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Fire Barrier Q & A with J. Downey

All you need to know about Fire Barrier System requirements to be code compliant in your new or existing facility. We sat down with J. Downey, President of Thru-Wall Construction, to answer some general questions to help guide you through the requirements. J. comes from a construction background of superintendent and now transitions all his knowledge into providing a complete system of inspections and repairs or new installation of fire doors and fire stopping within healthcare, education and commercial facilities. 

What is a fire barrier system?

A rated assembly that resists the passage of fire and smoke. The components of a fire barrier system include walls, floors, ceilings, doors & dampers. 

What are building inspectors requirements surrounding fire barriers?

Dependent on the type of building and facility annual door inspections and repairs are required. The documentation from these inspections and repairs is to be made available for review to the building inspector. 

What are monetary benefits, if any, to keeping a building up to code?

Through annual inspections and perpetual maintenance, your facility is able to create a knowledgeable budget over a time period. We like to say that approximately 10-15% of your original cost will be your yearly budget for fire barrier system maintenance and upgrades. This could include repairs of damages seen in inspections or decisions to upgraded outdated systems. 

How often should a building be inspected? 

Annually, doing annual inspections allow for repairs & updates to the fire barrier system to happen at the first identification of failed, broken or damaged parts – cutting down on your yearly costs and large lump sum repair projects. 

What is the most common issue found in code violations?

Let’s break this into two categories, Doors and Fire Stopping and I can give you three for each. 

Doors – Commonly have gaps on any or all sides that do not meet the measurements set by code. Damaged hardware is another common issue, wether this be inoperable exit devices, closers, hinges, etc. We often see in older facilities that their doors are either damaged or fatigued and in need of being upgraded. 

Fire Stopping – Many facilities are missing firestopping in their header walls and are in need of new fire stopping to be installed. We also see that existing firestopping is tampered with or damaged. In addition after construction events holes or punctures are made in the wall calling for new firestopping to be needed. 

Who is able to make inspections, repairs and updates to fire barrier systems? 

Well, myself and the other Thru-Wall employees maintain trainings through DHI, Door Hardware Institute. As well, Thru-Wall is a UL, FM and Hiliti Certified Firestop Contractor. Our guys are long-term carpenters with many years of experience in occupied space. They are not only preforming the inspections of your facility but they create solutions for the most economical way to bring your fire barrier system back to code compliance. 

What systems are in place for code compliant documentation for the building inspector?

At Thru-Wall we use a system called Procore Technologies, through Procore we are able to provide extreme documentation on every fire door or fire stopped area in your facility. Our carpenters use Procore to pin point each door on your floor plan and attach inspections, photos and reports of repairs through a QR Code all in one place. This system gives us the ability to use internally year to year on inspections as well as to turn over to you, the client, for when the building inspector is looking for it. 

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