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Does This Meet Code 13

Proper Penetrations

Multiple inspectors are challenged with systems that pass thru a fire separation or fire wall.  This can be the fire inspector looking at a fire sprinkler pipe which passes thru a 1.o hour fire separation or the Plumbing Inspector who is looking at a water filled pipe.   The common practices is to plaster red caulk through out the space until the void is filled.

This picture is in a a E use group building:

The question at hand, does this meet code? Which inspector is required for ensuring final compliance?  By the way, I think there could be more then one issue here, lets see what you think….

{ 23 comments… add one }

  • Tim Rogers May 20, 2010, 9:58 am

    I usually want to see a sample of what they are using to fill the void. In Class A, E & I buildings, I would rather see some rock wool or similar material packed into the void and sealed in with the caulk. Recently, I was introduced to a Hilti product that is a pressurized foam product that meets code for Type V construction. Needless to say, I was on the website checking it out to see if the contractor was correct (he was.) Trust, but verify.

  • Milton Gregory Grew, AIA May 20, 2010, 9:58 am

    Where is the through penetration firestopping assembly?

  • Mark Stigers May 20, 2010, 10:38 am

    Where the drywall meets the roof/floor deck is not sealed. Is the exposed wiring thru the conduit sleeve sealed? What is the depth of the red caulk and is there a backing material or just caulk? In a use group E, is the wiring insulation rated to be exposed?

    Thats about it with this view.

  • Lou H May 20, 2010, 10:40 am

    The pipe with the white cables in it should also have the end sealed with fire caulk. Require the contractor to have on the job site an approved fire stop assembly that is from the manufacturer of the caulk for the inspector’s reference.

    Has the conduit fill been exceeded?

  • Chris H May 20, 2010, 10:55 am

    Why doesn’t this “fire-rated” assembly go all the way flush to the deck?

  • Stew White May 20, 2010, 10:57 am

    In this case we see a metal sleeve housing the wiring passing through the rated wall. Use of the assumed fire rated caulk may be appropriate but as Mr. Rogers pointed out: check the specs. How thick should the material be? How large should the annular opening (hole around the pipe) be? Should there be a pre-fill material such as rock wool placed in the annular opening? Does the pipe need to be centered in the annular opening or can it be offsett? If this pipe is ABS or PVC, materials that will rapidly degrade at high temperatures, Mr. Grew hits on the point that there are more appropriate options than fire rated caulk (which may not qualify for use with the plastics).

    Our Fire Inspectors are looking and hopefully recognizing when on-going modifications have occurred that need to be looked at by our colleagues in the Building side. We rely heavily on their expertise to make sure that the construction details are done right in the first place and to help keep us up to speed on the changes that industry brings to the workplace.

    Other issues: just how many wires can be stuffed into a conduit?

  • Richard Esposito May 20, 2010, 11:07 am

    1. The red substance appears to be a topical application. A minimal distructive test will have to be performed by the inspector in order to see if the depth and width around the conduit is consistant width the rating of the wall. Of course, this is only after the material being used has been qualified with a listing for this use. 2. The conduit penetrating the wall is overfilled as well as housing wire from different systems. I would atleast question the use even if this is and appears to be low voltage wiring. 3. The metal t-bar, to the right of the conduit, if passing through the wall is not firecaulked. 4. The top of the wall does not appear to be a rated assembly, too neat and red spray paint will draw my attention, every time. 5. There appears to be contact being made with dissimilar metals, copper pipe to steel. 6. There appears to be a hanging, orange wire nut at the ceiling. Proper termination in a box may be necessary. 7. It appears that someone couldn’t decide if this area is conditioned space or not. Noticed that part of the copper pipe is insulated but none of the other plumbing in the photo, HMM?
    That was fun, thanks for the opportunity to comment

  • Gene Porter May 20, 2010, 11:18 am

    In this case we would require the caulk be smoothed out, seal the end of the pipe, have a sample of the type wire being used through the pipe and either the manufactor of the caulk product or an engineer would have to say that that much caulk meets approval. I would also look a little harder at where the wall meets the ceiling. I see something that looks sprayed on, but the void doesn’t appear to be sealed very well. Also marking it for fire wall rating and sealing future penetrations if this is not already done outside view of the picture.

  • Bob-o May 20, 2010, 11:42 am

    It appears there is a orange plastic dust cover on the smoke detector between the PVC & copper pipes.

