Welcome to this section of our firestop blog where we will discuss general information related to firestop electrical contractors scope of work. Some of these posts will be repeated on the other trades segments because they are relevant there as well. Our focus with this blog is to educate the construction industry on firestop and improve the level of life safety on all buildings. We have worked on projects all over the US and internationally so our breadth of experience will be an asset to your next project, whether you hire us to help make sure it runs smoothly or if you just stay tuned to this blog in order to improve your own work. This is Halpert Life Safety where we focus on “Saving Lives for the Life of the Building.”TM If you are a contractor who subs out the firestop scope, you still carry the liability of your subs work so you may want to know a little about it, and this blog is designed to do just that! If you self perform your firestop scope you definitely should stay tuned because this blog will help you reduce your companies liability on your projects. If you are a building inspector, third party special inspector, you will want to keep tabs on this blog as well and we would love to hear what you like or what you think we should add. If you want to be a guest blogger then by all means let us know. Let’s get started with our first key information segment. In order to know how to look critically at firestop you have to understand some basic information about the UL listed assemblies. So please start here
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,
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,
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!
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.
If you have a Hollow Core Concrete Project- You MUST Read This Blog Series!
Hollow core slabs have a number of advantages, but when it comes to firestop they create a number of challenges that must be addressed BEFORE the project starts in order to ensure a successful project. If you are currently on a hollow core project I hope you are getting this information in time.
If you wait until the pipes and cables are run and then try to figure out how to firestop everything ya’ might be screwed. You might not be able to firestop the penetrations properly in many cases. Realistically you will have two choices. Honestly, you won’t like either of them.
Choice 1: Ignore your problems and do it wrong and create a liability for your company and the people stuck with your building once you leave.
Choice 2: Work backwards, so you can move forward correctly. In some cases this will mean you have to remove the penetrating items first, so you can address the cores in the slab. Another option might be to use a product that you may not have in your budget.
I said, neither choice is a good one. They both suck, right? One creates a major liability and the other has cost implications. They both have a negative impact on your schedule if you didn’t take this into account before construction started. There are a few manufacturers with products that can help, but at the moment I can think of three different manufacturers with products that work for one solution but not another, so you would have to deal with three different sales people to find the best solutions.
I have been in the industry since 1999. Back then you were only allowed to use firestop details that specifically called out hollow core concrete in item number 1 of a UL listed detail. That is the section of the UL detail that lists the information about the rated assembly being penetrated.
That has changed and the details are not so limiting. Now you can use any CAJ or FA detail PROVIDED THAT YOU COMPLY WITH THE FOLLOWING.
- The thickness of the hollow core floor is the same or greater than the requirements of the firestop system
- The opening is not greater than 7” dia or 7”x7”
- Any cores breached by the opening need to be filled with min 4” depth of
- Min 4pcf mineral wool
- Ceramic fiber blanket
For more on these specifics please visit the UL website, right here on UL’s XHEZ.
The only time you do not have to adhere to the requirements noted above is when the listed detail calls out specifically Hollow Core concrete floors AND it doesn’t note these same requirements (see above). One example of this would be with pre-fabricated or semi-fabricated devices such as drop in devices that are similar to cast in place devices or sleeves. We will give you a few examples of these in our final Firestopping Hollow Core Concrete blog post.
In our next blog post I will explain why I hope that you are getting this information in time.
Just for this post I have unleashed the code geek. Be scared (no…not really- its painless I promise). After we talk about the code we will discuss the things to look for to ensure your team is conforming to the code.
First let’s clear up the difference between an opening and a penetration. An opening (IBC 2015 713.7) is a hole with a purpose such as a door or a window. Doors and windows are tested to their own standards when acceptable for use in a rated assembly. Note that there is a difference between the test for a horizontal and a vertical opening protection the same way as there is a difference between firestop assemblies. You cannot use a horizontal and a vertical assembly interchangeably. For instance, if you have an access door that you want to put in a mechanical shaft you cannot use that same door in a rated horizontal assembly, unless it is tested for that specific application. Its all about fire dynamics; they simply are not the same in each orientation.
IBC 2015 713.8.1 is on prohibited penetrations and basically says that any penetration in a shaft has to have something to do with the purpose of that shaft.
Here are a few things I have seen.
