Products + Systems = "The Firestopping Business"

Bill McHugh

June 1, 2003

The firestopping business has grown rapidly in the past 10 years. What once was a new, unknown industry is commanding respect in architectural, code and contractor circles. For some numbers, our sources tell us that manufacturer’s businesses are growing, though more slowly than in the past due to reductions in compartmentation. This reduction has been mainly in the western United States, although some in the central states as well. The big change came when the International Building Code used the height and area tables from the "BOCA" National Building Code, which was less stringent than the western states’ ICBO Uniform Building Code. Still, manufacturers report market growth in firestopping.

Firestop contracting, which was once a very small percentage of total firestop products sold nationally, is up to about 25 percent to 30 percent of total firestopping products sold. This is good for life safety, as the firestopping trade generally is better educated about the "zero tolerance" attitude required to install firestopping to the tested and listed system.

With growth in the firestopping business, manufacturers continue to invest in new products to either "catch up" to other competitors, or to introduce totally new ideas and technologies to make firestopping easier. Additionally, manufacturers are extending their product lines to seal openings in passive fire protection systems (such as fire walls, floors and ceilings) by using some of the same intumescent technology, only reengineered for other applications. You’ll see those innovations described as you read this article.

The Firestop Contractors International Association, (FCIA) recently requested information about new products from firestop manufacturers. We received several pieces of information about products and systems that have been released in the past 18 months, and have listed the responses as follows, in alphabetical order.

Nelson Firestop Products

(Fire Protection Lighting Covers)

If an opening is made in a fire rated ceiling to install a recessed lighting fixture, the ceiling’s fire resistance integrity must be restored. Without proper coverage, lives and property could suffer in the event of a fire.

Recessed lighting in ceilings is widely used in commercial buildings. Each ceiling is subject to fire regulations and, where applicable, the ceiling construction needs to be fire rated. However, once a hole is made in a rated ceiling for recessed lighting, the integrity of the construction and its ability to perform in a fire can be reduced significantly. Nelson Firestop Products is introducing a fire protection cover for recessed lighting to restore the integrity of the ceiling.

Key features of the new product include a flexible, lightweight cover that can be fitted from below or above the ceiling. The cover is ventilated to reduce heat build up in the light fixture.

According to the manufacturer, the device can be fitted in seconds with no screws, drilling or support required. The cover can be used in suspended, plasterboard and concrete ceilings. The cover handles a wide range of mains and low voltage downlighters for 30 minute and 60 minute fire rated ceilings.

The product’s principle is that it prevents fire from penetrating the ceiling void to retain the ceiling’s fire protection integrity. When exposed to fire it provides a highly insulating, stable char. While in service, the cover is unaffected by moisture and is non-toxic. Once installed, it’s free from additional maintenance. Additionally, in a fire situation, the cover expands internally to fill all the available space with a fire resistant highly insulating char. The fire is unable to penetrate the hole and the cover is able to give additional insulation protection to the ceiling void by reducing the chance of heat build up and ignition of flammables such as accumulated dust and insulation. The covers are also available for fluorescent lighting systems.

For more information, contact Nelson Firestop Products, P.O. Box 726, Tulsa, Okla. 74101. Phone: (918) 627-5530; Fax: (918) 627-2941. On the Web: www.nelsonfirestop.com.

RectorSeal
(Firestop Gasket, Composite Sheet, Firestop Joint Strips)

Founded in 1937, RectorSeal® is pursuing new and unique technologies to serve the plumbing, hardware, heating, air conditioning, and construction markets both domestically and internationally. In February, 2002, RectorSeal announced the BioFireshieldTM Firestop Gasket. The Firestop Gasket is a single component, fire rated gasket for use with electrical boxes installed in fire rated walls. It can be utilized with both metal and plastic cover plates. The Firestop Gasket is mounted on the inside of the cover plate and installed at the same time as the cover plate, covering the opening and providing the necessary fire protection. According to the manufacturer, BioFireshield™ Firestop Gasket replaces the need for putty pads and saves on material and labor costs, while possessing many tested and listed systems.