  • Michael O'Brian May 20, 2010, 11:57 am

    All, some great comments, I guess I am curious on what you think of our approach on this. When we see what appears to be a system for a penetration, our first question is where is the data sheet from the system’s manufacture.

    Typically the contractor then contacts, the manufacture and determines that their installation is incorrect….. Does this approach work for any of you? Do you find the contractor’s are aware that there are “directions” for the proper install based on the system’s listing?

  • Bob Allard May 20, 2010, 2:50 pm

    I want to say yes this is OK as long as the hole is fill with the proper caulk such as fire stopper which is a special fire-proof type not just the local home store caulk..

  • Jim Stever May 20, 2010, 3:51 pm

    First Question – What is the fire resistance rating of the wall assembly being penetrated.

    Second – Where is the fire stopping product data submitted by the responsible trade contractor. This info is needed to confirm if the fire stopping is done properly meeting the manufactures installation requirements.

    The upper wall section at the deck has what apapers to be a spray intumescent coating to firestop the void space. But the space does not appear to have any mineral wool or fire safing backing before the spary was applied. What thickness of intumescent coating is required by the manufacture to meet the fire resistance rating of the wall assembly.

    Also as noted by many in their emails, the conduit needs to be infilled with fire safing – mineral wool and have an approved fire stopping sealant applied to the opening as required by the manufacture.

    The web joist is not properly fire stopped. It appears that the void between the
    sheetrock and steel web joist has sheetrock tape and mud applied to infill the void space.

    Also a noted by many in their emails, the depth of the infill and fire stoping sealant needs to be field verified to ensure that it was installed as required by the manufacters installation requirements for the fire resistance rating of the wall assembly.

    Has the project engineer or architect made any reference on the plan drawings to indicate the UL fire resistance directory design of the wall and reference the apporiate UL approved Through Peneteration Fire Stop System?

  • Brian Duval May 21, 2010, 7:48 am

    All great observations; it’s something we see all the time unfortunately. Just a reminder, any Fire Inspector or Plumbing Inspector who has a question on whether the assembly was installed correctly should express these concerns to their Building Inspectors for review.

  • Charles Riforgiate LFD May 21, 2010, 8:56 am

    THE PROCESS;
    1. Review the approved plans
    2. determine if the plans indicate a fire resistance rated wall at this location
    3. plan details should indicate the approved fire stop systems to be installed at each membrane and through penetration and all joints, if it is a rated wall assembly
    4. without this information on the approved plans our inspection process cannot proceed. We are not approving fire stop products we are inspecting and approving listed firestop system installations. (see ASTM E 2174, the standard practice for onsite inpsections of installed firestop systems)
    5. the quandry here, as informed inspectors we should not speculate on what could be issues without knowing just exactly what it is we are inspecting.

  • Brian Dove May 21, 2010, 1:47 pm

    Why is the wall rated in the first place? I have found that a lot of contractors out there will fire caulk anything that goes through a wall. I have also found a lot of AE’s out there that stick fire ratings where none are required by the adopted code – design election. Not saying its good or bad just saying it happens.

    If the wall is not required to be fire rated, then why bother? Do AHJ’s enforce the Architect’s design election or the Code adopted by their jurisdiction? If you require correction of a fire stopping system in a wall your code does not require to be rated are you stepping into the Architect’s shoes and out of your AHJ shoes?

    If you do force a contractor to fire caulk a wall because the Architect called for it and your Code does not, have you stepped outside the “Scope of your Employment” and thus brought personal liability on yourself?

    If these wires go to control panels down below, does water go above them in their dedicated space?

    • Frank Bayer May 26, 2010, 6:36 pm

      It is not for us, as inspectors, to judge why the architect called out an assembly as rated.(the owner or his insurance company could require a more stringent rating or, as in the case of hospitals, their certification may require it). If it is on the plan as a 1-hr rated wall, we must inspect it as such including opening protection, penetration protection and head-of-wall. I agree that many architects rate assemblies that are not required to be and we may question why, but with out them changing it on the plans, it must be inspected as approved.

  • Dan O. May 22, 2010, 12:00 am

    Are all these wires considered low voltage communication? I understand the red for fire alarm/detection system and the blue possibly CAT4 or CAT5, but what’s up with all the white? I assume its communication based on how it leaves the conduit that offers a pass-through. I see the void at the top of the drywall where it meets the ceiling/support steel. What’s up with the red spray paint there? That raises a red flag to me. As far as I am concerned the wall lost its fire rating with the inadequate fire stop at the top.

