Cautions and Codes Related to Shafts (part 3)

The 2015 IBC code section …don’t worry, it will be painless and its SUPER useful information. Stick with me please!

Section 713 is on shaft enclosures and there are a few things you really need to know. I’m going to generalize and just tell you to go online for the specifics when you really need them (or hire me and I can give them to you).

Generally a shaft has 4 sides, a top and a bottom. Your shaft may have 3 sides or it may have 10 sides, but for simplicity we will assume it is like most shafts and has 4 sides. It MUST have a top and a bottom because remember your floors are required to have a 2 hour rating (in most concrete buildings) and the shaft has to match the floor’s rating so that you can have an unprotected hole in the floor that could potentially run the height of the building.

It has to have a bottom, which could be the ground floor, or it could be a horizontal rated assembly made of concrete, gypsum or in some cases firestop materials.

It also has to have a top. That can be the roof or again it could be one of the rated assemblies we talked about. If you have a penetration through the top or bottom of the shaft you will have to firestop those penetrations.

Guess what! If you use a horizontal gypsum assembly then there are no UL listed details for penetrations through a horizontal shaft wall assembly. You automatically have to get an EJ. Is that included in your firestop submittals? It should be!

Now the top or bottom of your shaft could be part of a room, for example if you have a trash chute or linen chute then the bottom of the shaft can be the laundry or trash room provided the surrounding walls are rated and you have no prohibited penetrations.

More on prohibited penetrations in our next post! If you have shafts on your project or are concerned that your firestop submittals might be missing something, as always contact us here.

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NJ DCA CEU Classes

If you want to learn more about protecting commercial kitchen exhaust or the new requirements for AHJ’s with the need for firestop special inspection or when they are required we have some classes for you to consider.  If you want information on other classes provided by DCA please see this brochure.  Sharron is excited to be teaching these two classes again this year.  I know  we will be talking about codes and standards but we actually manage to have a bit of fun.

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Fire Facts- (free CEU’s)

Would you like to know how to make use of a firestop submittal in a way that will help you hold your installers accountable in a whole new way? If you are even thinking “maybe”, then you should join us for the 25th Fire Facts!  It is put on by City Fire as an educational forum and is well attended every year.

We have a new session coming up Feb 2nd in Princeton. If you join us, you will leave with a new set of skills that you can put to use the very next day (or at least the following Monday). This is hands down my favorite class to teach. Don’t get me wrong, I have fun with all of my classes, but this one is packed with valuable information…and it’s free!  Come for the CEU’s, come for the information and you will get some good food, great company and valuable information about firestop, hot works and carbon monoxide.

If you want to join us, please contact Melissa Palmisano for more details and to register. She can be reached at melissa@cityfire.com.

HOPE TO SEE YOU IN PRINCETON!

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Firestop – It does more than stop fires (when its installed right)

Firestop can serve a number of unique features that are not directly related to STOPPING FIRE. A properly firestopped residential property can reduce the noise from a loud neighbor. It can reduce the wandering smells from a bad cook. In hospitals it can reduce nosocomial infections. This is the idea that you go into a hospital with a broken arm and leave with a cast and the worst case of the flu you’ve ever had. It can also save your life, even when there isn’t a fire.

There was a case in Orlando FL where residents were very lucky. They were lucky that one family was smart enough to recognize something was wrong and go to the hospital. The neighbors were lucky that a nurse was alert enough to notify emergency responders to ensure other neighbors were not in danger.

So, what happened?

Construction workers left a generator running and the residents suffered carbon monoxide poisoning. According to NJSHAD around 500 people die every year in the US as a result of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. There was another case where a man decided to commit suicide by leaving his car running in his garage. His garage was attached to his house and his house was attached to the neighbor’s house.   His attempt to end his life also cost the life of his entire family and his neighbors young family.

The same way that a properly constructed and properly firestopped building can reduce the transfer of both sounds and odors, it can also reduce the transmission of deadly gases not only during a fire but also in a case such as these.

So, make sure your firestop is done right, install detectors and check the batteries regularly.

If you have any questions about your property and whether or not the firestop is being installed properly, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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How Fire Rated Assemblies Are Tested

It’s a New Year, so I thought I would play around with a new medium. I have pulled up a few old videos from various training segments I’ve recorded in the past 5 years. Here is a brief general discussion about how rated assemblies are tested. There is so much more I want you to know about this, but this is not a bad start and it segues into some of the older blog posts we have shared.

