March 2022 Lessons in Firestop: Six Critical Steps to Reducing Firestop Headaches

March 2022 Lessons in Firestop by Sharron HalpertHello! Welcome to our new column called “Lessons in Firestop.” I am your host, Sharron, and I am with Halpert Life Safety Consulting. If you attended the amazing ASPE Tech Symposium in San Diego in 2021 and participated in one of the firestop discussions, you likely have seen me.

If you were not able to join us in San Diego, please know you were missed and we had fun without you. You might not normally put the words fun and firestop side by side, but that is just because you haven’t met ME yet.

If you are the kind of person who takes pride in your work, you understand that life safety is important. It’s important not just to reduce liability for your company, but also because if you make a mistake and a fire occurs, it’s on you. You probably also understand that the building codes change, often every three years, and the industry constantly brings about new products that support the market to help people build better, faster, more cost-effectively. If you want to stay on top of your game and keep learning and building better, then you are in the right place.

We will huddle here every month to talk firestop. My goal is to give you a few tidbits, or maybe big nuggets, that you can apply to your work. I have a list of things I want to chat with you about, but I also want to ask you to help guide our discussions. What would you like to learn about? What questions do you have on your projects? How can I help you build better? Please reach out to me and let me know what you want to hear about, and I will add that to the agenda.

Start with Planning

For this article, however, I want to start with a very simple thing you can do to help your projects get a head start on firestop. I know you aren’t going to think this is fun, but I will tell you—it’s simple! It’s one word: PLANNING. When you plan your project, things will run more smoothly. If you want to plan your firestop project better on this project than you did on the last one, then you might need a new skill. That is what we are going to tackle in this discussion.

The first thing you need to do when you are learning about firestop is to learn the ABCs and 123s. You see, I used to teach kindergarten, and the basics of your education as a kid come from the ABCs and 123s. The same is true with firestop, so I want to give you access to FREE training that will give you the ABCs and 123s. Once you know that, you can start to plan differently. Here is the link to the free training:

The Six Steps

If you want to know how to plan the firestop on your project, here are the steps:

  1. Determine your floor assembly or assemblies.
  2. Determine your wall assemblies.
  3. Determine your penetrations.
  4. Find your UL details.
  5. Determine your annular space.
  6. Plan your openings.

Let’s break down the first three steps.

Step One

Take a look at your project and figure out what your floors are made of. Are they wood-framed construction or maybe mass timber floors? Are the concrete? Are they post-tension, hollow-core, fluted metal deck? Maybe you have a Hambro-style floor ceiling assembly where you have a concrete deck—the fire rating doesn’t come just from the concrete; you also have to take the gypsum ceiling into consideration because that is part of the fire rating as well. Some projects might have more than one type of floor system, so keep that in mind as well.

Step Two

Now do the same thing with your walls. Let’s start with the gypsum board walls. You might have one-hour or two-hour walls. Then does your project have block walls around the stairs or the elevators? You will need a different firestop detail for each of those. If your shafts are not made of block or concrete, then they are likely gypsum board, and those will require different firestop details in most cases. These last two are often overlooked. I can’t tell you how many projects I work on that don’t have any firestop details for block or shaft walls even when they are clearly on the project.

Step Three

Make a list of the types of materials you are going to use on your project—metal pipes, plastic pipes, insulated pipes—and then look at what fire-rated assemblies they penetrate. You will need a different detail for each of them. You could even make a chart. It might look like this:

  Floor 1 Floor 2 Wall 1 Wall 2 Wall 3
Metal Pipe
1–4 in. no yes yes yes yes
Up to 24 in. yes yes yes no no
Plastic Pipe
PEX no yes yes no no
2-in. PVC no yes yes no no
3-in. PVC no yes yes no no
4-in. PVC yes yes yes no no
6-in. PVC yes yes no no no

Keep in mind that when you get to your insulated pipes, you want to pay close attention to the type of insulation being used. If it is fiberglass, the firestop detail needs to list fiberglass. If it calls for AB/PVC, the brand name I hear most is Armaflex, but there are others as well. This is a rubber insulation, and it is not the same as polyurethane or polypropylene insulations. Those may have the same R value, but they do not behave the same in a fire. Poly-anything is a petroleum-based product, and it’s going to burn much faster and at lower temperatures. If you are using these insulations on your project, please call your favorite firestop manufacturer and be sure you send them the information on the insulation and ask for a tested and listed detail for that material. Chances are they don’t have one, which means you will need to get a special document for your project called an EJ, or an engineering judgement. THAT, my friends, is a discussion for another day.

I have given you a lot to ponder. For now, figure out what your fire-rated walls and floors are, and look at whether or not any of them are smoke barriers. If they are, you need to pay close attention to them, but we will get to that later. Spend some time with your ABCs and 123s, and check back in to “Lessons in Firestop” next month when we will go over how to plan your project better.

See you then!

Connect with Sharron

A former kindergarten teacher turned firestop expert, Sharron is President of Halpert Life Safety Consulting LLC, a leading provider of firestop-related life-safety and passive fire protection solutions.

If you like what you read here and want to know more, email [email protected] or connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter to tell her what else you want her to cover in this column. You can also follow her on Instagram. If you find this information valuable, please like, share, comment, repost, retweet, and throw it on IG to help people build better.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not the American Society of Plumbing Engineers.

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