BACK to Products

Firestop Page

Main Page

Contact

Caulking and Paint Firestop Products

(scroll down please)

Main Site

Firestop Site

Code Evaluations AVAILABLE!

Glossary of Fire Protection Terms

3M Fire Barriers

Vectorising Drawings and Maps; Paper to CAD

Circuit Integrity Fireproofing

Bounding

Code Req's for Firestops

Essay on Performance Based Codes

Master Spec. Section 07840 Firestopping

Related Sections to 07840

Penetration Seal Drawings

Building Joint Drawings 1

Building Joint Drawings 2

Building Joint Drawings 3

History of Firestops in North America

Warnock Hersey Experience

Firestop Trade Jurisdiction

Achim Hering Bio

Man Made Mineral Fibres

Fire Protection Industry Links

Firestop Products and Equipment

Firestop Mortar

Firestop Silicone Foam

Intumescent Products

Endothermic Products

Insulation Products

Caulking & Paint Firestops

Firestop Pillows

Firestop Devices

Firestop Slide Show 1 of 10 Basics

Firestop Slide Show 2 of 10 Code

Firestop Slide Show 3 of 10 No Seal

Firestop Slide Show 4 of 10 Deemed-to-comply

Firestop Slide Show 5 of 10 Misinstalled

Firestop Slide Show 6 of 10 Re-entered

Firestop Slide Show 7 of 10 Faulty Spec.

Firestop Slide Show 8 of 10 Proper Firestops

Firestop Slide Show 9 of 10 Test

Firestop Slide Show 10 of 10 Smoke and Trays

Sample Firestop Listing

Kitchen Exhaust Cleaning; Boiling-Hot Pressure Washing

ULC           UL

T O S

(Theory of Survival)

DIBt

TU Braunschweig iBMB

CONTACT

'Soft Seal' made of rockwool and intumescent paint       Silicone based firestop caulking

