Question I have a question about a clause in the Code:
2003 IBC 717.3.2 simply talks about draftstopping which is defined in 702 as any material that restricts the movement of air. However the commentary on the Code says it’s to be a barrier to fire and smoke.
Response Fireblocking and draftstopping are both fire-safety items that are specifically tied to the use of wood framing. In fact, they are only required in wood framed buildings. Fireblocking and draftstopping have similar, but slightly different, purposes. Fireblocking is intended to resist the movement of flames, whereas draftstopping is intended to resist the passage of air (e.g. smoke and gases) within open concealed spaces. Draftstopping is used to subdivide flooring at specific intervals, and in attics and crawl spaces. Consequently, draftstopping materials are typically less "substantial" than fireblocking materials. Since acceptable draftstopping materials are lighter materials than those required for fireblocking, it would seem logical that fireblocking materials could be used for draftstoppping since they will also resist the passage of fire.
The 2015 IBC Definitions are as follows:
DRAFTSTOP. A material, device or construction installed to restrict the movement of air within open spaces of concealed areas of building components such as crawl spaces, floor/ceiling assemblies, roof/ceiling assemblies and attics.
FIREBLOCKING. Building materials, or materials approved for use as fireblocking, installed to resist the free passage of flame to other areas of the building through concealed spaces.
As far as the options for the choice of materials goes, this is typically identify in the Codes. For example, the 2015 IBC has the following sections:
718.2.1 Fireblocking materials. Fireblocking shall consist of the following materials:
1. Two-inch (51 mm) nominal lumber.
2. Two thicknesses of 1-inch (25 mm) nominal lumber with broken lap joints.
3. One thickness of 0.719-inch (18.3 mm) wood structural panels with joints backed by 0.719-inch (18.3mm) wood structural panels.
4. One thickness of 0.75-inch (19.1 mm) particleboard with joints backed by 0.75-inch (19 mm) particleboard.
7. Batts or blankets of mineral wool, mineral fiber or other approved materials installed in such a manner as to be securely retained in place.
8. Cellulose insulation installed as tested for the specific application.
718.3.1 Draftstopping materials. Draftstopping materials shall be not less than 1/2-inch (12.7 mm) gypsum board, 3/8-inch (9.5 mm) wood structural panel, 3/8-inch (9.5 mm) particleboard, 1-inch (25-mm) nominal lumber, cement fiberboard, batts or blankets of mineral wool or glass fiber, or other approved materials adequately supported. The integrity of draftstops shall be maintained.
So if the Code official wants to use something other than what is in the list, he needs to assess the comparative properties to those in 718.3.1. Conversely, 718.2.1 for Fireblocking materials is very specific, and does not offer the option to substitute.
Question We are working on a project and the fire inspector stated that it is a code requirement to physically label the fire resistant sealant/caulk at all joints. We could not find this requirement anywhere in IBC, UL, ANSI, or NFPA.
Response The IBC does contain marking requirements for fire walls, fire barriers, fire partitions, smoke barriers and smoke partitions. The requirements are contained in Section 703.7 of the 2013 IBC as follows:
"703.7 Marking and identification. Fire walls, fire barriers, fire partitions, smoke barriers and smoke partitions or any other wall required to have protected openings or penetrations shall be effectively and permanently identified with signs or stenciling. Such identification shall:
1. Be located in accessible concealed floor, floor-ceiling or attic spaces;
2. Be located within 15 feet (4572 mm ) of the end of each wall and at intervals not exceeding 30 feet (9144 mm) measured horizontally along the wall or partition; and
3. Include lettering not less than 3 inches (76 mm) in height with a minimum 3/8 inch (9.5 mm) stroke in a contrasting color incorporating the suggested wording.
“FIRE AND/OR SMOKE BARRIER—PROTECT ALL OPENINGS” or other wording.
Exception: Walls in Group R-2 occupancies that do not have a removable decorative ceiling allowing access to the concealed space."
