. The integrity also needs to be maintained in order to provide the firefighters their best opportunity to put out the fire. Secondly, firestopping is a matter of life safety. The lives of the firefighters as well as those of the building’s occupants could very well depend on having properly firestopped penetrations. Using a product which is part of a recognized firestop system configuration will meet the requirements of the codes.
How are firestopping materials tested and who is responsible will be covered later or see complete article.
by Riley Archer
You may have heard the word firestopping thrown around the construction industry to describe any material used to prevent the spread of fire—but what is it really? A firestop is a material or combination of materials designed to reestablish the fire-resistance rating of rated assemblies such as fire-rated walls, floors, and ceilings. These materials or systems are required to be fire tested and listed by an accredited, independent testing agency as proof of their performance in fire conditions.
The use of firestopping is different than the use of fireproofing, fireblocking, and firesafing, but unfortunately these terms often are confused and incorrectly used as interchangeable. Fireproofing applications deal primarily with the passive fire protection of the structural steel elements of a building. Fireblocking is the process of installing materials to resist the free passage of flames in a building through concealed spaces. Firesafing generally refers to the fire-resistant insulation that sometimes is used as part of a firestop system.
Firestopping is when a fire resistance-rated assembly is penetrated or a void is created due to the inclusion of a construction joint, a firestop system must be installed properly to reinstate the original fire-resistance rating of that assembly.
To create a firestop system, all of the materials must be installed in a rated assembly and fire tested for integrity in the exact configuration in which they will be installed. The most widely recognized third-party agency for fire testing is Underwriters Laboratories (UL), which tests, classifies, and lists firestop systems and materials as well as numerous other products used on a daily basis. The duration of the fire exposure testing depends on the rating of the assembly construction and the desired hourly rating of the system that is being tested.
The assemblies also must pass a water hose stream test.
Penetration fire tests provide data on the duration of time for which the assembly prevents the passage of flames, or F rating, as well as the duration of time during which the nonfire side of the assembly and penetrant reach 325°F over ambient temperature, or T rating. The significance of the T rating is that it provides a point at which combustible materials on the non-fire side of the rated assembly will catch fire due to temperature rise.
Two optional ratings also are available through the UL 1479 test standard: a W rating, provided by a water-leakage test, and an L rating, provided by air-leakage testing. If a firestop system is W rated, it means the system has a water-resistive seal while still maintaining the fire-resistance rating of the assembly. The water-leakage test is conducted using a minimum pressure of 3 feet of water for a duration of 72 hours. The L rating measures the air movement through the firestop assembly at ambient air temperature (75°F) and at a temperature elevated to 325°F above ambient (400°F).