Why you should know more about how firestop is tested.

Understanding more about HOW firestop is tested will help you understand what is important when inspecting it. It will help you understand how firestop installations can fail when they are not installed properly. This series will address a wide array of issues while discussing how firestop is tested.

 

If you want to understand firestop and why certain requirements are important then you need to understand how firestop is tested. You could dig out the standards from ASTM or UL and read all about the process for firestop tests. But, that is a bit dry. So, this will be an attempt to explain how firestop is tested without getting dry and technical. There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle so bare with me as we discuss each one. Along the way you will also garner a better understanding for WHY all this stuff matters. This will be a series of interconnected posts that will loop back into each other and connect with former posts so you can skip what you already know or beef up on things you may want to know more about. Let’s get started.

 

WHY: Why do we test firestop? The basic answer is to ensure safe installations and to keep all the various manufactures on the same playing field and playing with the same rules.

 

If you want to create a firestop material and have any hope of selling it in the US, you have to first have it tested by a third party testing agency. There are a number of companies who will do the test, but the lions share of the through penetration tests are done at Underwriters Laboratories. There are more and they include such as Omega Point Labs, Warnock Hersey and others. Having a material tested by a third-party testing agency means that each manufactures material will be subject to the same type of critique and will have to meet the same expectations in the test burn.  This means that the end user can have the same expectations of any product installed according to the details in the tested and listed documentation. Understanding why certain elements of a test are important requires you to know more about HOW things are tested. Here is a start to the explanation:

 

Here are some basics:

Rated floor or wall– the assembly is built, allowed time to cure, set on the furnace. The assembly is peppered with thermocouples’ connected to computers so they can make sure the non-fire side of the assembly doesn’t get too hot. There are specific requirements to how they are placed. You can read more about if you wish by digging into the actual test requirements. We wont get into those specifics here other than to say that the edges of the assembly are not really considered important to this particular test because they are covered in the test for rated joints. This test assembly will be tested for an F rating and for a T rating.

 

The F rating is the time it takes for fire to breach the assembly. If you are testing a gypsum wall for 1 hour and fire breaches the wall before 60 minutes then you will fail the test. If it breaches at 61 minutes you have at least passed for a one-hour assembly. The T rating is a bit more complex, but still very important. We will save that for our next blog topic, so don’t forget to check in with us next week.

The technical term for this is to ensure that the F rating equals the T rating. There is a whole other topic that needs to be addressed which is the hose stream test, which is an important part of the test and again warrants its own blog post to come shortly.

 

Rated Joints– the test for the rated joints is basically the same as the test for the rated assemblies, but with a few additions. Now, we are dealing with two different assemblies. The way they are connected will provide the “code required” continuity of a rated assembly. So, if you have a floor joining a wall and they are both rated, we want to know that the joint between the two assemblies will be capable of withstanding the same rigors as the two assemblies independently. The tests are similar but there is one added dimension for many joint assemblies. (note we are not talking about Perimeter Containment/Edge of Slab firestop)

 

Joint assemblies can be either static (no expectation of movement) or they can be dynamic. Dynamic joints are subject to very specific movement criterion (another topic for later) the joints also require that the F rating and the T rating are the same, meaning that significant amounts of heat wont pass through the rated joint. This expectation will make more sense once we post the information on T ratings shortly.

 

Through Penetration- As you might expect, the test for through penetrations is very similar to the test for rated assemblies and rated joints. The differences are that we don’t have the T rating requirement. The T rating is a measure of thermal transfer (how much heat goes through the assembly). If you have a copper pipe running through a concrete floor the heat will be on the non-fire side of the assembly very quickly because copper is an excellent conductor. Therefor the T-rating requirement is not in the test standard but rather in the building code (you guessed it, a topic for later discussion). These through penetration tests often have a requirement that the penetrant be rigidly supported. This causes problems for the firestop installer in some cases, but causes even bigger problems for the long-term impact of the firestop if it is not complied with. This is a common deficiency in firestop installations.

 

If you have attended one of our training seminars or if you already know a bit about firestop you may be thinking…she didn’t even mention the hose stream test. This is critical to understanding why certain elements of the firestop listed assembly are so critical, such as sealant depth, annular space and other topics, but it also helps you understand how various drywall patch applications would not survive the laboratory test conditions AND you guessed it- it’s a topic for another blog post!

