Ensuring a project meets all fire codes is important for the initial construction project. Once the building is complete, it’s critical firestop components be maintained as regular wear and tear can damage these components over time. The installation of new cables, other maintenance activities, electrical and mechanical defects, and the settling of the building can all damage or alter the firestop measures you put in place.
Adhering to a regular inspection and maintenance schedule helps ensure that firestop systems do not become less effective. Two organizations provide guidance for how to maintain the fire safety measures that were so carefully implemented:
- International Code Council (ICC)
- National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
The ICC provides guidance on how best to maintain a firestop in the requirements of the International Fire Code. The following International Fire Code sections detail the requirements for the most common maintenance procedures:
International Code Council’s International Fire Code
- Section 7.01 specifies the building owner’s responsibilities, including the components that need to be regularly inspected and maintained.
- Section 703.1 covers most of the maintenance that is commonly required for joint and firestop systems.
- Section 703 details the numerous requirements associated with joints.
- Section 704 covers the typical inspection and maintenance requirements for voids.
The building owners are typically responsible for ensuring their firestop systems continue to be effective. They are required to conduct regular inspections of all of the components that you installed, making it essential for you to ensure that they have a complete installation list. The building owner will need to document inspections, repairs, and changes to the firestop systems.
National Fire Protection AssociationThe NFPA has documented their own recommendations on the best methods to inspect and maintain firestop systems. Chapter 4 contains their guidance for maintenance of a wide range of safety codes, not just fire codes. Fire specific considerations are covered in Section 4.6.12, including fire resistive systems and constructions that are a part of other assemblies. While it does make recommendations about who is responsible for inspections and maintenance, the code leaves the frequency of those inspections up to the responsible parties. This recognizes that different locations have their own standards and requirements, and the responsible party needs to determine the inspection and maintenance schedule.
Firestop MaintenanceYou should establish an annual review of firestops and corresponding fire-resistance components. This will allow for early detection of potential issues, to repair and replace any damaged or deteriorating components. Any potential areas of concern detected during the annual inspection should have immediate repairs scheduled. Different levels of damage and problems will require another assessment to determine what solution will restore the system to the required fire resistance rating.
As a general rule, any material that is damaged should be replaced. The replacement materials should be the equivalent of what was originally used, both in terms of composition and thickness. It must also meet the requirement of a fire test.
For example, if a firestop sealant is damaged, the same sealant should be used to repair it. Before adding the sealant, the old sealant should be removed (if possible) and the surface cleaned and dry. The same processes and preparations should be followed for the repairs as in the original application of the sealant to ensure the repairs meet building requirements.