Why is special inspection of firestop now required?

Are these building code changes going to impact your next project?

(Round 2 why the code changed)

Some of you are thinking, “ The building inspectors already look at the firestop.” Or maybe you are thinking, “It’s not that complicated.” If you look at ASTM E2174, which is the standard for third party inspection of firestop through penetrations and talk to an inspector about what is required to comply with an inspection at this level, most building officials will tell you they do not have the time for that. Some will even admit they don’t have the training to look at it adequately. Combine that, with the fact that some jurisdictions with strong local third party inspection firms have reported that the failure rate on most projects the first few inspections is generally around 50%. That is typical, which means of course some project teams are stronger, but it also means that some are failing inspections well over half the time. Now, to understand that better, you have to look at what goes into as ASTM E 2174 inspection.

 

First the inspector needs to do one of two types of inspection. They either need to witness the inspection on 10% of each type of installation type or they need to conduct destructive testing on 2% of each type. When inspecting a firestop installation the following items must be reviewed by the inspector and they must confirm that each item conforms to the submitted and approved firestop assembly. That assembly must be tested and listed with a third party agency (most commonly Underwriters Laboratories or UL). When conducting an inspection according to this standard all of these elements must be reviewed. Each line here could warrant a series of blog posts because there is so much more information that needs to be known than what is just written here, but this is a decent start at least:rated assembly-to ensure it conforms with what is allowed in firestop details:

  • rated assembly-to ensure it conforms with what is allowed in firestop details
    • stud depth is a critical often overlooked component
  • penetrating item- to ensure they match in material, size etc
    • changes in material or size can have a major impact
  • sleeve- is it allowed, required or optional
  • insulation- to ensure both material and thickness conform
  • type of firestop material – manufacturer and material name
    • not all firestop is the same, even from the same manufacturer
  • annular space- minimum and maximum
    • both are very important and must be conformed to
  • sealant depth and any required bead of sealant
    • this requires an entirely different discussion
  • backing material- type, depth and compression
    • all three can be critical
  • square ducts over a certain size require retaining angle
  • plastic pipe over a certain size it requires a firestop collar
    • collars require washers and anchor type will vary based on substrate
    • plastic pipe over another size requires all that plus foil tape

 

You want your project being inspected by someone who knows how to look at each of these elements to confirm it conforms to the firestop details. You also want them to know WHY each is critical to the life safety of a building. If they can share this information with the team during the mandatory pre-construction meeting it has a tendency to increase the perceived level of importance for the entire team and may even increase team collaboration.  HLS pre-con meetings have been called “A GAME CHANGER” by some of our project teams.

 

If your project is hiring a third party inspection firm who does everything under the sun, including firestop and you want to know whether or not you are getting what you are paying for, contact us and we will help you make sure that your project is actually complying with the requirements of the codes and standards. You may be surprised by everything they should be doing.

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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.

 

 

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Firestopping Hollow Core Concrete- Part 1

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
    1. Min 4pcf mineral wool
    2. Ceramic fiber blanket
    3. Concrete
    4. Grout
    5. mortar

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.

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How Fast will a Building Burn Loaded with Modern Furniture?

Not long ago I shared a video with you that showed how much faster a fire burns with todays modern furnishings. This video shows the impact not on just a single room, but rather the entire structure.

Watch the video here

Both videos are a horrifying reminder of the importance of practicing fire drills at home and at work. If you are in the construction industry this should be a stark reminder of how important it is to get your life safety scope right, every time.

If you are not completely sure that your firestop is right, give us a call and we can help you identify if you have a liability or if you are on the right track.  If your teem needs a gentle nudge in the right direction or a whole new map of where to go, we can cater our service to suit your needs and your budget. Give us a call and lets see what how we can work together. 201-250-4193

Happy to help those who want to do it right!

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L ratings- Is your project code compliant?

Firestop has enough things to get technical about from annual space, various types of penetrations, solutions and what not. You may know about the 4 ratings firestop can have- F, T, W and L. This blog post will be focusing on the L ratings. have a read and let me know what you think. If you have questions don’t hesitate to reach out to me, or your favorite firestop company for answers.   Check out this blog post here.