In order to make this information practical, so you can use it in the field, please remember that knowing how assemblies are tested helps you understand how they fail when not properly installed. Think about the hose stream test when you are looking at applications with large annular space, with insufficient annular space or installations with just a smear of sealant. These are both critical to the performance of a firestop installation.  The various hyperlinks will bring you to different segments for further discussion if you are interested in learning more.

Please share this with anyone you think might benefit from this information.

As always, if you have any questions or even topics for future blog posts, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.  We are happy to help when we can.

 

UPDATE: Jan 6

I want to give a HUGE shout out to RICK BARONE for making  a correction for me. This video clip was edited from one of the first classes I did when I started teaching again, and as with most things we are new at, there were errors.  I noticed it during editing a few months ago but forgot to comment on it when I posted it.  Rick says it better than I could so I will just include his comments here and say THANK YOU RICK.  I love when people support others to do better.

“You have some inaccuracies in the video…The time temperature curve is controlled by the test facility….If your test specimens furnace isn’t at 1000f at 5 minutes it will be because the lab tech didn’t maintain the time temp curve within the prescribe tolerance. The customer doesn’t fail, the lab must abort the test and rerun..usually at their own cost if they are a credible lab…but a nice start with a new communication vehicle..” Rick Barone 1/5/2017

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Firestop Classes in New Jersey

Hi everyone,

I am excited to announce the schedule for Rutgers Fall classes.  There are  heaps of great classes available in this program, but the ones I am teaching are:

Understanding the Requirements of Firestop Special Inspection- 1705.17

Special inspection (SI) of firestop is a requirement in NJ and since there is no licensing process the local jurisdictions (AHJ) are responsible for ensuring that the contracted inspector is actually qualified.  This class goes over the reporting requirements and a few ways to identify if your SI is up for the job.  Participants will even walk away with a few inspection tricks up their sleeve to try out on their next project.  This class is designed to help the AHJ’s keep the hacks out of their jurisdiction. While there are three slides specific to the NJ building codes, most of the information relates to ASTM E2174, ASTM E2393 and ASTM E3038 and the Chapter of the IBC as it relates to special inspection of firestop.

My favorite comment about this class last semester: “That changes everything!”

Classes will be on Friday, Nov 6 in Parsippany NJ & Thursday, Nov 16 in Cape May NJ


Inspecting Grease Duct Wrap-

We have a bit of fun in this class and do a hands on installation of grease duct wrap on an actual duct.  Okay, so its not a “real” grease duct, because I have to schlep it into the class room and screw it together.  It would fail the light test with your back turned. But the installation is real, the installers and inspectors are real, and the other materials are exactly what is used in the field.  We do an inspection and learn how the mock field installation would fail the required lab tests.  This helps the participants be able to take the technical information into the field more effectively.  Then we talk about some more complication installations, what to look for during inspections.  We end with a discussion of the various materials that are found in the field and this semester we hope to have samples of the factory insulated materials so we can add this to the discussion.

My favorite comment about this class last semester: (at our first break about 90 minutes into a 5 hour class) “I only signed up for the class because I needed the credits for my license.  I didn’t think there was really anything for me to learn here.  My class yesterday was great.  I expected to learn a lot, and I did.  I gotta say though, I’ve learned more in this class already, than I did all day yesterday. “

Tuesday, Nov 28 in Evesham NJ & Tursday, Dec 14 in Sayreville NJ

 

If you are interested in joining any of these classes, or having us present the class in your area,  please email us.

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What Exactly is a BEAD of FIRESTOP?

If you have been following this blog, then at this point you are well aware that the annular space is the gap between the penetrating item and the rated assembly. We have also mentioned several times that when there is NO gap it is considered point of contact. Did you know that the firestop needs to be installed differently when there is no annular space than when there is? It makes sense if you think about it. If there is annular space, many firestop details will require 5/8” of sealant be installed INTO the annular space. If there is NO space in which to install the firestop, many installers simply smear the firestop sealant over the top of the rated assembly. When they do this, it is not always obvious that there is point of contact. The installation can easily appear compliant if destructive testing is not conducted. The reality is, however; that the installation does not conform to a tested and listed assembly and in a fire scenario it there is a risk it may fail prematurely. Unfortunately, many installers are not even aware of the liability they create when they do this. It is a bit of a catch 22, if you will. If the inspectors do not catch this mistake, the installers assume that they are doing it right. The jurisdictional inspectors bear no liability for missing this during an inspection, however the new building code requirement calls for third party special inspectors in high-rise and risk category III and IV buildings. These inspectors would likely be liable for missing this during an inspection. The firestop installers certainly would be liable, because they are the ones who are supposed to assess the firestop assembly before the installation. They are the ones who are supposed to know the details they themselves submit.

