If you said, “nothing,” you wouldn’t be far from the truth.
Fact is, once penetrations are made in a fire-rated wall, it’s no longer a fire-rated wall. Those penetrations need to be patched with an approved firestopping material in order to make it a fire-rated wall again.
Sad truth is, a lot of penetrations are either left alone or worse, patched with something that isn’t a fire-rated product like firestopping.
You’d think that the contractor who made the penetrations would be responsible for patching the penetrations. But a lot of times, they pass the buck to another contractor or use an inferior (read: cheaper) product that isn’t an approved firestopping product or they simply don’t know whose job it is to firestop the penetrations.
Seems to be that Firestopping is the red-headed step child of building materials.
Our experience bears that out. We’ve been getting an increasing number of calls saying that buildings are failing fire inspections by the Department of Health or other licensed inspectors. The list of violations seems to be getting longer and longer, and they commonly involve unpatched or improperly patched fire-wall penetrations. When we are asked to inspect fireproofing or firestopping issues, we sometimes see that the wrong technique or wrong product was used to patch penetrations, probably because it was the easy and cheap thing to do.
We’ve seen cement smeared into a fire-rated wall penetration. We’ve seen Great Stuff spray-foam squirted into penetrations and then painted red to mimic the look of firestopping. (Neither of these products, by the way, is a firestopping material.) We’ve heard stories of contractors who don’t want the added expense of patching penetrations or whose deadline can’t accommodate the extra time it would take to patch the penetrations (which is silly, really, because firestopping isn’t terribly time-consuming). And we’ve seen contractors simply walk away from the penetrations they made because they thought it was someone else’s job to patch the holes.
Shortcuts were taken, or someone wasn’t trained to properly firestop, or no one understood whose job it was to firestop, or time wasn’t taken to do the job right because they figured no one was watching… Intentional or not, not patching penetrations or patching them incorrectly can have disastrous results. Worst-case scenario? We’re talking about fires that could’ve been contained by firestopping spreading to other parts of a building.
More than likely, though, it means a laundry list of issues that an inspector may find on the jobsite after the fact. Then a contractor like us is called in to take care of the problems.
Taking a proactive approach during the initial scope of work is extremely important especially to avoid pitfalls for the Building Owner later down the line. The Contractor in charge should hold a meeting prior to the start of the project to identify the responsibilities of all subcontractors and the need to create penetrations; the allowable material to be used to patch the penetrations; and the scope of labeling and or tagging the penetrations to make sure everyone is on the same sheet of music.
As the saying goes: An ounce of prevention today prevents a catastrophic event from occurring tomorrow.
Got a Firestopping issue/problem? Contact us at 610-323-6990 or email@example.com.