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Firestop in Shafts is Often Done Wrong, so Someone Asked, “How do We do it Right?” (part 4)

How did you do with the questions?  Hopefully, they made you think a little about this firestop detail, the product, the various field conditions you might encounter and firestop details in general.  Let me start by saying the answer to every single question is NOPE!  Even question 2 and 7.

 

Let’s take another look at the questions as we provide the answers.

 

If you want to review the product cut sheet is here

 

The firestop detail is here

 

Question 1: My field condition has a sleeve in a block wall. I can still use this detail because the firestop device is a sleeve, right?

No. The tested and listed detail (WJ2274) did not allow for a sleeve or say that a sleeve was optional.  That means that if there is a sleeve in your field condition you have to get a different detail.  Maybe one exists, but if it is not in the submittal package it doesn’t count for this project.

Question 2: What kind of anchors do I need to use to secure this to the wall?

You don’t need any anchors, that is one of the selling features of this new product.

 

Question 3: My field condition is using Aquatherm SDR 11.  It’s the same brand, so I can still use this, right?

It may be the same brand, but this detail calls for blue and Aquatherm SDR 11 is green.  Blue is not green so you cannot use this detail with green pipe.

 

Question 4:  The sleeve I am using is 10” long and I don’t want to see it on the occupied side. Is it okay to push it in flush with the outside of the wall?

The last line in 3A before listing the product says that the device shall be centered within the wall and extend equally beyond each surface of the wall.

 

Question 5: We are using brand X firestop sealant and we don’t want to have another sealant on site to confuse people with, so its okay if we use brand X firestop with this new sleeve thing, right?

Sure, go ahead and use brand X .BUT know that you are installing a detail that is non-conformant and you are accepting all liability if this installation should fail. In other words, NO you can’t, unless you can get documentation to support this and that is not likely.

 

Question 6: The aquatherm pipe is insulated but I got sleeves that are big enough to go around the outside of the insulation so this is fine, right?

There are details for insulated PP pipes, but this is not one of them.  The interesting thing is, that if you need an insulated pipe you look in the 5000 series details. When you do this, some of the insulated plastic pipes can be found here. Alternately some of the can be found in the 2000 series detail. It is an odd thing, but at the moment this is the way the details are laid out.

 

Question 7: I am using 3” Aquatherm green. My hole is 5” and my pipe is centered in the wall with the same annular space all the way around.  Can I still use this detail and this product?

See this chart for product information

 

The chart shows you that the 3” pipe has an OD of 90 mm (which is 3.543 inches- thank you Google unit converter)  That means that the annular space of our perfectly centered pipe will be .73” all the way around.  The detail manufacturers installation instruction require a minimum ¼” annular space (see installation date item 7). We have that covered no problem. The detail allows for a maximum annular space of 7/8” which is .875. With a 5” opening, 3.54 OD of the pipe, leaves 1.46 around the pipe but its centered so we takehalf of that which is .73.  We are allowed 7/8” annular space and .875 is less than .73 so….HA..this one is right..  Sharron was wrong…we can use this detail…except that, as we went though all of this math we forgot one little thing.

 

Take a second look at 2A. 

2 A. Polypropylene (PP-R) Pipe – Nom 6 in dia…. It does not say maximum 6 in dia. If it did say max then you would be fine and you could use this detail.  However this detail is only for use with a 6” pipe and only the type and brand of pipe listed.

 

If you are thinking this is a trick question its not.  It is something that is easily overlooked and I wanted to point out how quickly a contractor may be able to convince you that this system is okay.  I also wanted to remind you that you have to take a closer look.

Remember we are talking about shaft walls. These are integral to the life safety of the building. HLS is here to help those who want to get it right.  To quote the wonderful Dr. Maya Angelou “Do the best you can, until you know better. Then when you know better, do better. “  You may have missed this, or other things we have blogged about on past projects.  There is nothing I can do to help you with that, but I certainly can help make sure you get it right from here on out.

 

If you want us to walk a site with you (in the NY/NJ area) so you can see what you might do better, give us a call.

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