 

So we have basically set the groundwork for the next few months of posts. I hope you take the time to write in and let us know what you think and what else you think we should include. If you need help on a project don’t hesitate to contact us. We are happy to help you improve the level of life safety on your building.

 

 

Excellent video about firestop inspection

Happy Friday.  It is hot here in NJ, so I am making life a little easier for you (and me) and giving you a great video.  If you are responsible for firestop, whether you are an installer, inspector, architect, general contractor or ANYONE who should know what to look for  when looking at firestop, please watch this video.  It is a great start to learning a few things that are very important or refresh what you already know.  A big thank you to the IFC and STI for making this video available to everyone. Have a great weekend!

Watch the video here-

Firestop- It’s “good enough”… right?

This 20 minute video will help you see what happens when firestop is not installed properly.  Imagine being in the building, in the room right next to where the first started and the firestop installers did what they thought was “good enough”.  This is what would happen.

GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE SLEEVES (Part 4 on sleeves)

Not all of my audience is American, or even Western so allow me a moment to explain a children’s story called Goldilocks. There is a family of bears. They are Momma bear, Papa bear and baby bear and they all went out for a walk before breakfast. A little girl walks into their house and eats from their bowls, sits in their chairs and naps in their beds. One is too big, one is too small and one is just right.

That is the theme of our discussion today. Getting the size just right and the consequences of not getting it just right.

Let’s say the sleeves in this discussion are going to match whatever heavier gauge is required so we will be focusing on the size of the sleeve rather than the gauge or material used in the sleeve because we have already discussed the impact of the gauge and we will later discuss the various options for materials that need to be used for sleeve applications.
Question:

What size sleeve would you use if you have a 4” pipe that will be insulated with 2” insulation?

Wrong move #1:

The guy laying the sleeve looks at the numbers and figures 4” pipe plus 2” insulation (4+2=6) so we use a 6” sleeve. In this scenario there won’t be enough room for the pipe AND the insulation because the insulation is on both sides of the pipe so the equation is 2” of insulation plus, 4” of pipe, plus another 2” of insulation on the other side of the pipe.

A 6” sleeve only give 1” on either side of the pipe for insulation and firestop so even if the insulator uses 1” insulation where the pipe goes through the wall there still is not enough room for the firestop that is needed and if you firestop with typical intumescent firestop sealant (material that expands when exposed to heat), then the firestop will expand away from the opening and will not have any positive impact in a fire scenario. The material needs to be lodged between the inside edge of the opening and the outside edge of the insulation so that it can either compress the insulation against the pipe or fill the void when the insulation melts or burns away. If the firestop is not placed properly it will not react properly.

Potential fix:

Depending on the R value required for the insulation, the risk of condensation and other variables, the solutions will vary. Some projects have opted to allow the mineral wool insulation count as pipe insulation since it often has the same R-value and the insulation is removed just where it goes through the wall. This is the cheapest solution from both a labor and a materials standpoint. It often causes problems for the building owner and those problems will vary depending on the reason the insulation is needed, so when making a decision these factors should be weighed.

If this is done be sure the installation is firestopped with a 1000 series detail and not a 5000 series detail. See here for more information on selecting the correct UL listed detail for various applications.  See here for more information about firestopping to different types of pipe insulation.

Next week, we will discuss option sleeve option sizes and more potential solutions for this sort of problem installation.

How can you avoid this problem and many others?

When HLS conducts pre-construction meetings this is one of the many things we cover BEFORE construction starts. The meetings include our the MEPS subs as well as the drywaller, insulator, masons, carpenters and the CM or GC teams.  We have a separate meeting to cover edge of slab firestop which has its own unique complications. Our clients tell us our pre-con meeting is a game changer for the project because the entire team is looking at firestop in a new light and everyone understands their impact on the life safety of a building. More importantly everyone understands a new level of accountability.  That is just the beginning of how things will run on your next project if HLS is on your team.

If you are interested in learning more about our proven method, please contact us.

