UL Future Built Forum Intro

January 2019 in the middle of a “Polar Vortex” I attended an event that was worth braving the cold for.

I wish I could take you back to the event so you could sit in the room and hear the presentations. The speakers were fantastic and the presentations were PACKED with information. I want to thank Underwriters Laboratories, Fire Department City of New York  and International Association of Fire Fighters for sponsoring such a great event and I hope to be able to attend the next one. I learned not only from the presentations but from conversations with others in attendance who were all eager to learn and share. Can you tell I was in fire geek heaven for two days?

I can’t wait to share all of this with you. UL has generously allowed me to share the slides. Here is what they covered int he two days

There were several discussions about Tall Timber construction. they were presented by architects and fire officials. You likely know that the 2021 code will allow Tall Timber, or cross laminate timber up to 18 stories. Many people think, “WOOD BURNS that is a horrible idea!”  Well, wood does burn, that is a fact. Lets look at a few there facts.

  • ICC has reviewed extensive fire test data provided by the industry and approved it.
  • These buildings are going up all over the world. A quick google search will give you an idea of where and how tall.
  • Steel is strong, but according to this article in Fire Engineers it will lose its structural stability at 1100F. The time temperature curve used by US fire tests will require the temperature to be 1000F at the five minute mark and 1300F at the ten minute mark. Without properly applied protection, steel is very weak in a fire.
  • Wood burns, yes. As it burns that char that is created insulates the inner layer of wood and the structural stability of wood is lost in stages rather than all together upon hitting a critical temperature.

Before you dismiss this  idea of tall timber buildings as crazy,  I encourage you to learn more about it. If you are curious about my personal opinion (or even if you aren’t, you are about to get it) I like what I have seen in the fire data that has been presented. It is impressive, but not yet extensive. I am still on the fence, but I am eager to be involved with a CLT project so I can learn more. One thing I have learned is that QA/QC will be CRITICAL. Not that it is unimportant in concrete buildings or wood framed buildings, but it could prove a greater liability to those contractors who are not completely educated or worse willing to cut corners. If you work on a CLT project you can NOT have someone with the “we have always done it this way” mentality, because this is all new.  If you are working on a CLT project and want help with the QA/QC please call me.

The second discussion was on battery storage inside buildings. I did not attend this segment because of other obligations. I was able to return in time for the discussions on exterior facades and high rise fire fighting challenges.

I will share all the slides and I may share some of my thoughts along the way.

I want to again thank all of those involved in this event, the sponsors, the speakers, the organizers and the attendees. I was honored to be among you all and grateful for all you shared with everyone.  I hope to be able to attend any future events you have.



New Building Codes

Get ready NJ! The 2018 IBC will be adopted Sept 3rd.  That is just next week!  You can find a link to the IBC here  the copy with the changes for NJ are not yet available. If you are not in NJ you can always check out the ICC code adoption map at this link.

When an area adopts the 2021 we will see Cross Laminate Timber allowed up to 18 stories. It will be interesting to see where that takes us. If any of you are working a CLT project and want a consultant, I cant wait to be invited to support a CLT project.

In the meantime however, if you have any questions about firestop however please let me know. I am happy to help if I am able.

In closing I want to welcome a whole new crew from Utah to our blog posts. I was invited to do a class this past weekend. It was a great crew of guys and I had a lot of fun. I hope they learned a lot since they gave up their Saturday to hang out with me.  Welcome Utah crew!


All the best,

Hospital Fire- One Death

I just returned from Utah doing firestop training for a great group of guys. Installers, hospital facilities guys, GC’s, electricians and special inspectors. It was a long day, but I hope they learned a lot. Then I get home and hear about a hospital fire resulting in loss of life.


If any of you need help to ensure the life safety is done right on your projects, don’t hesitate to give me a call. Many of you know I don’t charge for simple calls to help get you on the right track. I always support those of you who want to do it right.


Let’s look at the ONE listed detail for microduct in wood floors

You are NOT using the right firestop on your phone lines. Part 2

Installing Phone and Data Lines? This video series is for you.

If Your Project is Running White Plastic Phone/Data Lines- This Post is for YOU.

If you are working on a project that involves phone lines, we would like to ask you to take a closer look at the firestop installation for these materials.


This next blog series is going to discuss a few challenges we have found with firestopping phone and data lines and we are going to start our discussion in wood framed buildings, despite the fact that much of this information is relevant to other construction types.  Your phone/date teams such as Verizon, Comcast and the rest of them are likely creating a liability on your project when they run their data and phone lines. To those of you who think that I should inform these big companies, I have tried unsuccessfully to find the right person to speak with. The only solution I can think of now is to let the rest of you know about this issue and hope that you can at least make a difference on your projects.


