Dear Architect- Why are you asking for a W rating

I have seen so many project specifications requiring a W rating. If you don’t know what a W rating is, please read this first.  If you are already familiar with a W rating, do you know if it a requirement on your project?  I recently looked at a wood framed project and there were W rating requirements. Clearly the architect has stock specifications that don’t take into account the fact that a wood framed project is NOT going to be capable of mitigating water movement in the way a concrete floor might.

 

But lets say you are dealing with a concrete floor, then W ratings are a viable requirement…except, when they are not.

 

Remember the test for a W rating is a three foot column of water that prevents even a single drop of water for 72 hours.   If the specifications say as a blanket statement that a W rating is a requirement of floor penetration firestop systems, then what about a bundle of cables? What about MC cables? What about insulated pipes, the brackets to support the weight of multiple floors of pipes will break well below the three foot mark and how might one maintain the W rating with a break in the insulation, or with insulation that can’t hold back water such as fiberglass or other field installed insulations?

 

If you have been in construction for a while I am sure you can think of other examples when W rated firestop is not a reasonable requirement.

Im not saying stop asking for W ratings, because they are amazing. I could tell you some stories where they were a HUGE success. But be aware of the limitations and if you specify it, know what you are asking for. If you have a project that has W ratings specified and no one is asking questions, then my guess is they are not conforming with the specification.

 

If you have any questions feel free to contact us. We are happy to help if we are able.

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Membrane Penetration Firestop- Part Two

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!

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Membrane Penetration Firestop Part One

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.

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How One Jurisdiction deals with Patching Rated Walls (part 3)

You have all heard the whole, “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas” line from way back when?  Even before that, you have likely heard of the fire at the MGM Grand in 1980 where 85 people died and over 600 were injured. Well, the changes made to the building department in the years since, are lessons that shouldn’t be part of what stays in Vegas. They should spread to other jurisdictions and today I will discuss just one of these points, since it is in line with the discussion about patching rated walls.

Clark County Building Department covers the Las Vegas Strip and they take life safety seriously. I know you all do, but they take it to a different level and one that some of you may want to consider taking a closer look at. They actually have a FIELD INSPECTION GUIDELINE that tells, not only field inspectors, but also builders and facilities maintenance teams how they should be repairing walls if they want to pass inspections.

Have a look at it and let me know what you think. Are you doing something similar to this?  If you aren’t do you think it might be time to revisit how patches are made and if so, what do you think should change?  If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. If we can help we are happy to.

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More on patching rated walls (part 2)

Thanks for the great response on the last post related to patching rated walls. There is a lot more I want to share with you in the future but I have to find time to create the content. I heard back from so many of you that you liked the post I thought I would at least share some more information  that is already created so you can take it a step further.

Three key reasons the California patch will fail in a fire test scenario:

  1. It will fail at the hose stream test. For more information on this, check out this series we did a while back on Hose Stream and imagine that patch, or any patch you accept being able to pass the hose stream test as it is described in these posts from 2016.  https://halpertlifesafety.com/firestop-inspection-f-rating-hose-stream/
  2. It will fail when you try to achieve the T rating- which is required of all rated walls and floors. There is a bit of information in this article here.
  3. As the drywall patch (or GOD FORBID drywall tape and mud excuse for a patch) heats up in a fire it will shrink. As the existing wall dries up it shrinks as well. When this happens the gap between the existing wall and the patch material grows. This makes it easier for the patch to dislodge during the hose stream test and this gap will allow hot gasses through and that is how the T rating segment of the test will fail.

So, the next time you see a patch in a rated wall, please take a second look to ensure it is not creating a liability for your project and the community of people who will live work and play in the building when you are gone.

As always, thanks for taking the time to learn more about the industry I love. If we can help you on any project you are working on, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

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Are you patching rated walls properly?

I have seen some creative ways of patching walls. Some are UGLY and some are invisible. Here is a great video of how to make an invisible patch BUT you can’t do this on a fire rated wall. This California patch or butterfly patch will not survive the rigors of the ASTM E119 fire test.

If you have been in one of our training classes where we discuss how rated assemblies are tested then you know the two biggest ways bad patch assemblies may fail are either because the fail at the hose stream test segment or even before that as the wall tries to maintain a T rating and the growing gap between the original wall and the patch material shrinks as the fire consumes its mass and the growing gap allows for hot gas to pass through and it will fail at this point.

So, how do you properly patch a rated wall? Check out this guide from US Gypsum association to see if you are doing it right. USGyp repair of wall

If you are looking at a repair of a one hour wall that is relatively easy. Properly patching a two hour wall is a whole different story all together. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We are happy to help if we are able.

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Firestopping Penetrations Through Shafts- Are you getting it right? Part 3

Welcome back everyone. On Monday I left you with a bit of a challenge. I asked you if you could use WL1222 for a firestop application for a metal pipe going through a gypsum shaft wall. Then, I told you that the answer to that first question was NOPE, but I asked you to look closer at the detail to find the reason, and then I LEFT YOU.

 

The suspense is over, keep reading and you will find not only why you can’t use that detail, but we will share a detail that is applicable and a few cautions about the proper use of this detail.

