Most trade professionals have come into contact with a fire safety professional and have heard the term fire stopping penetrations before. But there’s a lot more detail around fireproofing that many tradespeople aren’t familiar with. This is information that could ultimately save the lives of the occupants of the building.

Fire stopping penetrations play a crucial part in containing the spread of a fire from one area to another. Effectively installed, fire stopping penetrations ultimately ensure the safety and integrity of buildings if there is a fire.

Ultimately, there is no trade that doesn’t have some effect on the fire rating of a building. Considering fire stopping penetrations at each stage of the project, allows everyone involved to have the peace of mind, knowing that fire safety requirements are sufficiently met and that the building is adequately protected and certified against any risk of fire. In this article we’ll look at various factors around fire stopping penetrations, and all of the ways they’re relevant, and important, to trade services.

What are fire stopping penetrations and how do they work?

In short, fire stopping penetrations relate to the fire proofing around any penetration through a wall or surface. A penetration is an opening, usually created by the use of a cast-in-place sleeve, in a wall or floor assembly required to have a fire-resistance rating, for the purpose of accommodating the passage of a mechanical, electrical, or structural penetrant. These penetrants usually include service openings, designed to carry pipes and cables, as well as ducts and tubing.

The main aim of effective fire proofing is for a fire to be contained within a designated compartment. This is achieved by filling the penetrations (openings and joints) between walls and floors with fire-resistant material, inhibiting the spread of fire between these compartments within the building.

It’s critically important to have fireproof penetrations. This is because, in the event of a fire, penetrations become pathways for fire and toxic smoke to spread from one area to another, compromising the integrity of fire-resistant barriers and endangering the occupants, the property inside and the building itself.

What are the common misconceptions around fire stopping penetrations?

One of the biggest misconceptions around fire proofing is that it’s only about the fire. Although focussing on the effect of a fire is paramount, there are several other important considerations around fire stopping.

For starters, fire stopping penetrations don’t just exist to minimise the spread of the fire from one compartment to another. Fire proofing also exists to stop the spread of toxic gases, caused by burning materials, which can be deadly. Fire stopping also extends to minimising heat transfer through walls. This is because fire doesn’t need to be present to create a spark in the next compartment. Enough heat through a wall may cause the next compartment to catch fire.

Lastly, many people also don’t consider that under extreme heat, many non-metal materials used in wall penetrations will melt. That’s why firestop materials are designed to expand up to 50 times their initial volume when exposed to heat. In the event of a fire, the firestop material occupies any space that the melting material leaves, stopping the fire and gas from moving to another compartment.

Why is collaborating with fire stopping professionals so important for trade services?

The most effective way to ensure you’ve ticked all the firestopping boxes on a project, is by bringing the fire-proofing team on in the early phases of the project. They can then collaborate with the project team to identify and mark all service trade penetrations on the project. They’ll also assist with the project scope, supplying cost estimations and inform teams on how meeting the fire-proofing requirements will impact the broader construction timeline. This means that having a professional on-site throughout the project ensures that level of quality is present, while also ensuring compliance at every point.

What are some real life examples of teams working well with the fire-proofing team?

Sunshine Public hospital

Sunshine Public Hospital was undergoing a significant expansion program, including an additional 52 beds, ultimately granting 1,150 more people the access they need to vital mental health services each year.

PROFINISH Fire Protection was contracted to supply and implement a $1 million multi-scope passive fire protection solution including the treatment of structural steel, service penetrations, structural columns and beams, voids, flooring and fire stopping penetrations.

Lendlease, the contracted building team, faced a range of problems when trying to find a passive fire protection provider who had the resources and relationships to address them.

As a specialised, full-service passive fire company, we’ve built many relationships with suppliers and are experts with tested systems. This meant we could design and propose a fully compliant solution to meet all project requirements, as well as identifying and rectifying all non-compliance issues, including retrofitting fire stopping penetrations to supply a central penetrations register. Our team was also brought on to speed up the program on the job. Because of our large and flexible labour availability, we were able to commit extra time and work around the clock with multiple crews to successfully meet the tight deadline.

Tips for trades professionals to be well informed on fire stopping

Check first

Instead of simply getting started on the job, check everything first. Start with the test report, which will help you ensure that everything you’re about to install is correct. The pre-construction register, which will contain approval from the relevant building supplier (RBS), will streamline the process as well, because you’ll know that everything you’re about to undertake is 100% accurate before you begin.

Wall or ceiling penetrations

Many trade professionals need to run cable through walls or ceilings. Before you go ahead with your job, check whether or not that room or compartment was designed to contain a fire. If it is, then drilling a hole in the wall or ceiling will challenge its fire stopping integrity. If the job requires making a hole, then ensure you take the correct steps to maintain the fire rating of the room or surface.

Cutting corners to save money

Because fire safety isn’t prioritised as much as it should be, teams cut corners, and costs, by allocating less time and money to it than they should do. When it comes to fire safety, there’s simply no place for doing half a job. Of course there is the fact that a bad fire-proofing job will cost you time, money and almost definitely result in non-compliance. But more importantly, it comes down to potentially saving people’s lives, and for this reason alone, a proper fire-proofing job is essential. After all, a good fire-proofing team will be able to offer you the most cost-effective, and compliant, fire-proofing solution for your project. So there really is no reason to cut corners.

Add fire stopping penetration knowledge to your set of skills

There are so many reasons for trade professionals to have solid knowledge around fire stopping penetrations. Apart from playing your part in helping to protect people and minimise damage to a building and its contents in the event of a fire, there is also the fact that failure to adhere to fire-proofing regulations has legal consequences.

Working closely alongside, and collaborating with a professional fire stopping team means having complete scope of fire stopping requirements before you even start a project. This means you’ll be able to effortlessly adhere to fire stopping design specifications at all points, and cover correct documentation practises throughout the project. All of which results in achieving compliance and maximising the overall fire safety of the building.

As a leader in fire proofing, PROFINISH has a wealth of information, relevant documentation and professional support around fire stopping penetrations available. If you’re looking for a fire proofing specialist on any sized project, get in touch with us today.