With many different firestop products and UL systems on the market, how does a building owner know they’re getting code compliance at a fair price? Open the UL Fire Resistance Directory and you will find at least 60 firestop manufacturers and over 3,000 individually tested designs. Various trades and specialty installers are also all claiming to be firestop experts. With all of these choices, how do you identify which is the best product and who is the best choice to apply it?
Firestopping is a system rather than just a product. A firestop system consists of the barrier being penetrated, the penetrating item (piping, cables, and conduits), and the firestopping products and design used to seal the opening. A little time spent choosing the right systems will not only make the initial installation easier and more cost effective, but may also save you, the building owner, time and money over the life of the facility.
A Quick Re-Entry
For permanent installations, a permanent firestop product such as a caulk or sealant is often the right choice. Depending on the application, either an intumescent (expanding) or endothermic (heat absorbing) product is required. For large-diameter plastic pipes, an intumescent device known as a firestop collar is required.
There are life safety products and systems that facilitate quick, easy alteration of the cabling system. We like to refer to them as re-enterables and recommend products that are ready to install out of the box and do not require tools or fasteners. Firestop putty and pillows fit that bill.
Firestop putties represent a class of 100-percent solids, non-hardening products. Putty excels in applications requiring subsequent changes after installation. Most firestop putties are intumescent products. Pillows typically consist of a resilient fibrous core material encapsulated in an intumescent coating protected by a poly bag. The poly bag is slip-finished to allow for easy cable retrofit by simply removing and re-inserting a single pillow at the cable interface.
Knowledge is Power
You should not be totally reliant on others when it comes to the information that you will use to make critical firestopping decisions regarding your projects. Many general contractors and construction management firms have created a firestopping champion on their staff. While you can’t reasonably expect this person to know all 3,000 of those UL systems, he or she can be trained to know where to go to get the right answers when they are needed.
Comprehensive firestop training is available for virtually all aspects of this process. The Firestop Contractors International Association (www.fcia.org) provides training and certification methodology for installers. Courses are also available that provide AIA accreditation.
What’s the Answer?
Failing to plan is planning to fail. This old adage is true for firestopping. Manage the firestop bid package. Evaluate the building type, the intended use, and standardize UL systems for the project. Standardizing puts you in control, reduces project costs, and simplifies bid comparisons. The hardest part of getting the best value for your firestop dollar is determining what you need and who should do it. Doing the hard work up front will make the rest of the project a whole lot easier.
Raymond J. Bruno is director of marketing at Specified Technologies Inc. Headquartered in Somerville, NJ, Specified Technologies is a leading manufacturer of firestop products with over 560 UL-listed systems. Additional information can be found at (www.stifirestop.com) or by contacting (800) 992-1180.