Building fires are events that can be very traumatic to individuals that live through them, and severely damaging to any structure that encounters one. In construction, avoiding the rapid spread of any fire is an important part of the design process. Spray applied fireproofing is a fire protection system put in place in all buildings to stall any fire long enough for help to arrive and maintain the structural integrity of the building.
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What is Spray Applied Fireproofing?
Spray applied fireproofing is a fire protection system that attempts to keep concrete and steel elements of a structure as cool as possible during a fire to maintain its structural integrity. This system thermally insulates the covered elements of the structure to keep them below the temperature that causes failure; this delays the spread of fire, saves the structure from severe and irreparable damage, and potentially saves lives because it gives people time to escape. Spray applied fireproofing also helps decrease energy bills because it helps insulate the home during cold winter days. It’s a great and necessary system to have in place for all types of buildings.
Intumescent Fireproofing and Cementitious Fireproofing
There are 2 main types of spray on fireproofing. Choosing which type you will use for your project will depend on the conditions that the structure will be subjected to.
One type of fireproofing is Intumescent fireproofing. This is a coating that swells when it comes in contact with fire and protects any element its covering from intense heat for some time. This type of fireproofing is usually used on steel members of the structure like beams. It is becoming very popular because it can be placed on exposed beams and be visually appealing, and it can be placed on elements outside or inside.
The other type of fireproofing is Cementitious fireproofing. This is a product that simulates the durability and strength of concrete, but it is light enough that it can be sprayed onto structural elements like beams and columns. Usually, several layers are applied and become a coating that protects covered elements from intense heat. The downside of cementitious fireproofing is that it can crack like concrete. Additionally, it is permeable so it allows moisture to get into spaces which can negatively affect the steel it is protecting; therefore, cementitious fireproofing should only be used on elements inside and away from high moisture areas.
What Happens if Fireproofing Is Not Done Right?
Fireproofing is meant to protect the buildings’ structure, individuals within the space, and all personal belongings from fire. If fireproofing isn’t done correctly, it can lead to catastrophic results if there is an unexpected fire. If important elements of a building are not coated correctly and even a small portion is left exposed, fire can quickly reach these areas and significantly weaken the steel. At 1,000 Degrees Fahrenheit, Steel can lose up to 40% of its strength and after 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit it loses up to 90%. Proper fireproofing will delay the rise of temperatures long enough for the fire to be put out- saving the structure from collapse.
Third-Party Inspections for Spray on Fireproofing
Since fireproofing a property is so important, townships and building departments require a third-party inspector to verify that the work is all done correctly and meets requirements. Before hiring an inspector, it’s essential that you verify that they are certified to complete the inspection to guarantee the approval from the desired building department.
During the inspection, the inspector is expected to verify plan specifications and make sure that contractors are following the design document. They must make sure that the proper materials are being used, in the correct areas of the structure, and using the manufacturers’ descriptions. Before application of the spray on fireproofing, the inspector must confirm that all surfaces have been properly prepared and cleaned so that the material can bond fully with the desired area. After all material has been applied, inspectors check that the thickness and density of the material meets the design document requirements.
Verification of the thickness of the material is essential because each steel member may require a different thickness to guarantee that it is fully protected. If a member of the structure is not covered by enough fireproofing material and heat gets to it, it won’t be enough protection for the steel resulting in structural damage.
Does your project require a third-party spray on fireproofing inspector? Do not hesitate to call us at (929)381-0030. Sabio Engineering is a certified special inspection agency for fireproofing inspections in NY and NJ.