Fireproofing is not just a safety concern, it is a legal requirement in the construction process of buildings. All buildings feature penetrations of some kind. These penetrations usually exist in the form of service openings for pipes, cables, and ducts. They create pathways for fire and smoke to spread throughout a building in the event of a fire. Fire stopping penetrations play a crucial role in ensuring the safety and integrity of buildings by containing a fire within its designated compartment, by fireproofing those penetrations, slowing a fire’s spread, allowing occupants to safely evacuate and minimise any potential damage to property. In this article, we’ll look at the various materials used in fire stopping penetrations, and how they are effectively applied, managed and documented.

Choosing the correct materials

The choice of firestopping materials required on a project should be based entirely on the specific requirements of the building being constructed, and the applicable building codes and regulations it requires to receive a certificate of occupation once complete.

A professional firestopping team’s responsibility is to assess what is required, and recommend the most appropriate fireproofing system for the project. Using a reputable brand of materials will be important to them, and they will almost always use a brand they know and trust. Using a professional gives you the peace of mind knowing that the firestopping penetrations installed on your project are going to be effective.

A firestopping system is made up of a few elements. These elements will usually all come from the same manufacturer. It’s vital to ensure that the fireproofing installation is then performed by trained professionals, who will install the system in accordance with manufacturer instructions, in line with the relevant test reports and industry best practices.

The materials that make up fire stopping penetrations include:

Firestopping sealants

These sealants are mostly used on cables and small plastic and metal pipes. They seal any gaps that could transfer smoke or flame from one compartment to another.

Firestopping cast-in and drop-in devices

These devices are designed for vertical installations, like flooring and vertical compartmentation. They are most commonly used to fireproof plastic and metal pipes in concrete, hollow core and concrete-over-metal deck flooring.

Firestop collars

Fire collars are circular fireproofing products that are fitted around penetrating pipes and contain an inner lining of intumescent material that swells when exposed to heat, mitigating the spread of smoke and flame.

Fire Wraps

Fire wraps are used to provide the insulation criteria to service penetrations, most commonly cable trays, cable bundles and steel or copper pipes. As these types of services heat up during a fire, this heat can then transfer the fire source from one compartment to another if not insulated with a wrap. Fire wraps differ between manufacturers, however, they’re typically composed of synthetic mineral fibres such as rockwool or ceramic fibres.

Documentation and certification

Another important consideration when choosing the right material for fire stopping penetrations is the various documentation they require. If you’re working with a professional fireproofing team, they will mark and report all the service trade penetrations on the project.

These penetrations will be documented and accompanied by test reports for the specified fire stopping products that will be installed. This information is compiled into a detailed register, which provides an understanding of the scope and requirements for every fire stopping penetration within the project.

The Building Code of Australia (BCA) specifications must also be adhered to in the installation of fire stopping penetrations. Failure to adhere to these regulations can pose significant risks to life and property and have legal consequences. A professional team will effectively install and have the fire stopping penetrations tested to ensure the integrity of compartmentalisation within a building.

Another responsibility of the fire stopping team is to present and document the penetrations and test reports to the Registered Building Surveyor. This is done to demonstrate that the installation was performed in compliance with the Australian building codes, in order to receive approval of the Building Permit. A photo of each individual penetration is provided on this register for proof of installation, which saves the need for the building surveyor to go around and inspect every penetration themselves.

Common mistakes around fire stopping materials

Below you’ll find the most common mistakes one can make when it comes to fire stopping penetration materials –

Avoid installing fire stopping products yourself

Fire stopping materials should only ever be installed by experts, to ensure that the fire stopping system functions effectively and will retain its fire rating. Even the best products available won’t perform effectively if they are installed poorly, which can then create reworks and be an expensive process.

Avoid using incorrect products

Using the correct products is critically important because different materials respond differently in the case of a fire. This means that each material requires a different approach to effectively fireproof. Using the incorrect product, or the same product to fireproof several different types of materials will result in the fire stopping system being ineffective, and pose a serious fire risk.

Avoid mixing products

Fire stopping products are designed to fulfil specific fireproofing roles, as well as to meet specific fire ratings. Mixing different brands would mean that the system would not have been tested and would not be a DTS (Deemed-to-Satisfy) system.. This is essential in meeting the legal requirements of fire stopping systems.

Avoid using uncertified fire stopping products

There is a very good reason that professional fire stopping experts prefer to use products that they know are effective and trustworthy. These experts know that the products they use have been tested and have proven to be effective. Untested products are unreliable and pose a serious risk of failing to perform as intended, resulting in a significant fire risk.

Choosing the right equipment manufacturer

Your choice of fire protection equipment manufacturer is a crucial factor in ensuring the safety standards of fireproofing work. There are several factors to consider when choosing a manufacturer –

Quality check

Ensure that the manufacturer has all relevant certifications, and complies with industry standards and regulations.

Customised offering

It’s important to find a manufacturer that will be able to deliver on your specific requirements. Look for a manufacturer that offers customised or project-specific solutions, to ensure that the products are best suited for your needs.

Industry Experience

One of the key factors to consider is how long a specific manufacturer has been in the industry. Look for a business that has the experience and expertise gained from many years manufacturing fireproofing products to ensure quality and credibility.

Customer service

Look for a manufacturer who will work with you as a partner, and who will provide dependable customer service and technical support. The ideal manufacturer will also offer an emergency response service and be available to you if needed.

Reliable fire stopping solutions

There are several factors to consider when choosing the right materials for effective fire stopping penetrations. By seeking the guidance of a professional team, you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that the correct material has been chosen, and that the installation will not only be effective, but will meet all legal requirements and correct documentation at the end of a project.

PROFINISH is a leader in the fire stopping industry. We believe that effective collaboration, adherence to design specifications, and proper documentation are key factors in achieving compliance and effectively protecting a building against the risks of fire.