Firestopping for Rated Joints – Masons and Drywallers

Welcome to this section of our firestop blog where we will discuss firestop information related to both the masons and drywall contractors scope of work. This work is relatively easy to do, but it is also very easy to do wrong. We will go over some common firestop issues with these trades. Our focus with this blog is to educate the construction industry on firestop and improve the level of life safety on all buildings. We have worked on projects all over the US and internationally so our breadth of experience will likely be an asset to your next project, whether you hire us to help make sure it runs smoothly or if you just stay tuned to this blog in order to improve your own work. This is Halpert Life Safety, where we focus on “Saving Lives for the Life of the Building.”TM If you are a contractor who subs out the firestop scope, you still carry the liability of your subs work so you may want to know a little about it, and this blog is designed to do just that! If you self perform your firestop scope you definitely should stay tuned because this blog will help you reduce your companies liability on your projects. If you are a building inspector, third party special inspector, you will want to keep tabs on this blog as well and we would love to hear what you like or what you think we should add. If you want to be a guest blogger then by all means let us know.

Let’s get started with our first key information segment. In order to know how to look critically at firestop you have to understand some basic information about the UL listed assemblies. So please start here

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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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Are your Firestop Submittals Missing Shaft Details? (part 4)

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 need to have the firestop submittals that show the firestop requirements for all of these shaft applications. If you don’t have the details, you can’t properly evaluate the 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, even a shaft 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. The other thing you can’t see is that the firestop detail calls for 5/8” of firestop in 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 can not be finished correctly. Remember those blogs where we talked about continual point contact and the importance of proper annular space?

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.

If you are working on a project and you have questions about your firestop submittals, or installations please do not hesitate to give us a call.  We are happy to help when we can and if you are close enough we might even swing by to help out if our schedule is open.

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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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Are your firestop submittals missing something for shafts? (part 2)

In our last blog post we talked a little about shaft walls, what they are made of and some things to keep an eye out for. We will build on that as we go.

Today we are going to look at firestop submittals as they relate to shaft wall assemblies, so the next time you are reviewing project documents you will have a better idea if something is missing. The easiest way to understand this discussion is to quickly review the UL nomenclature post found here so this will be easier to follow. If you do not know this nomenclature its much more difficult to conduct this exercise.

First let’s think about the RATED JOINTS. Let’s assume that the project has both block shafts and gypsum shafts. As you look at the firestop submittals pull out the HW (head of wall) details and look for the types of shaft walls you have on your project. For this discussion we will assume you have both gypsum and block shaft walls.

GYPSUM WALL:

You will likely have a handful of HW details but if you have gypsum shafts you need to be sure the project has a detail for firestopping this gypsum shaft. When you look at the WL details for gypsum walls, you will notice it is not like the standard gypsum wall details, namely because the shaft walls are built differently so they need to be firestopped differently as well. This will require sealant at the shaft liner as well as on the outer layers of drywall. If you allow this wall type to be firestopped when the wall construction is complete, you will not have a compliant system because you will only have protection from one side of the wall. This would create a major liability for the installer as well as the GC, building owner and building occupants.  If you are looking at a WL2000 series detail for plastic pipes, be sure to take a closer look, but do the same for all your penetration types.

BLOCK WALL

If you have access to both sides of the wall, as you would in an elevator shaft, then it is easy to firestop the head of wall joint on a block wall from either side of the wall. Likewise you can firestop your through penetrations with either a CAJ or WJ detail. If you only have access to one side of the wall, you will need what is commonly referred to as a sandwiched detail and my guess is that it will likely be a WJ detail or possibly an engineering judgement. This would allow for firestop to be installed in four steps. Typically there would be installation of mineral wool recessed maybe 4-1/2” into the joint, then firestop sealant (let’s say it calls for ½” of sealant) then another layer of 3-1/2” of mineral wool followed by another ½” of sealant. There are 4 steps to this installation, which means 4 steps to any firestop inspection as well, unless the inspector wants to try to cut into this kind of joint application, which is going to be a challenge in and of itself. This also means that the firestop detail needs to show installation from one side if this is what the installers are doing.