 

Were you able to identify WHY you can’t use the WL1222 for a shaft wall application? If not, look at the detail once more, but this time focus on item 1A. Please click on the link above and open the detail so you can look at it.

 

Did you find the answer this time?

 

How many shaft wall assemblies have a stud that is 3-1/2” wide?

 

If you are thinking that the gap doesn’t matter, you need to tune in to a future blog post about T ratings. That discussion will take me into several different directions; so, I will side bar that discussion for a later date, but hopefully some time this year.

 

For now let’s just say that if your field conditions don’t match your paperwork then you are non-conformant. If you are non-conformant then you are creating a position of liability for your company and whatever company you are working for regardless of whether you are an installer, inspector, GC or owners representative.

 

For now, let’s get back to identifying the right solution. In this case, our contractor is using STI firestop. We know this because item 3 of WL1222 lists LCI and also because the firestop detail has the STI logo on it. Again, I don’t have a favorite firestop manufacturer. I have favorite sales people and favorite products but not a single favorite manufacturer. My stance is, if they have the tested and listed details to support whatever project I am working on, then they are good for my project! Even if I am stuck with a sales guy I don’t like, I still have resources within the various companies to get what I need.   That said, it has been a while since I have run into a sales person who has not been capable, qualified, professional and helpful. They are out there, but I have been lucky enough to not run into them.

 

Since our installer is using STI, let’s try to stick with this manufacturer as we look for a detail. In this case when we go to their website, or contact the sale rep, the search for me ended with WL1251. Please click on the link and have a look at this detail. Take a moment to think about the things you want to be sure the installer does right.

 

Item 1 in this detail allows for C-H or C-T studs that are min 2-1/2” wide and 1-1/2” deep (item 1A). Item 1C offers a caution that the circular cut out cannot be larger than 10”.

 

Item 2 notes a sleeve. It does not say OPTIONAL so this means the sleeve is a requirement.  If you don’t have one of these fun toys I suggest you get one because it will help you verify that the sheet metal is the proper gauge. This detail says you must have a min 30 gauge galvanized sheet metal sleeve.

 

Item 3 is the penetration and the annular space. Obviously a larger pipe or different type of pipe than what is listed will not be acceptable for use with this detail.

 

Item 4 is where you will find the information about how to install the firestop material and what is required

Cautions:

ITEM 1:

If you have a 6” pipe centered in an opening that is 3” larger than the pipe, you will be okay. However if you have an 8” pipe in the same scenario you would not be able to use this detail because in 1C it says the opening can’t be larger than 10”. This means that despite the fact that the detail allows for a max 2” annular space you cant have more than 1” all the way around if you have an 8” pipe.

ITEM 2:

  1. The sleeve is a requirement and not optional:
    1. If you don’t use a sleeve then the mineral wool and sealant will not stay in place during installation.
    2. If you tell me that the wall cavity is already filled with mineral wool so you don’t need the sleeve, then you are not thinking about what will happen in a fire scenario after the shaft liner has burned away and the mineral wool falls out along with the burnt gypsum board. The sleeve is a requirement for a reason, don’t let the installer skip this part.
  2. You need to ensure the gauge of the sleeve is accurate.
  3. The overlap on the sleeve needs to be 2” minimum in order for it to:
    1. Comply with the detail
    2. Be expected to maintain its integrity in a fire scenario when we remember the fire side of the wall is going to be gone as the fire rages
  4. The sleeve has to be long enough to be captured both by the shaft liner as well as the outer layers of the shaft wall. If it is too short you may have a problem in an actual fire scenario.

ITEM 3:

The only caution I have to share with you here is to be sure that the annular space is sufficient to allow for the installation of the mineral wool and the required sealant.

 

ITEM 4:

  1. If you are on a stick built project and the roofers are using 2pound density mineral wool on the roof, DO NOT ALLOW THIS TO BE USED FOR FIRESTOP. Installers may tell you, “it’s the same stuff….it’s rotten cotton” What they are missing is that the detail calls for a minimum 4pcf and I have yet to find a firestop detail that allows the use of 2pcf. It is probably fine for roofers, but it is not okay for firestoppers.
  2. If you have the chance to watch the installation, you need to be sure the mineral wool is recessed 1” into the wall so there is enough space to install the 1” of firestop sealant.
  3. If annular space is tight, installing 1” of sealant will be tough, if not impossible

 

That was with a gypsum wall. Below is a detail for a concrete or block wall. Take a look at the detail.  What are the critical items you will verify if you are doing an inspection?

WJ1108

 

 

Is your head spinning yet? I will go easy on you with the next post. I promise! But if you are wondering how to firestop shaft applications, this is valuable information and we have only addressed the 1000 series details. These are the EASIEST details to deal with in our mechanical shaft application.

 

Thanks for reading this all the way to the end. I know there was a lot here. See you next time for more firestop information.

