Pre-formed firestop devices have been part of the plumbing and electrical trades for over two decades but now are making their way into the interior finishing industry. A life safety application in rated wall construction that has been addressed using sealants and mastics is now being revolutionized by prefabricated solutions that allow firestopping materials to be installed during the framing process. This new approach is taking off in both the United States and Canada as drywall professionals are being drawn in by the productivity gain coupled with the need to comply with code regulations.
Old Topic, New Use
Firestop is not a new topic in the interior finishing industry by any means. When erecting fire rated partitions, contractors are required to install firestopping materials (always at the top of wall and very often at the bottom of the wall). The current market solutions generally involve the installation of a combination of materials that include a non-combustible barrier such as mineral wool covered by a sealant or sprayable mastic to provide smoke containment. The process can be quite time intensive, requires the purchase of additional equipment such as sprayers, and presents challenges with inspection since mineral wool compression and sealant depth are critical to ensure proper performance during a fire.
Makin’ it Simple
The firestop industry, in cooperation with several key influencers in the drywall community, has partnered to bring pre-formed solutions to market. Firestop companies like Hilti North America now supply solutions that allow firestop to be installed at the same time the drywall track is being fastened to the slab. The products attach firestop directly to the drywall track base or sides so the firestopping material is in place once the track has been installed. This eliminates a second and time-consuming step and additionally makes inspection a one-step process.
Instead of placing the track, framing the wall, mounting the drywall and finally installing the firestop, these products now make the process far simpler and consistent. The track is installed with the firestopping material in place. Once the wall is framed and the drywall boards attached, the firestopping process is complete. Inspection will take place once the wall frame is built, and does not require the inspector to return to the wall after the drywall has been attached.
The interior finishing industry is not the only beneficiary of this technology, however. Building owners and architects are also reaping the benefits of the migration to pre-formed solutions. Pre-formed top of wall firestop solutions also provide superior performance when considering:
- Energy savings
- Resistance to aging
- Ability to adapt to uneven concrete surfaces
- Ability to accommodate wall movement
Design professionals agree that consistency of installation and ease of inspection ultimately contribute to protection of life safety in the event of a fire. However, with the explosion of high-end multi-story residential construction across the United States and Canada, architects are being motivated to specify pre-formed firestop solutions to better control the migration of sound and odors between occupancies.
Preparation is Key
Owners prefer the long-term performance of pre-formed solutions when compared to the conventional caulking solutions. Caulking often presents challenges when sealing a building joint because of shrinkage. Additionally, surface preparation is key to achieve the proper adhesion of a sealant and these steps often are missed during construction and inspection. Introducing solutions that are not susceptible to shrinkage or surface prep offer owners a better long-term alternative for their buildings.
As the construction industry continues to migrate to more sophisticated approaches involving prefabrication, it is not a mystery that the fire protection industry must evolve, as well. As construction schedules contract and project budgets decrease, the industry innovators will continue to invent new solutions to better support the interior finishing industry and increase life safety.