That is what you expect to see when you are in the field, but when looking at the firestop submittals you need to be sure that the block wall detail that is provided can actually be installed on the project. Is it physically possible? You need to be sure there is a head of wall, bottom of wall and possibly a wall to wall detail for the gypsum assembly. It is not uncommon for a contractor to miss these details, so be on the lookout for them.

Next, think about what penetrations will be going through your shaft walls. The block and concrete walls often will not have access from the inside of the shaft so a sandwiched application needs to be used in many cases, though there are devices that can be used and installed from one side. If we are working on a project with you then we can help you determine which different manufacturers products would be best for various scenarios. Let’s say your stairwell walls are block or concrete. This means the firestop details you will need will start with either a CAJ or a WJ (potentially WK for thicker walls). You will need a 1000 series detail for your sprinkler pipes and conduits, unless you have plastic sprinkler pipes then you will need a 2000 series detail as well as a 3000 series for your MC cables. You won’t need a 7000 series detail for your ducts because they are going through a 2 hour wall and will require dampers. Pull out these details and be sure that if you only have one side access that the details will allow one sided access for the installation requirements. If not, you will need an Engineering Judgment. If you are in NJ, remember DCA does not allow EJ’s- sorry NJ.

Typically firestop installers will submit details for the various penetrations through a standard wall. These may be okay if the shaft wall type is included in what is allowed in the listed detail. If it is included, then you are fine, and if not then they need to submit a new detail. This will be found in item 1 of all details. These details will start with WL for gypsum framed walls and if it is a mechanical shaft you will likely have WL 1000 for metal pipes, WL 5000 for insulated pipes, maybe WL 2000 for plastic pipes. When doing the installation or inspection of these walls you will want to be sure to check annular space and sealant depth to be sure it conforms with the details. You will also want to be sure the installer firestops the shaft liner side before the outer two layers of drywall go up as you will see in one of the later posts.

We have given you a few things to be cautious about, but in our next post we will dig deeper into this and the building code. If you have questions about a recent firestop submittal please contact us for help.

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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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I Have a Bone to Pick with Insurance Companies (It’s not what you might think)

The NEW YEAR started with me doing a training seminar at Seton Hall. Paul McGrath of City Fire invited me to speak at their 25th Fire Facts Seminar and it was awesome. I had so much fun, jumping around on a huge stage talking about building codes, standards, firestop and passive fire protection. Those of you who have been in my classes know what a dork I am, and how much I love it!

At lunch I sat with a few guys.  One who had been in one of my previous classes. Like most of us, he wears many hats. One is arson investigator.

During lunch our discussion bounced to raising kids with integrity and teaching them to be accountable for their actions.  We talked about how, if there are no consequences to the kids negative behavior, then the behavior won’t change.  I confessed to having stolen a candy bar when I was a kid and told of how my mother made me take it back into the store, give it back to the lady, apologize and tell her why it was wrong.   One of the guys had done the same thing with his young son and a pack of gum.

I was struck by the fact that there was a direct connect to this parenting move and the way I was hearing the insurance company is currently handling fire cases. As a parent, there has to be consequences to a child’s behavior; positive consequences to positive behavior and negative consequences to negative behavior.  What I was hearing at lunch was making it clear that the insurance industry needed help learning how to hold contractors and building owners accountable.

Rather than put in the legwork to identify construction that did not conform to the codes, the insurance companies just paid out the claims. This means that the contractor, who didn’t do the job right and created a scenario where a fire was allowed to propogate, or even started due to non-code-conformant installations, has no negative consequences for bad installations.  This is only letting people off the hook.

Now, I will be the first to tell you, I don’t know a great deal about insurance! I will also tell you that I do not want to offend anyone with this post. What I do want to accomplish with this is to:
1) raise awareness
2) start a conversation
3) be a catalyst for positive change in the industry

We all know what it typically takes for people to sit up and take notice. DEATH or massive loss always gets people’s attention. Then the masses cry, “How could this happen?

Trying to initiate change before you have everyone’s attention is not the easy route, but I would like to do just that before it comes to something tragic and I am asking for help from the Linked In community.

What ideas do you have regarding how we can have a positive impact that will help insurance companies be able to hold contractors accountable. I know a few years ago there was a case where a building owner did not maintain their sprinkler system and the insurance company did not have to pay out.  That old post can be found here.