These phone and data installers use two different materials from what I have seen. If you see something different in your area, please let me know. One is the white plastic HDPE lines that are relatively small, maybe 5/8” OD and may be run as single lines or may be run as bundles. They cause an array of issues. The first of which there is that only ONE firestop manufacturer that I can find who has LISTED detail for these microducts . That means that if your installers are using a different manufacturer, they are creating a liability because they are not using the materials as they have been designed and tested. It could be worse than that. They could be installing something that we know WON’T work in a fire scenario.


This blog series will address the following issues. First, we will discuss HDPE, microduct through wood floor ceiling assemblies as a single line. Next, we will look at what to do when they are in bundles through floor ceiling assemblies. The UL nomenclature for both of these applications is FC 2000. After that, we will look at gypsum walls. These are WL 2000 series details.  Then we will discuss concrete assemblies. We will group CAJ, FA and WJ details in this same discussion and finally we will look at FE details which are similar to FC details except that FC is wood framed, where there is a plywood floor on top of wood trusses and drywall ceiling to complete the rated assembly. FE details are fluted metal deck topped with concrete sitting on metal trusses and then the ceiling on the underside of the assembly is part of the rated floor ceiling assembly. It is similar to FC, but due to the metal framing there are some unique differences that we will discuss as a separate section that, knowing me, will lead us to a whole new discussion about problems with FE assemblies. Here is a common rated floor assembly in case there is any confusion regarding what type of assembly we are talking about.


If we don’t get sidetracked before we get to the end, we may address ENT. This is Electrical Non-Metallic Tubing or what I have heard in the field called innerduct. It’s the orange corrugated flexible lines that are between one and one and a half inches in diameter. They have very thin walls and the corrugation gives the material flexibility and strength while keeping it light weight for the installers. This is a different material with different fire dynamics so of course it needs a different assembly.


One thing to know before we launch into these individual discussions, is this. Several firestop manufactures’, when asked for a detail for microduct have sent me details for ENT that specifically list PVC. HDPE has very different fire dynamics than PVC. If you were to read about it you may see that it requires a higher melting point than other PE plastics. Polyethylene, when compared to PVC will typically melt much faster. It is true that HDPE requires higher melting temperatures than other PE plastics but let’s put this into the reference of the ASTM E814 fire test. If you have been following this blog for a while, or involved in the industry,  you will already be familiar with the time temperature curve. For this discussion we are going to look at it in reference to plastic pipes.


If we were to say that all of these typical plastics, including the CPVC used for sprinkler pipes will melt between 200F and 500F. The difference seems inconsequential when you consider that a one hour fire test will reach 1700F at the one hour mark and 1000F at the 5 minute mark. The difference between 200F and 500F seems inconsequential for this discussion, but the lower temperature plastics will often need a much more aggressive intumescent material to survive the ASTM E814 test. The only way to know what is needed for different applications is to check the third party test details. If you have any questions about a specific installation feel free to reach out for help.


When installing (or inspecting) plastic pipe installations the annular space the type of firestop material used and the type of plastic are all critical to ensuring the installation will perform as expected in a fire scenario.  This discussion is not breaking down all those details. We are only focusing on ensuring that the type of plastic you have in the field matches the tested and listed detail. This is critical.


Check in on the next blog to see if your team is installing these data and phone lines correctly. We will break each of these discussions into three parts we mentioned earlier.  We will start with the present field conditions we see. We will talk about the problem with that field condition and then we will discuss some solutions to consider.  See you again soon. Until then, keep learning and keep making the buildings you are involved with safer.


Please check in for the entire series if you are using this material we want to help ensure it is firestopped right. If we can help with anything please give us a call.

If you are Running Plastic Sprinkler Pipes- You need this information.

We have blogged about plastic sprinkler pipes in the past but it’s so easy to get it wrong, that it warrants more information. As always, we have a story for you, but before we get to the story however please know that despite the fact that we are mentioning two manufacturers in the story, we are NOT saying one is better than the other or showing favorites in any way. These are just the facts of the story as it played out in the field for us and could for you as well.


I was doing special inspection on a wood framed project where the installer was using STI’s WF300. This is a great material for wood framed projects. It’s cost effective and relatively versatile in wood framed construction.  We had our submittals showing the listed details for each application they were using in the field. Towards the end of the project the contractor had the laborers make a supply run to finish up the final touches on the firestop. This is where our problem began.


After being in the industry for 20 years, a slight change in that iron oxide red causes one to take a closer look. The plastic sprinkler pipes came through a rated assembly and was firestopped like the other penetrations, but there was a slight difference in the material they used. Just barely enough to warrant a closer look, but just enough to see clearly, they used something different. Further discussion made the problem clear and rather serious.