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Firestopping Penetrations in Rated Shaft Walls- Are You Getting it Right? Part 2

Welcome back to our discussion about firestopping shaft penetrations. With this post we are looking into the question of how do you properly firestop penetrations in a shaft wall assembly. First we will look at block wall assemblies. For the sake of this discussion we will assume these are shafts where we have no reasonable access to the inside of the shaft. Clearly, this will exclude stair shafts because in this condition typically we have access to the inside of the stairwell as well as the outside where the rooms would be located. For the sake of this discussion let’s say we are talking about a mechanical shaft so the penetrations might be 1) bare metal pipe 2) plastic pipe 5) insulated 7) ductwork. If you think my numbers are not in the right order please look at this post so you understand why the numbers are in perfect order. Looking at these different penetrations will help you maneuver through firestop submittals much faster, so please become familiar with the UL nomenclature.

 

If you have any questions or comments about the importance of knowing the nomenclature or asking for submittals feel free to contact me.

 

So let’s start with the easy stuff first. We know that wall applications have to be protected on both sides for the simple fact that we do not know which side of the wall the fire could start on. This makes it complicated because we don’t have access to both side of the wall in this case. If you have been following this blog post or if you have just now reviewed the link above, then you know the UL listed details we need to look at in the submittal will be either CAJ1000 or WJ1000 details.

 

My guess is, that what you need will be found in the WJ details because the CAJ details (as you know) can be used both for floor applications and for wall applications.

 

I’m a dinosaur in this industry (almost 20 years yup I’m a dinosaur- and yes I started when I was 12…LOL) and since I no longer work for a firestop manufacturer I don’t get updated on the new wiz bang details. I had to do a little digging to find you some examples of relatively new details that are perfect for this type of application.

 

You may have heard me say “I don’t have a favorite firestop manufacturer” so don’t think that because I should you use brand A that means they are the best. The best solution for any application is one with a third-party testing agency standing behind the applications as opposed to 1) the guy in the field “wingin’ it” 2) an engineering judgment.

 

That said, here is a perfect detail for your metal pipe through a concrete or block shaft wall: 3M’s WJ1108. This is not the only detail, other manufactures have a similar test, but since this tested system exists; I would suggest that jurisdictions not allow the use of an EJ for the simple fact that tested and listed details should trump EJ’s any day of the week for the simple fact that it that has not been tested.

 

Can you use this for a wall where you have access to both sides? Certainly, but whether you have access or you don’t, be very careful that this is installed properly. Both of these details require 1” of sealant. If you don’t have sufficient annular space then this installation will be difficult to properly install. If you are responsible for special inspection (or even the standard AHJ inspection) you may want to ask to be on site for several installations so you can be sure they install the mineral wool in a way that it is recessed 1” from the outside edge of the concrete. Clearly, if they don’t do this then they cannot install the required 1” depth of sealant.

 

Imagine you have ¼” annular space. Now, picture trying to install 1” of sealant in that space. It will be easy to make it look good when the installation is complete but it will be a challenge to do this right. As an inspector or part of the QC team, it’s your job to be sure its right. If you have any questions, contact us.

 

So, let ‘s move on to the gypsum shaft walls. In this case you know that we are looking at a WL1000 series detail. So first take a look at this detail, WL 1222 

 

If we are going to install the firestop in stages as the drywall is installed, this means we will firestop the shaft liner before the outer layer of drywall goes up. So, does WL1222 work for this? Please take a moment to look at the detail and think about this question.

 

Have you looked at the detail and considered the question? If you think you can use this WL1222 for a shaft wall, I will tell you that you can’t. Go back to the detail and see if you can find out why? Tune in Wednesday to this blog post and I will share the answer with you.

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Firestopping Penetrations Through Shafts- Are you getting it right?

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 must have the firestop submittals if you are going to review (or install) firestop. The submittals should have UL listed details (or other third party testing agency – OPL or WH) that show the firestop requirements for all of these shaft applications. If you don’t have the details, you can’t properly evaluate the field 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.

 

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.

 

If you don’t understand why this is a big deal please review the previous post here. If you are not familiar with how firestop is tested however I suggest you start here because this is the start of that series.

 

If you want to scream at me, “SHARRON YOU CAN’T USE ANY OLD WL DETAIL FOR A SHAFT WALL!!”, check out two posts from now when we address this. If you are not one of the people wanting to scream this at me, then definitely tune in because this is something that even some good contractors might miss.

 

Let’s get back to our field walk. The other thing you can’t see is that the firestop detail calls for 5/8” of firestop to be installed within 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 either cannot be firestopped properly or may require a more expensive solution.   Of course, if we are talking about a gypsum wall, its not a big deal to make the opening larger (even though the contractor will fight you on this). If you are dealing with a concrete or block opening it will be more difficult for obvious reasons. However, if that opening is sleeved, it may not even be possible to fix.

 

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 and should not be allowed.

 

I thought this was going to be the last post on the topic. However, since the start of this series I have had a few people ask me some questions. The most prevalent is, “Okay so then HOW DO WE PROPERLY FIRESTOP SHAFT APPLICATIONS? “

 

We will address this in the next few blog posts. If you have any other questions, concerns or photos of WHAT DO WE DO WITH THIS? or IS THIS OKAY? Keep the feedback coming because I have a handful of issues to bring up for you once we complete this series.

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Let’s talk about Prohibited Penetrations (part 5)

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.

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