Firestop Classes

Hi everyone!

We have the schedule for the next semester of classes at Rutgers.

The first class – Understanding the Requirements of Firestop Special Inspection will be in Vineland on Thursday, March 29th and at Budd Lake Holiday Inn on Tuesday May 8th.  This class doesn’t go over what you need to do the actual firestop special inspection.  We discuss how the adoption of the 2015 building code changes the responsibility of the jurisdictional inspector who is now responsible for identifying who is qualified to conduct this scope of work.

The second class is on the Installation and Inspection of Grease Duct Wrap. The first date this class will be available will be in Mahwah on Friday April 6th and the second class will be in Monroe on Thursday April 26th.  In this class we talk about the test standard for grease duct wrap. We do some quick training on how to install the material, then we let half of the class participants install an actual mock up duct, while the other half of the class conducts the inspection. We discuss the various things to review during an inspection, and common errors.  The class wraps up with a discussion about some of the more complicated grease duct wrap installations.

If you are interested in joining the class, please check this site for more details and registration.

Why Firestop in Shaft Walls is Often Improperly Installed (part 1)

If you have been following this blog you know how I love to do a series of posts on a topic. If you have been to one of my classes, you know how often I segue to other topics. This one is going to be a combination of these habits and we will come full circle, eventually (there is A LOT to share with you all).

This is going to be a series dedicated just to shaft walls. Our hope is that after this series you will have a few new tricks up your sleeve  when it comes to reviewing firestop submittals in the early stages of a project and knowing better what to look for when you are walking a project during construction. This series is for firestop installers, inspectors, superintendents of any trade, building owners, architects or GC…anyone who ever has to look at that red stuff and wonder if it’s right or not.

Let’s start with looking at the different types of shafts and what purpose they serve from a code perspective.

WHY DO WE HAVE SHAFTS?
The building code basically says you have to firestop any hole in the floor, or you have to stick the hole in a shaft. There are some holes in the floor that you really need, such as the hole that is created for an elevator or stairs. There are other holes that you could firestop, but it’s easier to just protect the hole with a shaft, one such example could be a mechanical shaft.

Generally, when you build a shaft, it will have the same rating as the floors that it runs through, so in most concrete projects we are talking about a 2-hour shaft.

The 2015 IBC section 713 is all about shaft enclosures if you want some light reading. You can find copies on line these days.

WHAT ARE SHAFTS MADE OF?
Here are three basic types of shaft wall assemblies you will see: concrete, block and gypsum. We will discuss all three here and remind you of some common problems with each type. Bear in mind one shaft could potentially be made of all three materials.

Concrete shaft walls are the easiest ones to get right. One reason is because there are fewer rated joints that need to be firestopped. Also, it’s not easy to punch a hole in a solid concrete wall, so penetrations are typically planned for or avoided. Still, you may have penetrations for electrical, sprinkler or ductwork. Please remember that firestop on walls needs to be on BOTH sides of the wall. Let’s think about this for a moment and talk about the problem this creates for installers. If you only have access to one side of the wall, how do you propose protecting both sides of the wall? Hang on, we will get to that in a bit.

Block walls are not so bad to firestop either. That is except when you are talking about a stairwell, because then, the head of wall joint that requires firestop is often blocked by the stair runners. When the joint is not firestopped properly, this can leave the area vulnerable for the passage of fire, smoke and toxic gas. Keep in mind that the stairs are typically your means of egress in an emergency because you won’t be able to use the elevators. This means that getting the fire protection right in these areas is critical to the life safety of a building.

Gypsum shaft walls create the most problems we’ve seen, from a shaft perspective at least. It starts with the basic construction. Does the contractor know that they need to stagger the corners of the wall and not run both layers in the same plane? A typical 2 hour gypsum shaft wall is going to be made with 1” shaft liner and 2 layers of type X drywall. The seams of these two layers of type X should not line up anywhere, including at the corners. Since drywall shrinks during a fire, any seams that line up create an extra risk. The required overlaps allow for the shrinkage without the risk. Corners are critical because too often the drywaller lines up the two layers rather than staggering them making a straight line seam rather than a stair stepped seam.