Individual penetrations are not required to be marked or identified by the Codes. However, many manufacturers and installers of Firestop Systems do provide Marking Labels designed to identify each of the Systems individually. The Firestop Contractors International Association (FCIA) also has requirements for Labeling and Marking of Individual systems that are used by Qualified Firestop Contractors (e.g. qualified via UL or FM). The Firestop Systems labels are recommended to be installed at each penetrating item, on the wall or floor, unless there are multiple firestop systems in the same area, with close proximity limiting access to the area for installation and readability of the identification system.
There are some distinct advantages to Labeling in this manner. These are discussed in the attached publication from FCIA.
Question Occasionally we will run into a fire inspector who confuses Fire Classified Outlet Boxes (tested to UL263) and Through-Penetration Firestop Systems. Fire Classified Outlet Boxes are assigned an hourly rating, but do not have individual F and T ratings. They also do not have any supplementary ratings such as an L rating.
Do you have any guidelines that explain the difference between a Fire Classified Outlet Box and a Through-Penetration Firestop?
Response While IFC does not currently have a publication on this subject, UL has, over the years, issued various articles to address the confusion expressed by the Code Officials. Attached are those publications for your use.
By their nature, outlet box penetrations are membrane penetrations rather than through-penetrations. IBC (2012) Sections 714.3.2 for wall assemblies, and 7184.108.40.206 for Horizontal Assemblies does cover membrane penetrations by both metallic and non-metallic outlet boxes. Additional detail is provided on the options available for protection of outlet boxes.
Question We are working on a building with concrete/steel composite floor decks that have a 2-hour fire rating. We have spec’d WR Grace's MK-6 product for the beams. The steel decking will not have protection, though, because our concrete slabs above are typically around 5 inches thick. However, certain areas of the floors will have electrical inserts/floor boxes embedded in the concrete and we’ll need to provide fire protection for those where they occur. Our intention is to find a solution somewhere along the lines of being able to spray-on fire proofing under the steel deck a certain radius around where the inserts/boxes.
There are a few deck profiles we are working with and we want to consider the worst-case scenario for each profile, that is, that the floor box will take up the entire depth of the concrete and rest on the steel (thus creating a voided area of concrete through the assembly). The deck profiles we are working with are:
A) 7” composite deck with 5” concrete above the flutes of the steel and 2” deep steel B) 5 9/16” composite deck with 5” concrete above the flutes of the steel and 9/16” deep steel C) Steel plate with 5” concrete on top
I was looking at UL designs for a potential solution to fire protect the deck underneath the location where the inserts/boxes occur, and the ones I found require fire-classified floor boxes. However, the proposed product we are working with (Wiremold Ratchet Pro 881 series floor box) is a non-fire rated floor box.
I was wondering if you might be able to help me find an approved design and/or send an engineer’s judgment regarding what type of fire protection would be needed for these non-fire rated floor boxes. Also, if it were to require an engineer’s judgment, what would the timeline be to hear back?
Response Because what you are describing is a full depth through penetration, you will likely require both and F and T Rating equal to that of the floor assembly penetrated. There are a limited number of systems available in response to your request. UL has a Listing Category for these devices under CCN "CEYY", Outlet Boxes and Fittings Certified for Fire Resistance. The link is provided below.
Boxes intended for use with floors have been investigated for use with electrical receptacles fabricated of melamine, phenolic or urea materials, unless specified otherwise in the installation instructions and certification information. Floor boxes and fittings are intended to be installed in accordance with installation instructions provided with the product.
Boxes with integral connectors for electric metallic tubing or for unthreaded rigid metallic conduit are provided with a marking on the carton to indicate the specific type or types of wiring system for which the box has been tested.
Floor boxes designated for floor installation as covered in the NEC are provided with covers and gaskets to exclude surface water and sweeping compounds that might be present in floor-cleaning operations. Those boxes intended for installation in concrete floors are frequently provided with leveling screws, threaded hubs, or both, and are provided with a marking on the carton to identify boxes of this type, such as "Floor Box" or "Floor Box, Concrete Tight," as appropriate.
The following designs will provide some examples of what is available and Listed for use.
Question Is fireblocking required in residential non-combustible (steel stud wall framing) with a combustible floor structure above?
