Inspection Guidelines

Penetration Firestop Systems and Fire Resistive Joint Systems in Fire Resistance Rated Construction

Inspection Guidelines For Penetration Firestop Systems and Fire Resistive Joint Systems in Fire Resistance Rated Construction – 5th Edition

The following information is intended to provide construction and code enforcement professionals with basic checkpoints to ensure the required fire resistance ratings are maintained when penetrations and linear joints breach walls and floors. This inspection guideline is not intended to be all encompassing or to be used as a design guide. It is for information and educational purposes only.

Glossary

Annular Space – The opening around a penetrating item.

F Rating – The time period that the through-penetration firestop system limits the spread of fire through the penetration when tested in accordance with ASTM E 814 or UL1479.

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.

Fire-Resistant Joint System – An assemblage of specific materials or products that are designed, tested and fire-resistance rated in accordance with either ASTM E 1966 or UL 2079 to resist for a prescribed period of time the passage of fire through joints made in or between fire-resistance rated assemblies.

L Rating – The air leakage rating of a through penetration firestop system or a fire-resistant joint system when tested in accordance with UL 1479 or UL 2079, respectively.

Membrane Penetration – A breach in one side of a floor-ceiling, roof-ceiling or wall assembly to accommodate an item installed into or passing through the breach.

 

Glossary

Perimeter Fire Barrier System – An assemblage of specific materials along the perimeter of a floor with an hourly fire endurance rating and a non-rated exterior curtain wall to ensure continuity of the separating function of the floor assembly. Tested in accordance with ASTM E2307.

Splice – The result of a factory and/or field method of joining or connecting two or more lengths of a fire-resistant joint system into a continuous entity.

Penetration Firestop – A through-penetration firestop or a membrane-penetration firestop. *Although ducts may be considered penetrations, the requirements for maintaining the fire rating of the assembly penetrated by ducts are beyond the scope of this document.

T Rating – The time period that the penetration firestop system, including the penetrating item, limits the maximum temperature rise to 325°F (163°C) above its initial temperature through the penetration on the non-fire side when tested in accordance with ASTM E 814 or UL 1479.

Through-Penetration Firestop System – An assemblage consisting of a fire-resistance-rated floor, floor-ceiling, or wall assembly, one or more penetrating items passing through the breaches in both sides of the assembly and the materials or devices, or both, installed to resist the spread of fire through the assembly for a prescribed period of time.

 

Specifications

The Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) provides specification for ”Fire and Smoke Protection” in Section 07800, which includes firestopping materials, fire containment, sprayed fire resistive materials, board materials, smoke seals, and fire resistant coatings and assemblies. Firestopping is covered by Section 078400 – Firestopping. Other specification sections, such as Thermal and Moisture Protection, Insulation, Drywall, or Mechanical and Plumbing sections, might include references to firestopping materials.

Fire Test Standards

The Test Standards relevant to Firestop Systems are:

  1. ASTM E 814 (ANSI/UL 1479) “Standard Test Method for Fire Tests of Through-Penetration Fire Stops”
  2. ASTM E 1966 (ANSI/UL 2079) “Standard Test Method for Fire-Resistive Joint Systems”
  3. ASTM E 1399 “Cyclic Movement and Measuring the Minimum and Maximum Joint Widths of Architectural Joint Systems”
  4. ASTM E 2174 “Standard Practice for On-Site Inspection of Installed Fire Stops”
  5. ASTM E 2307 “Standard Test Method for Determining the Fire Resistance of Perimeter Fire Barrier Systems using the Intermediate Scale, Multi-Story Test Apparatus”
  6. ASTM E 2393 “Standard Practice for On-Site Inspection of Installed Fire Resistive Joint System and Perimeter Fire Barriers”
  7. ASTM E2750 “Guide for Extension of Data from Penetration Firestop System Tests Conducted in Accordance with ASTM E814”
  8. ASTM E 2837 “Standard Test Method for Determining the Fire Resistance of Continuity Head-of-Wall Joint Systems Installed Between Rated Wall Assemblies and Nonrated Horizontal Assemblies”
  9. ASTM E3038 “Standard Practice for Assessing and Qualifying Candidates as Inspectors of Firestop Systems and Fire-Resistive Joint Systems.”