Remember, regardless of what type of shaft you build, the head of wall joint needs to be firestopped. Remember also that it needs to be firestopped on BOTH sides of the wall. If you have an elevator shaft, then someone will likely have to ride on the top of the car to firestop the joints and penetrations inside the shaft. The same is true for a mechanical shaft except access will be… shall we say… limited, if not impossible.

Next up, let’s look at the penetrations through these shaft walls. They, too, need to be firestopped from both sides. If access is impossible there are a handful of alternate solutions. Many of these will require an Engineering Judgment that should be created following the IFC guidelines found here.

In our next post we will go over what to look for when you are reviewing the firestop submittals specific to shaft walls.

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

Fireproof, FIRESTOP, Fire Block- what is the difference- (part 3 of 4)

Hello again, welcome to part 3 of the series where we explain the difference between fireproof, firestop and fire block. You can get the new post here. If you missed the previous blogs here are part 1 and part 2!

Enjoy and keep learning and share this with the next person who gets here terms confused!

HOW TO FIND THE INFORMATION YOU NEED IN A UL DETAIL (through penetrations)

Have you ever looked at a UL listed detail for through penetrations and not known where, in the garble, to find the information you are looking for? There is a lot of information on that one page. You may have read through the whole thing just looking for one piece of information. This is a guide that will show you how to find the information you are looking for more quickly.

The way UL listed details are organized is very logical. It starts with the biggest element and rolls through to the smallest. So, when you look at a UL listed detail, the information goes in the same general order.

  • Item 1 will tell you about the rated assembly – Is it a gypsum wall or a concrete floor…etc… and how is it constructed. This is critical in some cases, for example an assembly for a shaft wall needs to be addressed differently than a standard wall- regardless if we are talking gypsum walls of concrete/block walls. That is a topic for another day.
  • Then, the document will tell you about the penetration – size, material, description etc…maybe even brand
  • It will end with the firestop requirements – discussing things like backing material, sealant and any other requirements relevant to that individual UL listed detail.

This is standard for every through penetration system. One thing that will vary is the additional information that may be required. The location, where you will find it in the document, will follow the same logic. If a sleeve is allowed or required you will see that just after the information about the assembly and before the through penetration.

If the penetration is insulated you will find that information between the through penetration information and the firestop assembly information. Check out our other blog posts for examples.

Now, with this information, you can look at any firestop detail; and depending on the specific information needed for the installation or the inspection, you will know where to look to get any information you need, without having to read through the entire document.

There are a few commonly overlooked things that are important when evaluating if an installer is using the correct UL listed detail for the application. If an installer or inspector offers only a cursory glance over the firstop submittals, these elements are often overlooked.

  • Annular space requirements- You will see a minimum and a maximum annular space in through penetration details. That information will be found in the same section that is discussing the through penetration because this information is related to the through penetrations relationship to the assembly it is penetrating.
  • Certain assemblies will require unique elements such as framing on gypsum rated assemblies, compression of the backing material or other elements
  • Anchors are a critical element of some systems. Drywall screws are often unacceptable in gypsum applications. Concrete screws may be acceptable but you will only know after reviewing the information in the project submittal.
  • Details that do not match. A example- WL5000 detail will be required for an insulated pipe, but you may need a separate document for fiberglass insulation and another for black rubber (AB/PVC insulation). see more on that here.

There is one important take away for you. If you remember nothing else after reading this, remember that the field conditions need to match the details in the submitted document. If you do anything less, then you are opening yourself and others to liability. With this in mind, it is not recommended to give just a cursory glance at the paperwork. You need to know that the installations are compliant, not just close enough, not just red stuff in the hole around the pipes.

If you want more information about how to find the right UL listed detail for a particular application see our older blogs that cover that here and here to explain the UL nomenclature, or test your knowledge of UL nomenclature.  This will help you identify a knowledgable installer or inspector.

Stay tuned to this blog for more information on how to identify proper installations or email us to be added to the distribution list so you will be notified of new blog posts. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to 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.