I was looking at a set of plans with an architect. I asked him if his fire extinguisher cabinets were surface mounted or recessed. Turns out they were semi-recessed and they created a code violation because they were located in the shaft wall assemblies. He relocated them outside of the shaft and all was well with the world (or at least with the extinguisher cabinets).
I mentioned this scenario in a class and someone asked if they could just use a rated extinguisher box. It is a great question, because this is a common misconception. Please remember that the rated extinguisher box or hose box allows you to have a giant hole in a rated wall and not have a code violation, except if that wall is a shaft…then it’s a prohibited penetration. If you have a hose box or an extinguisher box in a rated wall it must be a rated box as well. This is a whole different blog for another time though because there are a whole series of issues we need to talk about related to membrane penetrations. We will get to that later though.
What other things should you look for that are common prohibited penetrations?
Interestingly enough, most of these are membrane penetrations like the extinguisher cabinet. It could be corridor lighting, the magnetic hold open apparatus on smoke doors, exit signs and anything along these lines. These are not serving the purpose of the shaft, so they are prohibited in the wall assembly. This needs to be addressed early in a project or it can create serious headaches down the road.
Now if these same membrane penetrations are in your means of egress, they are relevant to the means of egress and therefore not a code violation. A mechanical shaft has to have mechanical pipes coming out of it to service the floors, it may need to have an access door and all of that is okay provided you are using a rated access door. The mechanical shaft does not have to have corridor sconce lighting and if it does, then you, my friend have a code violation.
Heads up gang, that prohibited penetrations section that we talked about with shafts relates to means of egress as well. If you have a duct or pipe that runs from one side of the corridor to the other side and doesn’t service that area then you have a code violation. In this case, however, the exit sign, mag hold and corridor lighting would not be a code violation because those things presumably serve a purpose in the corridor.
In our next post we will do an imaginary field walk and talk about what we might see. If you would like some help pulling all of this together don’t hesitate to contact us so we can help on your project.
Thanks for reading along so far. We have covered a lot in this series on shafts and hopefully you have been able to put some of this to use in the field. Next up, let’s look at what you should see when you are walking in the field looking at all that firestop stuff. Let’s put all this information to work for you.
First, you need to have the firestop submittals that show the firestop requirements for all of these shaft applications. If you don’t have the details, you can’t properly evaluate the installations.
Let’s walk a site together (You will need to use your imagination here). Say we are on the 5th floor of a hotel project. We are looking at a mechanical shaft. We have bare pipes and insulated pipes stubbing out of the wall to provide water to the bathroom. The shaft liner is up, but there is no firestop on the pipes. We go up to the 6th floor, the drywall is on the outer layer of all the shafts, but they have firestopped only about half of them. As you walk down the hall you see an area where they have not yet firestopped the penetrations into the shaft wall and you can see that they have not firestopped the shaft liner side. This is a problem. Firestop is required on both sides of a wall, even a shaft wall.
Let’s take the same scenario, but this time they did have firestop on the shaft liner side on the 6th floor. However, when you were on the 5th floor you noticed that the hole that was cut for the small insulated copper pipe is just big enough to get the pipe and the insulation through. The insulation was almost touching the cut edge of the drywall all the way around. You don’t have firestop submittals for the project so you can’t tell that the detail requires annular space of 0-1/2” and what you have in your field condition is continual point contact. The other thing you can’t see is that the firestop detail calls for 5/8” of firestop in the annular space. Since there is no annular space there is no way to achieve this depth requirement. You have some problems. The first problem is that you don’t have your firestop submittals so you can’t reference what is required when you talk to the installer. Second, they have created an installation that can not be finished correctly. Remember those blogs where we talked about continual point contact and the importance of proper annular space?
Please also remember, if you are looking at a block wall, they will have to firestop both sides of the wall, or one side but do it two times. This is true both for joints and for through penetrations. If it is a shaft, you likely can’t get to the inside to check on the installations so you may need to go to the bottom of the shaft before it is closed off to get a look, or you can conduct destructive testing to confirm that it was done right. Please also remember that the firestop details have to match the field installations. If they don’t, it is non conformant.
If you are working on a project and you have questions about your firestop submittals, or installations please do not hesitate to give us a call. We are happy to help when we can and if you are close enough we might even swing by to help out if our schedule is open.