So, if you are installing or inspecting these firestop installations, what should these point contact locations look like?

First of all let’s be VERY clear that point contact and continual point contact are two different things. An example of continual point contact is when a 1” pipe or conduit is put through a 1” opening. There are very few firestop details that allow for continual point contact. When a firestop detail says annular space can be 0”-1” that generally means that a 1” pipe can easily be installed in a 2” opening. If the pipe is concentrically installed (centered in the opening) then the 1” pipe in a 2” opening would give you apx ½” annular space all the way around the pipe. If it is off center then the annular space would be different on either side. If it is all the way to one side of the opening then the annular space is 0”-1”. The firestop detail will typically call for a bead of firestop at the point of contact. It will also define the size of that bead, so lets take a closer look at what is expected in this case.

Most of the penetrants will pass through the rated assembly at a 90-degree angle. If we remember our geometry classes from way back in middle school, the hypotenuse is the face of the triangle immediately opposite the 90-degree angle. In the diagram below, it is marked as C. When the firestop detail says that the bead of sealant needs to be ½” it means that the hypotenuse must measure ½”.

Now, at what point is the bead supposed to start or stop? This is not clearly detailed in any requirements but my personal opinion is that if the firestop installation calls for ½” of sealant to be installed INTO the annular space, the bead should be required in any space that the required ½” of sealant cannot be installed. This is not a standard. This is not a requirement. This is just Sharron’s opinion, so take it as that. Adopt it as your own if it makes sense. If you disagree, please let me know your argument against it.

On the other hand I have seen inspectors that require that if a bead is installed, it shall be installed all the way around the penetrant. I disagree with this because I feel it encourages installers to complete continual point contact installations and just throw the bead around the entire penetrant.

If there is no tested and listed application for continual point of contact, it should not be allowed. Here are a few examples of continual point contact details. These are the only times it is acceptable to have continual point contact. You will note they are all 1000 series details, meaning metal pipes. WL1054 is an example of a metal pip through a gypsum wall and CAJ1673is an example of a metal pipe in a concrete or block assembly. Please look at item 3, where you will see it allows for continual point contact and will require respectively a ½” or ¼” bead of sealant. Now you know what a bead of sealant should look like and how to measure it properly. Remember it must be tooled to ensure it sticks both to the substrate and to the penetrant. In the case of these two details, please also know that these two manufacturers likely have details that could utilize a more cost effecting non-intumescent material. It should be noted that BOTH of these details need to be done with intumescent firestop and not the less expensive products.

So with that, let me know what you think. Do you agree? Do you disagree? What do you see in the field?

Thank you for taking the time to learn a little bit about the industry in which I work. If you have questions about any of this don’t hesitate to reach out to me. In the meantime, keep learning and continue to make projects better.

 

 

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Inspecting firestop- Can you see the issue?

 

This is a 1-hour wall that separates an exit corridor from a condo unit. We are looking at it from the unfinished condo side and the firestop has been installed from the corridor side. From the corridor side of the wall, the installation looks good at a glance. The firestop is installed the full circumference around the cables. The cables are rigidly supported as required by the UL listing. The installer used an intumescent material that matches the submitted UL listed detail. When the wall is complete these MC cables will not penetrate the room side of the wall so technically this is a membrane penetration rather than a through penetration, but UL requires the same installation regardless of this fact. Bare in mind, this is changing and UL is requiring that membrane penetrations be tested separately, because they may perform differently than a through penetration. Stay tuned for more on these changes in the coming posts. Can you tell what is wrong with this installation? Better yet, can you explain why it is wrong and more importantly, two other issues. 1) What might the impact be in a fire scenario? 2) How might this improper installation impact the project over time?

