Giving the occupants of a house time and a path to get themselves and loved ones out of a house in the event of a fire is obviously very important. Once a fire starts near the living areas of a house, slowing it down and giving the people time to escape can literally make the difference between life and death.
The most important aspect of slowing the spread of fires in or near a house is the barriers built into place. Modern construction methods and building codes dictate many effective fire separation barriers built into houses. As a homeowner, it’s a good idea to be aware of these barriers and to not remove or damage them.
Garage to House Separation: Of course, a car or truck full of highly flammable gasoline can be pulled into a garage. While a fire from a vehicle once inside of a garage is very rare, the gasoline contained within a car or truck can greatly accelerate a fire if one breaks out. For this reason, garages in houses are designed to contain fires for a period of time. Wall and ceiling surfaces between garages and living areas of houses are covered with a special type sheetrock covering, doors from garages to houses are built a certain way and openings around pipes and other penetrations are sealed with fire resistant foam or caulking. Passageways for pets cut into doors and pulldown stairs for attics are common homeowner projects that disrupt the intended fire separation. Aside from fires, these openings can also allow harmful exhaust fumes from cars to seep into houses.
Separation between Attached Housing Units: As populations in urban areas grow and housing density becomes a focus, it’s very common to attach living areas of houses to one another. This is typically the case with townhouses or condominium units. When living spaces border one another, specific building methods are put into place to contain fires and slow them from spreading from one area to another. These building methods are similar to garages and usually consist of barriers of drywall or thick wood to contain a fire within a certain area for a period of time. Again, the general idea is to slow a fire and give people time to escape or to give the fire department time to get onsite. One of the most common places for a fire barrier to be broken in a condo or townhouse is in the attic space or garage. Cable TV installers or contractors doing work routinely break out barriers between units to complete their work, often times not realizing the system they have just broken.
While it may seem innocent enough to cut a hole in the ceiling for some attic stairs or in a door for a pet access hatch, realize you might be disrupting a planned system to keep you safe.
Give us a call if you have any questions fire separation barriers in your house.