Firestopping | It's Not For Everyone
Most general contractors seem to think firestopping can be done by the MEP trades. We say they are separate disciplines. There is no better way to decrease production or slow down a construction schedule than through delegating firestop responsibilities to the mechanical, electric and plumbing contractors. Your client, your budget and your hairline deserve better than that.
Before we get hate-mail from the MEP trades, let us make one thing clear: It's not your fault! For years, an apprentice on your crew has been handed a caulk gun and told to go back and seal all the penetrations through rated assemblies. But, [insert your best Bob Dylan impersonation here] the times they are a changin'. In today's construction world, it's more than just "fire caulking." It's knowing when to use collars, wrap strips, or different types of sealants. It's knowing when an assembly can't be fire-stopped because of an assembly error and knowing how to fix it. - The list goes on and you already have enough to worry about.
Proper firestopping steps have taken on a new immediacy in recent building code updates. Although the practice of building inspectors carefully reviewing installers' work remains sporadic across the United States, Colorado building inspectors are becoming increasingly stringent on UL approved firestop systems and the enforcement of them. This is great because it is making our buildings safer. Conversely, general contractors may feel the heat if things aren't installed to code.
What's The Problem With MEP Trades Performing Their Own Fire Stopping?
It's our experience that most MEP installers aren't even interested in firestopping. But, let's set that aside for the time being. Here are the primary reasons MEP trades should not be individually responsible for firestopping their penetrations:
- Product - Each manufacturer must have a tested and approved firestop system when addressing fire rated walls, floors, ceiling & joint assemblies. The certification mark on fire resistive products provide code enforcement officials and buyers confidence that products and systems meet regulatory and market requirements. Plus, the approved assembly (typically a UL assembly) provides step-by-step instructions for the firestop contractor during installation and, more importantly, is a reference for the building inspector that the assembly meets tested requirements. The issue lies in the fact that there are multiple manufacturers with UL certified systems, some having more than others. Furthermore, there are even more manufacturers that claim to have firestop products but do not have certifications to back them up (thus, they do not meet code). Even if you can ensure MEP subcontractors use certified products, it is our experience that delays are avoided and inspections are smoother when one manufacturer is being used on a job and someone has the UL certifications wrapped up in a nice and neat little bow ready to give to the building inspector upon request.
- Inspections - When the electrical inspectors shows up to your job, who are they going to call? (Hint: Not the Ghost Busters) - It's the electrician. - The plumbing inspector will call the plumber, the HVAC inspector will call the HVAC foreman, and so on and so forth. But, if each trade is responsible for their own firestopping, who will the inspector call for frame inspection?
- Coordination - If working in the Denver commercial construction market has told us anything about firestopping, coordination is key! Maintaining the fire resistance rating of fire rated assemblies is much more than just sealing up holes and joints. It's also communicating with the framers about repairing studs that were cut out by other trades or directing the dry wall crew on fixing penetrations where someone used a hammer to run their cable rather than the appropriate drill bit. Knowing which areas of the building are ready for frame inspection becomes paramount prior to the inspector's arrival. If each trade is responsible for their own firestopping, then individual calls to each of them will be required to know for certain what is ready for inspection and where. Plus, some inspectors offer a degree of leniency to repair firestop deficiencies during the inspection. So, it would be prudent of a GC to coordinate with each trade to have representation at the inspection. Personally, we'd rather heard a glaring of cats.
- Knowledge - Finally, fire system assemblies are increasingly becoming more technical. Factors such as annular space around a penetrant, what a penetrating item is made of, the size of a penetrant, the number of penetrants, the type of building assembly a penetrant runs through and the rating of that particular assembly all determine how it needs to be addressed. Suitable fire-resistance-rated systems can consist of caulks, sealants, mineral wool, wrap strips, collars, sleeves, putties, pathways, foams, endothermic wraps or any combination of the aforementioned products. Your firestop installers must have the knowledge, resources and wherewithal to address the assembly properly and efficiently.
Why Use A Professional Firestop Contractor?
Titan Applicators LLC work directly with major manufacturer engineering teams to provide code compliant and cost effective solutions that meet your fast-paced and demanding production schedule. Our certified installers are experienced and skilled tradeswomen and tradesmen with laser-like focus on insuring compliance and delivering production ahead of schedule. Titan streamlines your firestop process by documenting and tracking firestop items on fully interactive floor drawings, giving our Colorado contractor-partners 24 hour notifications and detailed corrective action reports.