If you have any ideas of how to help or if you can answer any of these questions please shoot me an quick note (or a long one if you prefer).  Your help may be the catalyst to the positive change we all need to see.

What events/trade shows/conferences would be interested in hearing more about this?

Do you have any contacts who could help with this agenda?

Do you have any ideas or data that would be useful in initiating this change?

 

As always, thank you all for reading this diatribe.  Keep Learning!  Do better every day and on the days you don’t; just remember there is tomorrow and take advantage of that when the day arrives.

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Why you should know more about how firestop is tested.

Understanding more about HOW firestop is tested will help you understand what is important when inspecting it. It will help you understand how firestop installations can fail when they are not installed properly. This series will address a wide array of issues while discussing how firestop is tested.

 

If you want to understand firestop and why certain requirements are important then you need to understand how firestop is tested. You could dig out the standards from ASTM or UL and read all about the process for firestop tests. But, that is a bit dry. So, this will be an attempt to explain how firestop is tested without getting dry and technical. There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle so bare with me as we discuss each one. Along the way you will also garner a better understanding for WHY all this stuff matters. This will be a series of interconnected posts that will loop back into each other and connect with former posts so you can skip what you already know or beef up on things you may want to know more about. Let’s get started.

 

WHY: Why do we test firestop? The basic answer is to ensure safe installations and to keep all the various manufactures on the same playing field and playing with the same rules.

 

If you want to create a firestop material and have any hope of selling it in the US, you have to first have it tested by a third party testing agency. There are a number of companies who will do the test, but the lions share of the through penetration tests are done at Underwriters Laboratories. There are more and they include such as Omega Point Labs, Warnock Hersey and others. Having a material tested by a third-party testing agency means that each manufactures material will be subject to the same type of critique and will have to meet the same expectations in the test burn.  This means that the end user can have the same expectations of any product installed according to the details in the tested and listed documentation. Understanding why certain elements of a test are important requires you to know more about HOW things are tested. Here is a start to the explanation:

 

Here are some basics:

Rated floor or wall– the assembly is built, allowed time to cure, set on the furnace. The assembly is peppered with thermocouples’ connected to computers so they can make sure the non-fire side of the assembly doesn’t get too hot. There are specific requirements to how they are placed. You can read more about if you wish by digging into the actual test requirements. We wont get into those specifics here other than to say that the edges of the assembly are not really considered important to this particular test because they are covered in the test for rated joints. This test assembly will be tested for an F rating and for a T rating.

 

The F rating is the time it takes for fire to breach the assembly. If you are testing a gypsum wall for 1 hour and fire breaches the wall before 60 minutes then you will fail the test. If it breaches at 61 minutes you have at least passed for a one-hour assembly. The T rating is a bit more complex, but still very important. We will save that for our next blog topic, so don’t forget to check in with us next week.

The technical term for this is to ensure that the F rating equals the T rating. There is a whole other topic that needs to be addressed which is the hose stream test, which is an important part of the test and again warrants its own blog post to come shortly.

 

Rated Joints– the test for the rated joints is basically the same as the test for the rated assemblies, but with a few additions. Now, we are dealing with two different assemblies. The way they are connected will provide the “code required” continuity of a rated assembly. So, if you have a floor joining a wall and they are both rated, we want to know that the joint between the two assemblies will be capable of withstanding the same rigors as the two assemblies independently. The tests are similar but there is one added dimension for many joint assemblies. (note we are not talking about Perimeter Containment/Edge of Slab firestop)

 

Joint assemblies can be either static (no expectation of movement) or they can be dynamic. Dynamic joints are subject to very specific movement criterion (another topic for later) the joints also require that the F rating and the T rating are the same, meaning that significant amounts of heat wont pass through the rated joint. This expectation will make more sense once we post the information on T ratings shortly.

 

Through Penetration- As you might expect, the test for through penetrations is very similar to the test for rated assemblies and rated joints. The differences are that we don’t have the T rating requirement. The T rating is a measure of thermal transfer (how much heat goes through the assembly). If you have a copper pipe running through a concrete floor the heat will be on the non-fire side of the assembly very quickly because copper is an excellent conductor. Therefor the T-rating requirement is not in the test standard but rather in the building code (you guessed it, a topic for later discussion). These through penetration tests often have a requirement that the penetrant be rigidly supported. This causes problems for the firestop installer in some cases, but causes even bigger problems for the long-term impact of the firestop if it is not complied with. This is a common deficiency in firestop installations.

