Although firestop is necessary, there are also many different firestop manufacturers, products, and UL systems that come into play. This can make it an extremely challenging task. When it comes to firestopping; all joints and penetrations in rated assemblies must be protected by the appropriate listed system. If penetrations within your facility are not properly sealed, this creates a significant fire hazard with a potential for great economic loss. According to NFPA 101, every opening in a fire barrier shall be protected to limit the spread of fire and restrict the movement of smoke from one side of a barrier to the other. Firestopping is not only regulated by code but without it, your building occupants are put at serious risk.
Choosing the right system the first time around will make things run more smoothly and save you time and money. “Better Firestop For Your Buck”, an article posted on STI’s website says, “The hardest part of getting the best value for your firestop dollar is determining what you need and who should do it. Doing the hard work up front will make the rest of the project a whole lot easier” With a firestopping project at hand it’s important to follow some general guidelines to help guide the process and make sure the correct UL systems are used.
Step One: Gain Insight Before Turning to the UL Systems Directory
Choosing the right UL system means first knowing exactly what you are dealing with and the correct places to look. Here’s a checklist that can help you answer most of the necessary questions needed before opening up your UL Systems directory to identify your application.
What is the hourly rating of the fire barrier (1,2,3 or 4 hour rated wall etc.)?
What is the barrier construction (concrete floor, gypsum wall, etc.)
What size is the opening?
How large is the annular space around the penetrant?
What type of penetrants are involved (plastic pipe, cable tray, bare metal pipe)?
What is the size and shape of the opening?
What is the percent fill? (the cross-sectional area of an opening that is occupied by penetrating item(s)?
Are there penetrations that are not the norm (perpendicular and unusually skewed or partially penetrate wall/floor?)
What is the size and shape of the penetrating item?
Will the pipes shift or vibrate?
Will there be a need to adjust or change the penetrants frequently?
Step Two: Locate a UL Classified System For Your Application
After you answer all the questions about the specific system you are working with then you can turn to The UL Fire Resistance Directory. The UL Fire Resistance Directory is the publication containing the details and descriptions for all firestopping systems. You can also locate a UL classified system for your application by going to the UL Online Certifications Directory. Manufacturers such as STI have an online UL System Search Tool which can make this process easier for you. If the penetration you are dealing with has been previously sealed, make sure you use the same brand to fill the opening. Mixing brands of products can compromise the entire systems functionality.
It is possible that you may come across penetrations where there are no known UL systems. In this case an Engineering Judgment may be issued, which most AHJs accept. Your engineering staff or a major firestopping manufacturer can make this judgment and it is based on the condition in question and how closely it resembles that of an UL tested system. This Judgment should detail directions for the Contractor. A History of Firestopping Slideshare explains determining the UL system in a much more detailed manner.
Step Three: If You’re Having Trouble, Seek The Help of a Specialty Contractor
Using approved specialty firestop contractors is probably the safest bet to make sure your firestop is done accurately and up to code standards. The Firestop Contractors International Association (FCIA) provides training and certification methodologies for installers. If you decide to outsource your work make sure the contractor you choose is FCIA approved and has detailed knowledge of UL systems. In larger facilities that are constantly being renovated this can be extremely helpful. Speciality contractors can identify penetrations quickly and efficiently by surveying your fire barriers. Also by doing a “caulk and walk” they can mend deficiencies as they go, restoring the integrity of your barriers all while saving you time and money.
PREVENT is America’s Number One Provider of Life Safety Services. We have over 15 years of firestopping experience and all of our technicians are specialty firestop contractors. Visit our website for more information.