When exposed to heat, the intumescent material in the gasket expands, forming a char that seals off the opening and preventing flame spread. This operation alone limits the temperature rise on an unexposed surface.

Another new product for Bio Fireshield is a BioFireshieldTM Composite Sheet. The composite sheet functions as an effective intermittent fire-break within horizontal and vertical cable tray runs, and is used in either new or retrofit construction. It’s a rigid fire resistive panel, with intumescent material bonded to sheet metal. The material is used to seal penetrations and restore the fire rating to floor/ceilings or walls in which a large opening has been made for the passage of penetrating items. The Composite Sheet can be used for shielding conduit, and vital process equipment from radiant heat, flame spread and smoke. According to RectorSeal, when exposed to a fire, the Composite Sheet’s material forms a refractory char that retards heat transmission and tightly seals penetrations against flame spread, smoke and toxic fumes. The 0.2 inch thick sheet provides up to 3-hour fire ratings, is lightweight and can be cut with ordinary snips.

A third product, introduced in late 2001, is the BiostopTM Firestop Joint Strips. They’re used in expansion and control joint systems. The manufacturers says there’s no need for mineral wool or backing materials, as the strip is installed along with any normal backer rod, then covered with an architectural caulk or sealant to form a fire rated control joint. The manufacturer claims installation for only one side of the wall, (depending on the tested and listed system), on joints up to 1 inch wide in concrete and masonry joints. BiostopTM Joint Strips are available for use in concrete and masonry control joints up to 1 inch wide.

For more information, contact Jim Park at RectorSeal, 2601 Spenwick Drive, Houston, 77055. Phone: (713) 263-8001; Fax: (713) 263-7577.

Royal Quickstop
(Quickstop Anchor)

Royal Quickstop is a division of Royal Group Technologies, a manufacturer of polymer-based home improvement, consumer and construction products, including: vinyl siding, roofing tiles, fire protection, blinds, decking, fencing, PVC resin, pipe, pipe fittings and housing.

Royal Quickstop Fire Protection Technologies, Inc., through research and development, has created a technology that allows injection-mold polymer-based intumescent to create firestop devices. The new Quickstop AnchorTM is engineered and manufactured to be ready for installation with no need for additional materials such as mineral wool or fastening devices. There’s no special depth measuring required for caulking.

The Quickstop AnchorTM expands, or intumesces, when exposed to the high temperatures of a fire while the metallic cover plate forces the intumescent pad to expand into the annular space around the pipe, penetrating the rated assembly to completely block the opening through which the pipe passes.

According to Bruce Rush of Royal Quickstop, "The installation of the Quickstop AnchorTM can be summed up in one word, simplicity. Simply select the correct size and type of anchor for the pipe used, unhook the anchor plate and wrap it around the pipe. To complete the installation, depress equally spaced tabs or secure the provide hose clamp against the pipe to lock the anchor in place. One piece, one step and you’re done."

For more information on Royal Quickstop visit www.royalquickstop.com.

Specified Technologies, Inc.
(EZ-PathTM)

Specified Technologies, Inc. (STI), recently announced the new EZ-PathTM" firestop system. The system offers maximum resistance to fire, whether it’s empty or 100 percent visually filled. The manufacturer claims it’s an economical fire protection system with every new or retrofit cable installation.

According to STI, EZ-PathTM features a built-in firestopping system that automatically adjusts to the number of cable installed. The device consists of a heavy-gauge galvanized steel pathway and wall plated lined with intumescent materials. Engineered for rapid expansion when exposed to fire or high temperatures, this intumescent material responds to flames or heat by quickly sealing the pathway and preventing the passage of flames and smoke. Additionally, the compact square design (3 inches x 3 inches x 10.5 inches long) provides greater cable loading than a conventional sleeve. Cables can be added or changed without the need to remove and re-install firestopping materials. EZ-PathTM devices can be installed using available single, duplex, or triples wall plates, and for additional capacity, segregation of cables, and cable.