 

If you have attended one of our training seminars or if you already know a bit about firestop you may be thinking…she didn’t even mention the hose stream test. This is critical to understanding why certain elements of the firestop listed assembly are so critical, such as sealant depth, annular space and other topics, but it also helps you understand how various drywall patch applications would not survive the laboratory test conditions AND you guessed it- it’s a topic for another blog post!

 

So we have basically set the groundwork for the next few months of posts. I hope you take the time to write in and let us know what you think and what else you think we should include. If you need help on a project don’t hesitate to contact us. We are happy to help you improve the level of life safety on your building.

 

 

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Excellent video about firestop inspection

Happy Friday.  It is hot here in NJ, so I am making life a little easier for you (and me) and giving you a great video.  If you are responsible for firestop, whether you are an installer, inspector, architect, general contractor or ANYONE who should know what to look for  when looking at firestop, please watch this video.  It is a great start to learning a few things that are very important or refresh what you already know.  A big thank you to the IFC and STI for making this video available to everyone. Have a great weekend!

Watch the video here-

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GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE SLEEVES (Part 4 on sleeves)

Not all of my audience is American, or even Western so allow me a moment to explain a children’s story called Goldilocks. There is a family of bears. They are Momma bear, Papa bear and baby bear and they all went out for a walk before breakfast. A little girl walks into their house and eats from their bowls, sits in their chairs and naps in their beds. One is too big, one is too small and one is just right.

That is the theme of our discussion today. Getting the size just right and the consequences of not getting it just right.

Let’s say the sleeves in this discussion are going to match whatever heavier gauge is required so we will be focusing on the size of the sleeve rather than the gauge or material used in the sleeve because we have already discussed the impact of the gauge and we will later discuss the various options for materials that need to be used for sleeve applications.
Question:

What size sleeve would you use if you have a 4” pipe that will be insulated with 2” insulation?

Wrong move #1:

The guy laying the sleeve looks at the numbers and figures 4” pipe plus 2” insulation (4+2=6) so we use a 6” sleeve. In this scenario there won’t be enough room for the pipe AND the insulation because the insulation is on both sides of the pipe so the equation is 2” of insulation plus, 4” of pipe, plus another 2” of insulation on the other side of the pipe.

A 6” sleeve only give 1” on either side of the pipe for insulation and firestop so even if the insulator uses 1” insulation where the pipe goes through the wall there still is not enough room for the firestop that is needed and if you firestop with typical intumescent firestop sealant (material that expands when exposed to heat), then the firestop will expand away from the opening and will not have any positive impact in a fire scenario. The material needs to be lodged between the inside edge of the opening and the outside edge of the insulation so that it can either compress the insulation against the pipe or fill the void when the insulation melts or burns away. If the firestop is not placed properly it will not react properly.

Potential fix:

Depending on the R value required for the insulation, the risk of condensation and other variables, the solutions will vary. Some projects have opted to allow the mineral wool insulation count as pipe insulation since it often has the same R-value and the insulation is removed just where it goes through the wall. This is the cheapest solution from both a labor and a materials standpoint. It often causes problems for the building owner and those problems will vary depending on the reason the insulation is needed, so when making a decision these factors should be weighed.

If this is done be sure the installation is firestopped with a 1000 series detail and not a 5000 series detail. See here for more information on selecting the correct UL listed detail for various applications.  See here for more information about firestopping to different types of pipe insulation.

Next week, we will discuss option sleeve option sizes and more potential solutions for this sort of problem installation.

How can you avoid this problem and many others?

When HLS conducts pre-construction meetings this is one of the many things we cover BEFORE construction starts. The meetings include our the MEPS subs as well as the drywaller, insulator, masons, carpenters and the CM or GC teams.  We have a separate meeting to cover edge of slab firestop which has its own unique complications. Our clients tell us our pre-con meeting is a game changer for the project because the entire team is looking at firestop in a new light and everyone understands their impact on the life safety of a building. More importantly everyone understands a new level of accountability.  That is just the beginning of how things will run on your next project if HLS is on your team.

If you are interested in learning more about our proven method, please 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.

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