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
    • Not all insulation can be firestopped
  • 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