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______________________________________________

Halpert Life Safety Consulting LLC’s

“Saving Lives for the Life of your Building” TM

Our mission is to make a colossal impact on the level of life safety of your building and on the talent of your people. We provide consultation, training, quality control and third party special inspection related to firestop and passive fire protection. We consult for the building industry in the New York/New Jersey (NY/NJ) metropolitan area, as well as across the United States and internationally.

THINK THE LAST TWO POSTS COVERED EVERYTHING ABOUT SLEEVES? THINK AGAIN, AND READ ON! (part 3 on sleeves)

In our last post we talked about sleeves and the fact that the field installations need to match the requirements in the submitted firestop assemblies. Let’s look at some examples:

Here is the verbiage from a random UL listed firestop detail.

Steel Sleeve – (Optional, Not Shown) – Nom 16 in. (406 mm) diam (or smaller) Schedule 10 (or heavier) steel sleeve cast or grouted into floor or wall assembly. Sleeve may extend a max of 2 in. (51 mm) above top of floor or beyond either surface of wall. As an alternate, nom 16 in. (406 mm) diam (or smaller) min 0.028 (0.71 mm) thick galvanized sheet steel sleeve cast or grouted into floor or wall assembly flush with floor or wall surfaces.

This detail actually allows for three options. Option One is no sleeve. Option two, you can use a Sch 10 steel sleeve. Option three, allows for a galvanized sheet metal sleeve no less than .028” which I think is 24 gauge. Remember that doesn’t mean its okay to use 26 gauge or to use non-galvanized sheet metal sleeves.

Here is another example that I pulled it from my last project submittal.

Steel Sleeve – (Optional) – Nom 14 in. (356 mm) diam (or smaller) Schedule 10 (or heavier) steel pipe or No. 26 ga (0.022 in. or 0.56 mm thick) sheet steel sleeve with square anchor flange spot welded to the sleeve at approx mid-height. Sleeve cast or grouted in place flush with floor or wall surfaces. Steel pipe sleeve may project a max of 2 in. (51 mm) beyond the floor or wall surfaces.

This detail actually allows for similar options as our first example. It even allows for a lighter gauge sleeve, but please note there are TWO CRITERIA to pay attention to…

1) 26 gauge or heavier (and yes I carry a sheet metal gauge on my field walks and I check this)

2) This detail requires that the sheet steel sleeve must have a square anchor flange spot welded to the sleeve at approx mid-height. Let’s face it, once the concrete is poured no one is going to confirm this short of trying to knock out a few of the sleeves to see if they come out easily.

This is why I should never write contracts for firestop installers, because I would link my contracts to my firestop submittals. If this detail were used I would have a line in the contract stating that contractors must use either Sch 10 sleeves or sheet steel sleeve must have a square anchor flange spot welded to the sleeve at approx mid-height or they bear the liability of being non-compliant. There are little points like this all through a firestop submittal. My contracts would be like reading a really boring encyclopedia, but excellent for insomnia or litigation.

So, let’s say you are on a project right now and the guys used thin gauge sheet metal for the sleeves, or maybe they used 26 ga sheet metal but it did not put the anchor flange on. You can still firestop it right?

NOT if you want to be code compliant! One of my old team mates used to say that the building code offers a minimum standard to which you should build. To build at any standard LESS than the code is criminal, and as a professional who should know the industry it is criminal negligence.

If the sheet metal sleeve is 26ga and you are missing the anchor flange, the only recourse you have to remain code complaint is to:

  • remove the sleeve from the opening
  • contact your firestop manufacturer to see if they have a detail that will work in this case
  • contact your firestop manufacturer requesting they write an Engineering Judgment for the situation you have created that is not going to be code compliant.

Halpert Life Safety pre-construction meetings cover a wide array of common firestop problems in hopes of bringing light to all of them early in the project so the team encounters fewer surprises late in the game. This issue surrounding sleeves is one of the many things we discuss in our pre-construction meetings.

We break into the seemingly little tiny things like this, because my former boss trained his team to think about how it would look if you had to defend your actions or words in court. If you claim to be a professional, then you are also claiming to be aware of these small things. Our job in the pre-construction meetings is to make sure that the liability position is reduced for EVERYONE on the team.