Response The IRC does not define the term "Combustible Construction". However, the IBC does define Construction Types in varying degrees of "combustible" or "non-combustible" construction as follows:
602.2 Types I and II. Types I and II construction are those types of construction in which the building elements listed in Table 601 are of non-combustible materials, except as permitted in Section 603 and elsewhere in this code.
602.3 Type III. Type III construction is that type of construction in which the exterior walls are of noncombustible materials and the interior building elements are of any material permitted by this code. Fire-retardant-treated wood framing complying with Section 2303.2 shall be permitted within exterior wall assemblies of a 2-hour rating or less.
602.4 Type IV. Type IV construction (Heavy Timber, HT) is that type of construction in which the exterior walls are of noncombustible materials and the interior building elements are of solid or laminated wood without concealed spaces. The details of Type IV construction shall comply with the provisions of this section. Fire-retardant-treated wood framing complying with Section 2303.2 shall be permitted within exterior wall assemblies with a 2-hour rating or less. Minimum solid sawn nominal dimensions are required for structures built using Type IV construction (HT). For glued laminated members the equivalent net finished width and depths corresponding to the minimum nominal width and depths of solid sawn lumber are required as specified in Table 602.4.
602.5 Type V. Type V construction is that type of construction in which the structural elements, exterior walls and interior walls are of any materials permitted by this code.
In order for the construction to be considered "non-combustible", it is not simply a matter of looking at the walls versus the floors, but rather, to look at the entire structure.
Having said that, while 302.11 of the 2012 IRC does refer to "combustible construction" as you indicated, R502.13 addresses Fireblocking in Wood Floors specifically. It states the following:
SECTION R502 - WOOD FLOOR FRAMING
R502.13 Fireblocking required. Fireblocking shall be provided in accordance with Section R302.11.
Because you are using Steel Wall Framing, you can apply Section R603 to the wall condition. That section does not mention the need for Fireblocking within the steel stud walls. In contrast, Section R602 does require Fireblocking for Wood Wall Framing.
While the IRC may appear to be somewhat inconsistent, Section R102 clearly states the following:
SECTION R102 - APPLICABILITY
R102.1 General. Where there is a conflict between a general requirement and a specific requirement, the specific requirement shall be applicable. Where, in any specific case, different sections of this code specify different materials, methods of construction or other requirements, the most restrictive shall govern.
In conclusion, based on IRC section R502, we would consider that Fireblocking is required in the wood floor. Similarly, based on R603, it does not appear that Fireblocking is required within the steel framed walls.
Question My building inspector believes there are firestopping compatibility problems with firestopping of different brands (chemical makeup) coming into contact with each other and could result in self combustion of the products, is this true?
Response I am not aware of any instance where firestopping materials produced by different manufacturers (or the same manufacturer for that matter) have self-ignited when combined and in contact with one another.
All elements of a tested and rated firestop system, including the assembly into which the system is installed, constitute a specific and inseparable engineered unit that must be utilized as such. Firestop system designs are tested and listed by independent testing agencies such as Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (UL), Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC), Intertek, and South West Research Institute (SWRI). The specific elements of each design become integral to the listing. Manufacturers of tested systems do not test and list mixtures of products from different manufacturers in a single system, so that condition should never arise in a properly installed firestop system. Consequently, it is definitely true that compatibility between different manufacturer’s products is not tested by anyone, so no manufacturer can confirm that their products will work as designed and tested if two different manufacturer’s products are put into the same opening (i.e. therefore in contact with one another), or system.
Question More and more building constructors are requesting permission to use stainless steel piping to, convey drinking water, storm water, and for drainage piping in large buildings. If you are experiencing the same trend in the US, could you give me some feedback on what fire stopping is commonly used in term of penetrations through fire rated floor and walls. I have polled some of the larger fire stop system companies but received mixed information.
Response While there are numerous UL (and cUL) Listings for stainless steel flexible gas pipe, we are not aware of any current listings for larger diameter ss pipes for the applications you describe. UL does have three listed systems using SS piping, C-AJ-1434, C-AJ-1504 and C-AJ-1553. Unfortunately, these are Nom 1/4 in. diam by 10 in. long "T" shaped vent tubes, or Nom 1 in. max, fabricated from stainless steel.
