What Is Firestopping: Passive Fire Protection, Types of Firestop Materials and Code Requirements
Clients task contractors with installing systems that help keep their buildings and occupants safe, and when it comes to commercial, multi-family or mixed-use projects, one of the most important safety mechanisms is passive fire protection. A key part of that protection is through-penetration firestop systems.
To get a better understanding of what firestopping is and how firestop systems for plumbing and electrical penetrations support a commercial build, we're breaking down the basics elements and benefits of this kind of passive fire protection. Then, explore the common pitfalls to avoid during installation and discover which types of firestop materials to use for the best results.
What Is Firestopping?
Firestopping is a process that uses certain materials, some of them specifically manufactured, to resist or stop the spread of fire and its byproducts through openings made to accommodate penetrations in fire-rated wall, floors and floor/ceiling assemblies. It does this by filling openings, holes and voids (annular space) in fire-rated walls and floors, restoring the hourly rating of fire-rated assemblies breached by penetrants.
Firestopping is made up of three elements:
- A fire-rated assembly like a floor or wall.
- Firestop material, such as fire caulking or intumescent material.
- A penetrating item like a plumbing pipe or electrical cables/conduits.
Firestop systems aren’t just good to have. Building codes require them in the following buildings:
- All new construction projects.
- All new retrofit projects.
- Multi-family residences.
- Nursing homes.
- Anywhere fire-rated walls or floors have been penetrated by pipes, cables, conduits or other penetrants.
Benefits of Firestop Systems
One of firestopping’s top benefits is compartmentation. When a fire starts, it can spread quickly throughout a building, putting people’s lives and property at risk. Fires can also prevent emergency services from entering a building safely or in time. Compartmentation helps isolate fire and smoke to lower these risks.
Firestopping has other benefits, too, such as:
- Protection of property and occupants against damage from water, fire, smoke, gases and seismic issues.
- Limitation of building losses in the event of a fire.
- Containment of water damage if the firestop system has a water rating.
- Reduced liability for property owners.
- Adherence to firestopping code requirements.
Common Issues With Firestopping
While firestop systems are necessary, they can cause headaches for contractors sometimes. First, the installation process can be complex and time-consuming. Plus, many contractors don't receive proper firestop training, leading to mistakes that cost time and money later.
To avoid other common firestop issues, make sure you:
- Don’t use firestop materials/systems that aren’t. Always make sure you check the fine print to confirm the listing. Unlisted products don’t have the third-party assurance that they can effectively stop fire, smoke and water.
- Don’t use combustible, non-rated materials. Some common ones to look out for are mortar, concrete and foam.
- Make sure you understand how to install the system. Make sure you know the listing for the application too. If you have questions, reach out to your local rep for a demo.
Read More: 3 Common Firestop Mistakes and How You Can Avoid Them
The Best Firestop Options
There are several kinds of firestop materials and systems you can use — from fire putty pads and firestop collars to fire-rated sealants and firestop sleeves. With so many options, it can be hard to determine which one will deliver the best results.
In today’s labor market, speedy installations put money back in your pocket, but quality is what your reputation relies on. Here are a couple of solutions that deliver both.
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HoldRite HydroFlame Pro firestop sleeves
These cast-in-place firestop sleeves are available for plumbing and electrical penetrations, providing a modern-day firestopping solution that supports mechanical contractors through its unique design.
HoldRite firestop sleeves:
- Are UL Listed firestop systems. They meet and exceed firestopping code requirements for multiple municipal and state regulations.
- Are 6 times faster to install than traditional firestopping methods. Sleeves feature a cast-in-place design with built-in firestop materials.
- Come with a telescoping body and locator whiskers. This adjustable body minimizes cutting on the job site, and the whiskers help you easily find buried sleeves after concrete pour.
- Have a W Rating out of the box. This gives the sleeves the ability to prevent not only fires and smoke, but also water damage that can occur with makeshift installations.
- Are accessible. HoldRite firestop sleeves are available at local distributors across the country.
HoldRite HydroFlame fire sealants
If you’re looking for something more traditional, a firestop sealant might be the right fit for you. There are a lot of options to choose from here too. Explore sealant options with different price points and features so you can find the best fit for your job.
- HydroFlame 100 Firestop Sealant. This is an all-purpose elastomeric water-based single-component non-sag firestop sealant. Use it with a variety of pipes and penetrations including plastic, metal, cables and ducts.
- HydroFlame 200 Firestop Sealant. This sealant is best for applications requiring high-performance intumescence. Use it when you need to seal larger annular spaces.
Read More: Firestop Sealant Guide
Explore these options more in depth or search for more firestop solutions.