 

 

Most UL listed firestop details will require 5/8” depth of sealant. I can tell you that the installer did not achieve even half of that. If you look closely, you too can see this just from looking at the picture. You can see that there are 2 layers of drywall. You can see an ever so faint line at the top of the opening where the papers from both layers of drywall are in contact. That means that the line between the two layers of drywall would mark 5/8” depth of sealant. As you can see, the installer did not even come close to achieving the required depth on this installation. Then, if you want to go on further to critique this installation, there is very little drywall between the hole on the left and the center hole. Furthermore, there is NO drywall between the center hole and the one on the right, so technically this is one opening. As such, most UL listed details will require that the cables be tightly bundled, which they are not. When cables are loosely laid together, there are a few problems. First, the installer can’t easily get sealant between the gaps around the cables; so this means the sealant depth is not achieved. Further, the gaps increase the risk of cables moving and the chance of the sealant pulling away from the opening or adjacent cables is increased which can lead to a failure of this installation in a fire scenario. These gaps are a weak point for both reasons.

 

Impact in a fire scenario: One of the steps in testing a firestop system is a hose stream test.  This portion of the test is designed to judge the integrity or durability of the installation because during a fire there is a lot of pressure in the room of origin and a lot of movement of the various elements in the building.  We want to know that the firestop system will have the integrity to withstand the impact of these things.  Every fire will be different, so no one can say for certain what dynamics any firestop application must endure, but if a PROPERLY installed firestop system is subject to a real world fire scenario we have a good idea of how it will perform. This installation is not a properly installed firestop system and while I can say it will definitely fail, I can say that this installation presents a liability for the firestop installer, the electrical contractor, the GC or CM, the owner, the buildings insurance company and the occupants of the building.   Don’t worry, the firestop contractor was required to remediate this particular problem on this project.  Please make sure they do the same on your project. For more information about the hose stream test check out these other blog posts as well. Here is one example.

 

Impact over life cycle of the building: There are a myriad reasons why the cables in this picture might be bumped, jostled or otherwise moved in a way that could dislodge the thin layer of firestop. However if the sealant is installed at the required depth of 5/8” and there is movement, the firestop material will likely still remain in the annular space of the opening. This means, it will be in the proper location so it can perform as expected, even if it pulls out of the wall slightly over time.

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Understanding the why behind whats important when inspecting firestop?- Part 1

When you look at a UL listed detail that has a 1-hour F rating, what does that tell you? At a very basic level you can expect the assembly was tested and didn’t let fire through for one hour. There is so much more to it than that and once you understand, it might change how you inspect firestop. Keep reading and let me know if it does.

 

F RATING- as defined on UL website

The F-rating criteria prohibits flame passage through the system and requires acceptable hose-stream test performance. Lets break this into two parts. First it is saying that fire doesn’t breach the assembly during the test period. Obviously, with firestop, we are trying to contain a fire; so we want to know that the rated assemblies will keep a fire at bay for the designated time period which is known as the F rating. A 1-hour rated wall is expected to contain a fire for 1 hour. F ratings for firestop are 1, 2, 3, and 4 hours. The temperature inside the furnace during the test will increase as the duration of the fire increases. For example in a 1 hour test the temperature will be at least 1700F (538C) at the 1-hour mark and 2000F at the 4-hour mark (1093C). Surviving these temperatures is still not enough to obtain an F rating for a rated assembly. There is one more critical element involved in the test procedure called the hose stream test.

 

HOSE STREAM TEST- what it is and isn’t

I have sat through too many classes on firestop, codes and what not, only to cringe when I hear the instructor tell the class that the hose stream test replicates impact of the fire fighting methods on the fire rated assembly. It is like nails on a chalkboard to me and I can feel it running down my spine. (Yes I am that much of a geek, that it bugs me to the core) By the time the fire fighters are on the scene with their hoses, any loss of life in that area has likely occurred. Property damage is done. Firestop serves no purpose at this point, because the integrity of the assembly has failed and fire has breached the wall or floor. Fire fighting methods are not part of the firestop test. I believe that understanding this critical element of the firestop testing process is integral to the proper inspection of firestop. We will get into this more shortly. In fact, a lot more, because this is a 5-part discussion about why the hose stream test needs to be better understood in order to improve firestop inspections. For now however, I would like to share this article by Chad Stroike of Hilti. Chad does an excellent job explaining the hose stream test, why it is part of the fire test standard and what it is intended to replicate.

Thanks to Chad and to the IFC for this great article.

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