Question I'm an AHJ Fire Inspector. I had a contractor the Deputy Fire Marshal and asked where it was required in the code that the installer of the fire caulking had to be certified by the company that manufactured the fire stopping material. As an inspector I always ask to see the certification card or certificate for the product they are using also there fire stop system there using.
I showed my Captain in the manufacturer books that has the fire system designs in them were it was required by the company. Is there anything in the IBC, NFPA, IFC that I can use to show my Captain and the contractor?
Response While almost all manufacturers of FS systems provide training for Contractors and Installers, there are currently no requirements in the ICC or NFPA Codes for FS system installers to be certified or qualified by either Manufacturers or Third Party Agencies such as UL or FM. While such training and qualification is clearly a "Best Practice", it is not mandatory.
As you probably know, the 2015 IBC did include Special Inspection requirements for fire-resistant penetrations and joints in high-rise buildings or in buildings assigned to Risk Category III or IV. Special Inspections apply for through-penetrations, membrane penetration firestops, fire-resistant joint systems and perimeter fire barrier systems that are tested and listed in accordance with Sections 7220.127.116.11, 714.4.2, 715.3 and 715.4 shall be in accordance with Section 1705.17.1 or 1705.17.2.
Question In most residential home construction PVC plumbing and electrical wiring passes from basements to the floor above which is a one hour fire stop area with NO protection around the above mentioned plumbing and wiring to stop flame and smoke spreading to the floor above.
How do public entities justify this happening?
Response The IFC strongly recognizes the need for Inspection and Enforcement of the installation of Firestopping and FR Joint Systems.
To that end, the International Firestop Council developed the first comprehensive Firestop Special Inspection education and certificate program. To allow construction inspectors from all of the hundreds of jurisdictions throughout the US, and in foreign countries also referencing the IBC, to have access to the technical information required for a comprehensive understanding of firestopping, the program was designed as a self-education program using resources that can all be accessed through the internet. All except the required ASTM standards can be accessed at no cost. The self-education reading and video list consists of the most critical and important information sources on firestopping. You can access information about the program at: www.firestop.org/inspection.html
Penetrating items that transition between combustible/non-combustible beyond the point of firestopping Question The code provision in Chapter 7 regarding the firestopping of through-penetrations involving piping transitions between dissimilar materials (e.g. metal to plastic transition) is difficult to interpret and to apply. The code language is as follows:
714.3.3 Dissimilar materials. Noncombustible penetrating items shall not connect to combustible items beyond the point of firestopping unless it can be demonstrated that the fire-resistance integrity of the wall is maintained.
718.104.22.168 Dissimilar materials. Noncombustible penetrating items shall not connect to combustible materials beyond the point of firestopping unless it can be demonstrated that the fire-resistance integrity of the horizontal assembly is maintained.
How is this situation typically handled?
Is there a distance above the floor with noncombustible pipe that might eliminate the firestopping concern when transitioning to plastic pipe?
Response The use of dissimilar materials, particularly piping materials, has become a very common practice. IBC 714.3.3 and 714.4.3 are intended to address this condition by effectively expressing the intent of the Code, which to ensure that the fire-resistance integrity of rated the walls and horizontal assemblies is maintained when they are penetrated.
The IBC, and the test Standards used to test firestop systems, are predicated on the assumption that the penetrating item is continuous through the fire compartment. As a result, once a penetration is firestopped at the floor or wall, there is no opportunity for fire to enter the adjacent areas either around, or through, the penetrating item. So the primary concern with noncombustible penetrating items connecting to combustible materials beyond the point of firestopping is the risk of the penetrant itself become a source of the breach in protection. Consequently, things like the method of coupling pipes together become critically important, as potentially, does the distance above the floor or away from a wall. The test methods specified by the IBC to evaluate firestop systems, UL 1479 and ASTM E814, evaluate the penetrating item up to a length of 3 ft beyond the fire-resistance rated wall or horizontal assembly.
