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.