New Standard for Architects to Spec- Part One

Architects are always trying to cover all the bases when they write their specifications. I am not an architect, but occasionally I am asked to review a project specifications.  There is a new ASTM Standard that I would recommend for architects who want up to date specifications. The International Firestop Council has taken the time to write a piece on the topic so I wanted to share it with you all.

IFC FS Installer Guide ASTM E3157

If your specifications say that installations need to conform to ASTM E3157 then you cover all the bases for good installations such as following a firestop detail, cleaning the substrate, troweling the sealant, using the right backer material and much more.

If you would like more information on it check out the link for the article by the IFC. If you want more information about firestop, go to the IFC website.  Check back next week for another suggestion for architects specifications you might be interested in.

If you are a code official, remember that once you have approved a set of plans and specifications, then the build team is legally obligated to provide the level of quality in the construction documents, so even if you can enforce it per the building code, you can based on the approved specifications the owner and architect have agreed to for the project.

Keep learning and keep improving!  If we can help don’t hesitate to contact us!

Fireproofing- Intumescent Coatings

NYC Center for Architecture does a lot of training for local architects. My buddy Dave came out to do this session on the topic. If you want to learn more about the topic have a look here. Its a two hour video so grab a cup of coffee before you start but he is a wealth of knowledge and its two hours well spent if you need to know more about fireproofing that looks good or is exposed to the elements.

Dear Architect- Why are you asking for a W rating

I have seen so many project specifications requiring a W rating. If you don’t know what a W rating is, please read this first.  If you are already familiar with a W rating, do you know if it a requirement on your project?  I recently looked at a wood framed project and there were W rating requirements. Clearly the architect has stock specifications that don’t take into account the fact that a wood framed project is NOT going to be capable of mitigating water movement in the way a concrete floor might.


But lets say you are dealing with a concrete floor, then W ratings are a viable requirement…except, when they are not.


Remember the test for a W rating is a three foot column of water that prevents even a single drop of water for 72 hours.   If the specifications say as a blanket statement that a W rating is a requirement of floor penetration firestop systems, then what about a bundle of cables? What about MC cables? What about insulated pipes, the brackets to support the weight of multiple floors of pipes will break well below the three foot mark and how might one maintain the W rating with a break in the insulation, or with insulation that can’t hold back water such as fiberglass or other field installed insulations?


If you have been in construction for a while I am sure you can think of other examples when W rated firestop is not a reasonable requirement.

Im not saying stop asking for W ratings, because they are amazing. I could tell you some stories where they were a HUGE success. But be aware of the limitations and if you specify it, know what you are asking for. If you have a project that has W ratings specified and no one is asking questions, then my guess is they are not conforming with the specification.


If you have any questions feel free to contact us. We are happy to help if we are able.

Dear Architect- Why don’t your specifications require L ratings?

One of my pet peeves is people who use code verbiage WRONG.  A fire wall is not the same as a fire RATED wall.  Watch this video and you will see what I mean. The FIRE WALL saved the lives of the fire fighters in that video, well, the fire wall and some damn good teamwork. A standard fire RATED wall would not be expected to perform the same way as a FIRE WALL which runs from the lowest level up to or through the roof. The fire fighters know that the parapet is a FIRE WALL and that it should be built such that there can be complete structural collapse on the one side and the other side of the wall is safe from fire or safe from collapse.


These FIRE WALLS are used by architects when they have a building with an area larger than what the code allows. This is effectively making one building into two or more buildings, or segments of a building that are connected by this rugged structural wall.

So what about fire barriers and smoke barriers?  These are NOT the same either.

Did you know that a fire barrier should have an F rating? more on that here.  Yeah, well a smoke barrier is required to have a one hour F rating too. That means that all the penetrations through a fire barrier or a smoke barrier are also required to have an F rating that matches the F rating of the wall?  This is hopefully no surprise to you at this point.  This however this next point might be.

Did you know that joint or a penetration in a smoke barrier has to pass one additional test that a fire barrier DOESN’T have to pass.  It is an L rating and Engineering Toolbox explains it here.  So this means when you are reviewing the firestop submittals you have to know where your smoke barriers are, what rated assemblies they connect to and what penetrates them. First you have to identify these items, then  you have to ensure that the firestop details you have received are capable of meeting this code required test.  When I say YOU, I am talking to all of you- the architect, building official, GC, firestop installer or special inspector. If the trades are self performing their own firestop, then I am talking to each of the trades as well.

Do you know, if you project has smoke barriers?  If you have them please check your firestop submittals to see if your details cover this code requirement.

If you are working in a hospital, pay particular attention because smoke barriers may be a requirement to help reduce the nosocomial infection rates.  You know the person who goes into the hospital with a broken arm and leaves with a cast and the worst flu of their life. That is a remedial explanation of nosocomial infection.  Before you think its not a big deal, you should know that nosocomial infections are linked to the death of  as many as 6 children and the subsequent 2019 closure of Seattle Children’s Hospital, so it is serious business.