  • Brian Dove May 27, 2010, 12:22 pm

    In this picture above, if your code does not require the wall to be rated – what basis would you have to deny a Certificate of Occupancy or to fail an inspection? There is no apparent Authority in the Code to do so. The Building and Fire Official are only given the Authority to enforce the provisions of the Code and the adopted Ordinances.

    To enforce the Architect’s designs or desires – is to step out of the Scope of our Employment and in our State that could make us personally liable.

    I understand what an approved set of plans is – but the IBC/IRC limit our authority to what the code requires even in the plan review process – “Reviewed for Code Compliance”.

    • Frank Bayer May 27, 2010, 5:25 pm

      106.4 of the Michigan Building Code states “work shall be installed in accordance with the approved construction documents…..” In my jurisdiction we interpret that as giving us the responsibility to make sure the work conforms to the plans”. Now I must say, I heard of a municipality where a closet in a bedroom was changed in size by 6-12″ and the inspector made the contractor revise and resubmit the plans. I don’t think I would ever take it that far. But when it comes to wall ratings, yes, architects continually rate storage room walls in sprinkled buildings even though it is not required. We make the contractor build these as a 1-hr wall(fire doors, firestopping included) unless the architect wants to change the rating(we will accept this in written form).

  • Bill McHugh May 27, 2010, 7:16 pm

    Bryan, thanks for providing a great tool for discussion. There are many great answers to your question, and several have provided answers about the conditions with product thoughts, and even that ‘listings’ are what we’re looking for when inspecting firestopping. And, it was nice to see a reference to ASTM E 2174 Inspection Standard for Penetration Firestop Systems.

    The Firestop Contractors International Association Contractors, Manufacturers and Assocates worked with the Firestop Manufacturers (International Firestop Council) to develop the Standard, and ASTM E 2393, the Inspection Standard for Fire Resistance Rated Joints.

    To answer the question, the process as an inspector for Firestopping has key points to know:

    1. What is the fire resistance rating of the wall? Is there a smoke resistance requirement? If it is a true fire wall, are penetrations allowed?

    2. Ask the contractors the question, ‘show me the firestop system used to restore the rating of the wall to the rating it was before the penetration came’. This should be a listed firestop system design sheet from a testing laboratory approved by the code, such as UL, FM Approvals, Intertek (formerly Omega Point Laboratories). If a tested system does not exist in public directories, then an engineering judgment (EJ) may be needed from the manufacturers laboratory personnel. Both the Listing and EJ would also have a complete description of key items….

    Wall assembly type, thickness, construction and fire resistance (F,T) / air leakage (L) rating
    Annular Space Min/Max
    Penetrating Item type, size, number, specific…i.e., number and type of cables (in % fill),etc.
    Sleeves, or not, type, (plastic, metal), extension distance past wall,
    Firestop Materials such as; Backing Material, sealants, sprays, pillows, foam blocks, composite sheets, putties; with thicknesses stated

    In addition, the manufacturers installation instructions will show how the materials are to be installed, tooling, etc.

    There are contractors that specialize in turning the materials discussed througout this thread into ‘FIRESTOP SYSTEMS’. The Parameters of the Firestop System are in the LISTING from the testing laboratory. Use that for your guide to judge if the firestopping is installed to perform when called upon by fire. It may require some destructive testing to verify as well.

    Find the contractors at http://www.FCIA.org

    Thanks again for the discussion…Bill McHugh, FCIA Executive Director

    PS, if anyone wants a free subscription to Life Safety Digest, drop an email to bill@fcia.org

  • Chris M (Marshal Chris) June 1, 2010, 8:04 am

    Regardless of manufacturer this install isn’t compliant. It’s no different than contractors referring to kitchen suppression systems as “ANSUL” regarless of the manufacturer. Don’t lose sleep over it, you’re doing a really good thing here.

  • stevo December 8, 2010, 9:58 pm

    does everyone agree that a smoke wall only needs one side fire stopped and a fire wall needs both sides ?

  • Frank Bayer December 13, 2010, 6:14 pm

    Depends on what kind of smoke wall…. I can only speak of International Codes.
    A “Smoke Barrier” by definition also has a 1-hr rating. This would need an approved firestop system.

    A “Smoke Partition” needs only “approved” material to limit passage of smoke.(Approved meaning approved by the building official) No firestopping required here.

    Finally, for incidental use areas which are sprinkled and not required to have fire barriers around them, the walls have to be capable of resisting the passage of smoke-pretty vague but hopefully the common sense of the inspector will follow through.

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