The fire testing of penetration firestop and fire resistive joint systems require that both penetrations and joints demonstrate the ability to limit the passage of flame (F rating) and withstand a hose stream test. Fire tests also include provisions for measuring the T rating and the optional L rating. Fire tests of firestop systems are conducted using positive furnace pressures.

For dynamic joint systems, a specific number of expansion and contraction cycles precede the fire test in order to measure the movement capabilities of the joint systems. The movement capability of a joint is expressed as a % of the installed (nominal) width of the joint system.
The fire endurance rating of the firestop system must equal the fire resistance rating of the penetrated fire separating assembly in which the firestop system is installed. With a few exceptions, the methods and materials used in penetrations and joints are tested as a system to demonstrate the methods and materials function as fire containment for the required fire endurance rating. A modification to a tested system voids the rating of the system.

Check Points

Fire Test Standards

  • Is the firestop system Listed? (e.g. by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Factory Mutual (FM), Intertek Testing Services (ITS), Southwest Research Institute (SWRi)).
  • Do the specified firestop systems comply with the standard testing requirements for the in-place conditions?
  • Is the joint intended to be load bearing, and is it indicated as a load bearing system in the listings?
  • Is the specified joint tested and listed to comply with the amount and type of expected building movement?

Testing Laboratories

There are several independent testing laboratories, also referred to as third party testing agencies, which conduct the fire testing of firestop systems. The fire test results are usually included as design listings in the fire resistance directories published by the testing laboratory. These Directories are an important source of information during the plan review process and inspection process. The details, system numbers, manufacturer installation recommendations, and other design listing information are often referred to on the plan submittals. A thorough knowledge of the design listing information is critical to firestop inspections.

The following are some of the recognized independent laboratories conducting tests of firestop systems:

  1. Underwriters Laboratories Inc. Northbrook, IL (847) 272-8800 www.ul.com
  2. Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, TX (210) 522-2311 www.swri.com
  3. Factory Mutual, Norwood, MA (781) 762-4300 www.fmglobal.com
  4. Intertek Testing Services (210) 635-8100 www.intertek.com
Check Points

Testing Laboratories

  • Do your building and fire department plans examiners and inspectors routinely use Testing Laboratories™ Directories?
  • Are you unsure of the compliance of a specific firestop assembly with the listed design? Check out the latest design listings on the Laboratories websites indicated above.

Building Code Requirements

The Building Codes have very clear requirements on passive fire protection. Fire investigative reports have consistently shown that unprotected or improperly protected penetrations and joints have caused millions of dollars in property damage and contributed to the loss of life and injuries due to the uncontrolled migration of fire, smoke and toxic gases. In order to promote life safety and property protection, the International Code Councils (ICC’s) International Building Code (IBC), as well as most State and local Codes, include fire testing and performance requirements for through-penetration and membrane penetration firestops, and fire resistive joint systems. These provisions are included in Chapter 7 – Fire and Smoke Protection Features.

Whenever required by the Building or Fire Code, the fire resistance ratings of floors, walls, horizontal assemblies (e.g. floor/ceiling or roof/ceiling assemblies) must be restored when an assembly is breeched to accommodate penetrations for items such as mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and communication systems. Joints between adjacent assemblies must have a fire resistance ratings, in order to maintain continuity. NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, NFPA 70, National Electrical Code, and IAPMO™, Uniform Plumbing code (UPC), also include provisions related to protection of penetrations and joints.

The IBC, has explicit requirements for inspection of firestop systems and Joint systems before they are concealed.
Check Point – Have you checked your local code requirements? Model Building Codes such as the IBC, NFPA 5000 Building Code and the Life Safety Code, NFPA 101 include different requirements for firestop systems to meet certain performance and testing criteria specific to various construction assemblies. Check out the IFC website www.firestop.org for latest updates on firestop systems regulations.

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