Before we go, let’s look at one more example from a different manufacturer:

Metallic Sleeve — (Optional) Nom 32 in. diam (or smaller) Schedule 40 (or heavier) steel sleeve cast or grouted into floor or wall assembly, flush with floor or wall surfaces or extending a max of 3 in. above floor or beyond both surfaces of wall.

2A. Sheet Metal Sleeve — (Optional) Max 6 in. diam, min 26 ga galv steel provided with a 26 ga galv steel square flange spot welded to the sleeve at approx mid-height, or flush with bottom of sleeve in floors, and sized to be a min of 2 in. larger than the sleeve diam. The sleeve is to be cast in place and may extend a max of 4 in. below the bottom of the deck and a max of 1 in. above the top surface of the concrete floor.

2B. Sheet Metal Sleeve — (Optional) – Max 12 in. diam, min 24 ga galv steel provided with a 24 ga galv steel square flange spot welded to the sleeve at approx mid-height, or flush with bottom of sleeve in floors, and sized to be a min of 2 in. larger than the sleeve diam. The sleeve is to be cast in place and may extend a max of 4 in. below the bottom of the deck and a max of 1 in. above the top surface of the concrete floor.

From this, you can see that the size of the allowable sleeve has a direct correlation to the thickness of the metal sleeve. We might  discuss this in more detail in a later post. For now, just make sure your sub-contractors are not creating scenarios that will make it impossible for your firestop contractors to firestop in a compliant way. If you have questions about this, we are happy to join you for a pre-construction meeting and help get your team on the same page and understand how their choices for the project can impact the projects liability for everyone involved. This may mean that the firestop contractor needs to obtain different documentation or it may mean that the MEPS contractors need to make different choices. We can help make sure your team is making the right choice.

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Here is part one of this series, and part two.

______________________________________________

Halpert Life Safety Consulting LLC’s

“Saving Lives for the Life of your Building” TM

Our mission is to make a colossal impact on the level of life safety of your building and on the talent of your people. We provide consultation, training, quality control and third party special inspection related to firestop and passive fire protection. We consult for the building industry in the New York/New Jersey (NY/NJ) metropolitan area, as well as across the United States and internationally.

Do this and your insurance company might not have to pay if your building burns

The article below is basically about a building that was insured against fire, but because the owner did not properly maintain the buildings sprinkler system, as is required by code; the insurance company did not have to pay after a fire. In fact the owner had to repay the advance that they were given.

You can read the article below, but I wanted to start a conversation about passive fire protection.  The building codes require rated walls be maintained so when your IT crews run new lines or new tenants renovate an office space or whatever may happen to any building, with any occupancy type, that could interfere with the integrity of a rated wall.  Would the insurance company be able to identify this as a risk that would allow them to not have to pay out during a fire?   The building codes are changing and now many projects are required to have third party special inspection of firestop installations. All it will take is one major loss and insurance companies will look more closely at passive fire protection.  Also you will find that premiums will change and the way premiums are evaluated will change.

If you don’t want to run this risk, contact Halpert Life Safety and we will help you assess the risk in your building, we can help with due diligence before you purchase a building or during construction we can help ensure that your contractors are not missing anything.  Check out next weeks blog post to learn about a major problem with ductwork that is very rarely done correctly. (at least from my experience…if I am wrong I’d love to know…write to me)  It doesn’t matter if you are on a project in China, the Caribbean, Las Vegas or New York there are certain problems that are common. I can say that because Ive been there.  Stay tuned to learn more about them!  Together we all can be part of a movement- “Saving Lives for the Life of the Building.”tm

http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/east/2011/07/20/206553.htm#.T8O55FcdLD0.email

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__________________________________________________

Halpert Life Safety Consulting LLC’s

“Saving Lives for the Life of your Building” TM

Our mission is to make a colossal impact on the level of life safety of your building and on the talent of your people. We provide consultation, training, quality control and third party special inspection related to firestop and passive fire protection. We consult for the building industry in the New York/New Jersey (NY/NJ) metropolitan area, as well as across the United States and internationally.

Firestopping for Rated Joints – Masons and Drywallers

Welcome to this section of our firestop blog where we will discuss firestop information related to both the masons and drywall contractors scope of work. This work is relatively easy to do, but it is also very easy to do wrong. We will go over some common firestop issues with these trades. 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 likely 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