Allow me to change gears for a moment and then we will bring these two discussions full circle.


CPVC pipes such as Flowguard, BlazeMaster, Corzan and TempRite are developed by Lubrizol. They have two great websites that you should keep handy if you work with projects that use plastic sprinkler pipes or CPVC.

This first one lists materials that have been tested and found to be compatible with these types of plastics.

This next one lists materials that are found to be incompatible. There are a handful of firestop products on this list. One of them is 3M’s CP25WB. Again, this is not a bad product, it is just not the appropriate material in this scenario and there are plenty of other materials on the list, so 3M is not alone. The problem is that the chemical compatibility can cause splits or holes in the plastic pipes. If the sprinkler pipes don’t start to leak before the  sprinklers are needed, the change in pressure when the sprinklers engage will certainly test any system and one with small holes could impact water pressure and prevent sprinkler systems from performing as designed.


Here is another blog post on this topic in case you would like additional information.

This news article is just one of several that touch on the topic of compatibility issues.


So now that you have a little more background let’s get back to the story we started, back to our jobsite. The contractor sent a laborer to a local shop to get the firestop material they needed to finish the job. Certainly, on the shelf there was CP25WB and IC15WB. CP is red and IC is yellow.  They knew that if they showed up on site installing yellow firestop that the inspector (aka me) would ask them for new firestop submittals for this new and different material, so they went with what seemed like the easy route.


When we returned for the inspection and noticed a slight difference in the color and started asking questions the installers brought the tube of the material they had used.  They used CP on the CPVC pipes and as you can see from the links we shared; this creates a problem.  Now that the materials have made contact the compatibility issue is present and you can’t just remove the sealant and replace it with the right red stuff or even the yellow stuff. You have to replace that section of pipe. If you don’t believe me, check with the various manufacturers or even your own corporate legal or risk management team.


It is not clear what this contractor chose to do, but after being informed of the issue and the potential severity we hope they chose to do the right thing.

Do you have PEX on your project? Make sure this mistake isn’t happening.

Welcome back to the series where we talk about “stuff we see wrong in the field.” This blog is going to discuss a few challenges we have found with PEX lines in wood framed buildings.  If you are working on a concrete project that is using PEX, you should still read this just in case you are making the same mistake.  We hope it is useful.


Here is our field condition:

The plumber drilled a hole through the two by fours that are sitting on the plywood floor to frame the wall that will be built. The hole is less than ½” larger than the pex line they are running. This gives them just enough space for the bracket the plumber is using. In the field, they call them mickey mouse ears. I’m not sure what they call them in your area but here is an example of one.


The firestop installer simply smeared firestop around the pex line and covered the mickey mouse ears. It wasn’t until we did destructive testing that we discovered the problem. So, if you are an inspector on a project that is not going to require special inspection, please walk the site before the firestop is installed to see if they are using these things. If they are, you may want to ask a few questions. If you need some help give us a call.


The problem:

The mickey mouse ears use up all the annular space that you need for the installation of the firestop material. With plastic pipes you typically need to have an intumescent firestop material. This is one that is capable of expanding to fill the void created when the plastic pipe melts away during a fire. The intumescent material can close down the opening and prevent the passage of fire.


Intumescent materials act like most things in nature. That is to say that they move in the area of least resistance. That means if it is sitting on the top of the two by four and adjacent to the pex pipe, when it starts to expand its going to move in the area of least resistance. This will be away from the pipe.


For this reason, the intumescent material needs to be forced into the opening so that the two by four, the concrete or the drywall can contain the sealant as it expands so it is forced into the center of the opening. This enables the material to close down the opening as the plastic pipe softens in a fire and yields to the expanding intumescent sealant.


This is also why, when a plastic pipe touches the side of the opening, its required to have a bead of sealant, which is a build-up of material along the edge of the penetrant and against the rated assembly.


However, when a detail allows for annular space to be 0-1” for example it does not mean that you can have 0 annular space all the way around the opening. If this is allowed the detail should say “continual point contact” and few details do.


The solution:

There are a few ways to handle this. One would be to not use the Mickey Mouse ears. Another would be to install the firestop first and then force the sealant into the opening as you push the bracket into place. Inspection would be difficult and ensuring proper sealant depth during installation would be imperative.


If you run into this issue, let us know how you handle it.


Thanks for taking the time to read this. We hope you found it valuable. If you did, please leave comments and let us know what other topics you would like to see us address in future blogs. Share this with anyone who can benefit and keep learning. Check back for more in this blog series as we discuss other field issues we encounter.