L ratings are also important in clean room environments or rooms with FM200 or other similar fire suppression system where room volume is critical tot he life safety measures.

If you have any questions, feel free to give us a call. We are happy to help if we are able.

UL Future Built Forum- Battery Storage 3

Here we are the day after Thanksgiving and still talking about battery storage. This is the last of the presentations on the topic and we will be back to our firestop discussion with our next post. As you recover from Thanksgiving, I hope that you took time to reflect on all that you have and all that you will create in the year to come.

Let me know how I can support you and your teams,


UL Future Built Forum- Battery Storage 2

Tomorrow is the big day- Turkey induced comma, time for family and friends who are like family. I hope you have a great time and if you need to escape for something work related, here is your perfect excuse. You can learn about battery storage with this slide deck compliments of the UL Future Built Forum last January.

Have a great Thanksgiving, stay safe and when I wake up from my own food comma I will be happy to help you if you have any questions.


All the best,


UL Future Built Forum- Battery Storage 1

I have been sharing presentations from a great forum last January and while this next topic is not one that impacts me in any major way, there are some of you in this community who will NEED this information so I am putting it out there for you guys. It seems appropriate this week as we all take time to “re-charge our batteries” the discussion will be on battery storage.

There will be three slide decks coming your way this week. Here is the first one. We will get back to our firestop discussions next week.  In the meantime if I can help with anything give me a shout.

Membrane Penetration Firestop- Part Two

I hope you liked the last post, that was just a warm up as we bring you to this new document by the International Firestop Council. Its 7 pages and packed with great information and I will expound on it in the next blog series because this document does a great job of explaining what needs to be done, it doesn’t tel you the common things installers do wrong, or things they miss. So please start with a read of this document and then come back and we expound on this a bit further in the next few series of posts. IFC Membrane Penetrations

There are a few other membrane penetrations to consider depending on the type of construction you are looking at- so while this is not an exhaustive list it adds to the one in the article because you need to keep an eye out for any of these items that are not surface mounted. If they are recessed or semi-recessed in  a rated wall then they are membrane penetrations. Please pay attention when looking at the following-  fire hose cabinets, fire extinguisher cabinets, time clocks,  elevator call boxes, IT control panels, electrical panels, shower diverter valves or anything that punches through one side of a rated wall.  So have a read of the IFC document and check back for our next blog as we take the discussion a little further.

In the meantime,  let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

See you next time!

Membrane Penetration Firestop Part One

Firestop applications that only breach one side of a rated assembly are called membrane penetrations. They are often poorly reviewed. This is true of wall penetrations but even more true of floor penetrations.   If you have been following this blog for a while, you know we are big on offering information in multi-part series and this topic will be NO DIFFERENT. We will start with two different documents one from UL and the other from the IFC and we will build on those documents in hopes of helping you see what to look for on job sites. This doesn’t matter if you are an AHJ part of a QA/QC team or a special inspector. You need to know the information in this series to help increase the level of life safety and reduce liability. So please read and challenge yourself to apply this information on your projects.

We will start you on this UL document.

Here are a few key takeaways-

Plastic Electrical outlets-

  • Look for the UL logo
    • be sure it is listed for use in a rated floor/wall/ceiling that it is installed in
    • if you don’t find it, the box is not tested to be used in a fire rated assembly. You can’t just throw a putty pad on the non-rated boxes to fix the problem. It’s not that simple.
  • Check the size of the boxes, because even if it is UL listed it can only be up to a certain size before it requires a putty pad, regardless of its proximity to any other boxes. Metal boxes cant exceed 16 sq in, plastic boxes may vary by manufacturer depending on what was tested (and what passes) so look at the paperwork
  • When you are reading the firestop detail (because that’s everyones favorite thing to do RIGHT?!) pay attention to whether or not the application requires
    • a metal cover plate
    • a ball of putty  inside the box (I have never seen anyone do this unless they get called out- and I rarely see people called out even when it is a requirement)

Metal Outlet Boxes-

  • don’t assume that you can throw a putty pad on any sized box. Refer to the CLIV (the tested detail) for the limitations
  • depth of box is a big deal. We will get into this in a future discussion, but if you recall our conversation about shaft wall assemblies it is related too that. If you didn’t see that you can review here. 
  • Again if you install a box in a wall/floor/ceiling you have to be sure it is rated for that use. If it is rated for use in a wall, it can automatically be used in a ceiling or floor.

I know the firestop details for putty pads are cumbersome and painfully boring so if you have any questions, ask your electrician or your firestop installer for the CLIV document, email it to me and then let’s have a chat. I can help get you on the right track to ensure these are done right.

The search for the perfect UL system

Have you ever searched for a UL detail on their website?  The original website required a special degree in UL nomenclature. Then they made some huge changes and it got much easier. They have made some new changes that you are likely to enjoy even more.


That is not to say you will specifically enjoy the search for the perfect rated detail, but it certainly will be easier. Plus the old site will be retired in a week, so you won’t have any other options.


If you haven’t already, please check out the new site. You may even want to bookmark it.