The most common approach to address this condition is that manufacturers will test several pipe transitions in UL 1479 or ASTM E814 fire tests. The Listed systems will identify that transitions made beyond the point of the fire-resistance rated wall or horizontal assembly can be used to demonstrate that the fire-resistance integrity of rated the walls or horizontal assemblies is maintained. . It should also be noted that, up to the dimensions of the test specimens used in UL 1479 and ASTM E814, e.g. 36 inches, the firestop system and penetrant tested does demonstrate compliance with the intent of IBC 714.3.3 and 714.4.3 in regards to maintaining the integrity of the assembly in which they are installed. However, there are also cases where the transitions do not occur within the dimensions specified in the Listings, and furthermore, may occur beyond the normal dimensions used to test firestop systems in UL 1479 or ASTM E814. In those cases, because it would be impossible to test every single permutation of combustible pipe, noncombustible pipe, pipe diameters, distance of transition from assembly, and assembly penetrated, Engineering Judgments (EJ's), can be developed to instruct a user how to firestop a penetration that involves pipe materials, diameters, and distances from the penetration different than that in the referenced, listed system(s). The general concepts used for evaluating transitions within the tested systems are then applied to the site conditions to determine whether the entire penetrant and firestop system will “demonstrate” that the transition can be made effectively. It is also worthwhile to note that the 2015 edition of NFPA 101 also addresses this condition. It takes a slightly different approach, which is still consistent with the concepts identified above. It states:
22.214.171.124 Transitions. 126.96.36.199.1 Where piping penetrates a fire resistance–rated wall or floor assembly, combustible piping shall not connect to noncombustible piping within 36 in. (915 mm) of the firestop system or device without demonstration that the transition will not reduce the fire resistance rating, except in the case of previously approved installations.
The approach used by NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, is essentially to limit transitions to being installed only beyond the 36 inch limit (which is consistent with the test Standards for through penetration firestops), unless the transitions have been tested within the first 36 inches beyond the unexposed surface of a horizontal assembly, or wall assembly. The corollary is that transitions that occur beyond the 36 inch dimension are considered to not detrimentally affect the fire-resistance rating of the assemblies in which they are installed.
Penetrations through top plate of walls in wood-frame multi-unit residential construction Question In a 2 story apartment building does the top plate have to be fire caulked where the electrical wires go through it? This is a sprinklered building and the walls and ceiling have 5/8" wallboard on them and walls are classified as 1 hour walls. We caulked with regular caulk for draft stopping but inspector says we need fire caulk . Since we are not penetrating the fire wall , why would we need the fire caulk?
Answer The penetrations through the top plate must be firestopped, not drafstopped, as explained below.
In accordance with all editions of the IBC, and as was also required by all legacy building codes in the US, all floor assemblies in a multi-unit residential building will always have a fire resistance rating. In lightweight wood frame construction, those floors will therefore be floor/ceiling assemblies, unless of heavy timber (Type IV) construction. The fire resistance rating for a floor/ceiling assembly is obtained from the protection provided by the ceiling, in combination with the slight fire resistance of the lightweight wood floor structure. Any penetration through the plane of the ceiling could therefore potentially undermine the fire resistance of the entire floor/ceiling assembly.
Recognizing the criticalilty of the ceiling membrane to the fire resistance of the entire floor/ceiling assembly, and of any interruptions to it, the 2015 IBC has the following requirement:
714.4.2 Membrane penetrations. Penetrations of membranes that are part of a horizontal assembly shall comply with Section 7188.8.131.52 or 7184.108.40.206. Where floor/ceiling assemblies are required to have a fire-resistance rating, recessed fixtures shall be installed such that the required fire resistance will not be reduced. Exceptions: 1… 2… 7. The ceiling membrane of 1- and 2-hour fire-resistance- rated horizontal assemblies is permitted to be interrupted with the double wood top plate of a wall assembly that is sheathed with Type X gypsum wallboard, provided that all penetrating items through the double top plates are protected in accordance with Section 7220.127.116.11 or 718.104.22.168 and the ceiling membrane is tight to the top plates.
To summarize, all penetrations of the top plate of the walls must be protected in accordance with the referenced code sections, which require that firestopping be installed as-tested, meaning as per a tested and listed penetration firestop system.
Firestopping issues can be complex and are often fact specific. IFC does not warrant that the advice given will accurately fit your situation. Suitability of advice or recommendations must be determined by the user.