EZ-PathTM is UL tested and classified in accordance with ASTM E814 (UL1479). Systems are available for common 1 and 2 hour rated wall constructions. Empty or full, EZ-PathTM is continuously code compliant, according to the manufacturer, 100 percent of the time. STI says its built-in firestop design assures that it’s firestopped even at maximum cable loading.

For more information contact Specified Technologies Inc., 200 Evans Way, Somerville, N.J. 08876. Phone: (800) 992-1180 or (908) 526-8000. Fax (908) 526-9623. On the Web: http://www.stifirestop.com/

3M Fire Protection Products

(Cast in Devices, Fire Barrier IC 15WB Sealant)

3M Fire Barrier Cast in Devices are installed before concrete floors are poured and attached directly to the wood forming system. These devices are available with up to 3 hours of fire protection. To complete the system, a pipe is passed through the firestop cast-in device after the concrete cures. There is no need for additional steps to firestop with caulk or wrap strips. According to the manufacturer, it’s one-step firestopping. The line consists of 2, 3 and 4 inch diameter (8-inch tall) devices for both metallic and nonmetallic pipe penetrations up to three hours in concrete as thin as 2.5 inches. There are also accessories for fluted deck applications and a height adaptor to accommodate concrete pours up to 12 inches.

Additionally, 3MTM Fire Barrier IC 15WB Sealant, a latex based, intumescent smoke and firestopping sealant for wall and floor penetrations, is available. According to the manufacturer, the easy-to-handle formulation bonds to concrete, metal, wood and cable jacketing. The sealant dries to a firm, rubber-like solid, and provides up to 2 hours of fire protection. It’s also a very unique, yellow color, to signify its difference from other firestop sealants. The product is typically used around pipe penetrations.

For more information, contact 3M at 3M Center, Building 207-1S-02, St. Paul, Minn., 55144-1000. Phone: (651) 733-0584. Fax: (651) 737-0872; e-mail: dadecker@mmm.com; On the Web: www.3m.com/firestop.

Competition Leads To Improvements

One aspect about free enterprise is that competition drives innovation and efficiency into products and systems. In 1992, typical tested and listed systems for piping had 0.50 inch to 1inch depth of firestop sealant over 3 inch mineral wool for a 1, 2, or 3 hour rated system in floor and wall assemblies. Wrap strip systems were required around insulated pipe penetrations.

Today, with innovative testing and competitive drive to win projects by both contractors and manufacturers, 0.25 inch firestop sealant over 3 inch mineral wool accomplishes 2 hours of protection. That’s half the amount that was previously needed. Wrap strips may not be required for insulated pipe penetrations either, depending on the system. And, spray systems are used for perimeter and walltop joints, at 0.125 inch thick versus the 0.50 inch thick sealant previously required for a 2 hour rated assembly. The efficiency has helped fuel the market size growth of firestopping as customers report that "it’s not as expensive to firestop as it used to be"

Firestopping is an ever changing, ever evolving business. To be successful, the professional firestop contractor must stay up to date on not only new products, but new "systems" for existing products. Not knowing the appropriate system to use can mean whether the firm gets the job, or loses it to a competitor.

Manufacturers and testing laboratories have worked hard to keep "real-time" systems documentation on their sites-meaning instant access to new systems as results are published. If the "new" tested system reduces the amount of sealant, mineral wool, wrap strips required, it could mean significant reductions in labor and material costs for a project. It pays big to be on top of the "systems" available in the market. To find more information about firestopping, visit www.fcia.org/manufacturers.

Editor’s Note: The description of companies and products in this article does not constitute their endorsement by the National Insulation Association or the Firestop Contractors International Association over any other industry-related products or manufacturers.