Caulking and Paint, comprises a large category of (typically though not exclusively) inexpensive firestop products. Low cost is the exclusive reason why these products have entered the market. This started out fairly innocently, with manufacturers looking for a cost effective product. However, the end result is a proliferation of cheap junk, which endangers Canadian lives. The first firestop caulking started out as intumescents, a separate firestop product category. Caulking and paint firestops can be quite useful in certain limited applications, such as building joints. Intumescent caulking in particular is very suitable for repair procedures in re-entered firestop mortars. Check this test sequence for an example. For the most part, however, human nature has led to the use of caulking and paint firestops in applications for which they may pass testing and meet code, but for which they are as safe as a kitten at a pitbull convention. Theoretically, that kitten may be surrounded by well adjusted pooches, who do not seek bloodshed because this is the post-therapy era, where all bloodhounds are in touch with their inner puppies. But in reality, this kitten is toast within minutes of hitting the floor. Among today's firestops, they are the largest source of installation errors and outright cheating. (Product replacements with similar looking but cheaper goods as well as thinner applications than what the certification listings call for.) 'Caulking and Paint' is, of course, a large category. At a firestop manufacturers' committee meeting, most participants would emphatically disagree with such a broad definition. After all, a silicone caulking is different from an intumescent-laced latex paint or a urethane caulking. The chemistry is radically different, but it all produces thin rubber membranes. The broad category is applicable due to the applied conditions and the similarity in results to the fire victims. It is the 'big picture' that matters, to borrow the popular euphemism. Of course, when our penetration seals and joints are bounded, theoretically all should be well. However, the odds are against these types of products. For one thing, and no manufacturer would readily admit to this, there is no shortage of test failures. Contractors, designers, code officials, inspectors, etc. - none of those folks - in fact no-one other than the test staff and the manufacturer see any test failures. Only the tests which pass, make it into the listings, which are published and reproduced in coveted promotional literature. Test installations represent fairly close to perfect installation conditions. You have a mock-up slab, conveniently raised on blocks for an ideal working height. You have a crane to manipulate the test slab. Lift the slab up to work underneath. Lower it to hip height, to work on the top. No adverse weather to mess things up. All the tools and a lunchroom with a Coke machine within easy reach. If the system designer is inexperienced, the openings themselves may be very pretty (perfectly centred penetrants, nice and tidy). And yet, despite such picture-perfect conditions, an extraordinary number of caulking and paint based firestops fail third party testing. Why is that? Basic high-school physics! Savvy manufacturers have to test close to the ragged edge of disaster: systems must be as thin and as cheap as possible to gain an edge over the competition. The idea is not to pass with margin, but to just pass. If you just pass under picture-perfect conditions, what does field installation do to system integrity? At the top of the page, you've read that the sole motivating factor for the emergence of these products in the firestop market is economics. Let's take that a step further: Take silicone caulking. The first silicone firestop caulking on the market was 'Bioferm' by BIO Brandschutz Isoliersysteme Osnabrück. Made in Germany and soon exported to North America, it was the first such product on both sides of the ocean, before Dow and all else. Through a typing error, it was soon re-named 'Biotherm', a name it coincidentally shares with a cosmetic product (They are NOT interchangeable, unless you want your face to look like a hockey puck.). In the eighties, when firestopping outside the nuclear market was an exercise in martyrdom (Few people parted with money for such safety items, which were obviously needed, but there was no enforcement.) the price for silicone caulking hovered around $15.00 per 300mL tube. This seemed a bargain compared to the intumescent caulking, where 3M's CP25 hovered around the $24.00 per tube price (It has since been improved and dramatically reduced in cost.). $15.00 for a tube of firestop caulking since the advent of silicone - what a deal! And all that was needed was some cheap rockwool underneath the silicone to hold it up. Actually, therein lies the crux of the matter. Silicones, urethanes, latex, anything which does not intumesce, requires the mmmf underneath to save it from the fire. Otherwise, organic caulking and paint will do what they're supposed to: burn to a crisp in minutes - regardless of the certification labels on the side of the tube. The packing underneath or behind the thin organic layer does all the work in terms of stopping the fire. (Does this mean you can use any old cauling for this purpose? In other words, is firestop cauling and paint a big scam? Not quite. You still require a test and a certification listing, remember? That's no small hurdle. You also need lots of listings to bound as many types of holes and penetrants as possible.) The thin organic layer (caulking or paint) on the unexposed side of the fire and penetration seal is supposed to hold the hose-stream test and, supposedly, the smoke (though the latter is not a mandate given by the test procedure as much as a false assumption by writers and readers of the code, fanned by creative marketing). This is where the whole thing falls apart on a real construction site. Check your history. In order for the whole seal to work, the packing has to have the right depth and compression. In older listings, the compression factor is not quantified. How tight is tight enough? Just how much wool of what density has to be crammed into each hole? You can really only do this by field calculation and documentation. Everything else is just plain nonsense, particularly considering the quality of labour and attention to detail prevalent if firestop installations in this country. First of all, have you ever unloaded a truck of rockwool insulation yourself? No? If you had, you would know firsthand about the large density tolerance. Manufacturers' details aside, when unloading just one truck of rockwool, you find a significant difference in mass from one bundle to another. Next, when you look at a recent listing, you may see data such as 4 lb/ft³ rockwool, at 4" thickness, 33% compressed. Logic dictates that you have to calculate the geometry of the opening, account for the compression factor and then calculate the MASS of rockwool, which has to be inserted into the opening. With the tolerances on MMMF the way they are (after all, even if the tolerance were smaller, one squeeze of the stuff in your hand and you change the density exponentially!) you had better go by MASS, not volume, as this is far too uncertain. And if this is not documented per opening, you have no control over the outcome. That is the status quo in this country. Recommendations for such procedures can be found in the specification on this site. Logic further dictates to anyone who passed any high school science class that unless the required parameters (i.e. all aspects of the listing) are closely followed, results will vary all over the map - except that these installations are not in a science lab - they are the real thing and can make the difference between life and death in an accidental building fire. Let's say that a miracle has happened and the wool is properly installed (Can you imagine the Twilight Zone theme playing in the background?). Proper or not, it is only held in with friction, which can be formidable or lousy. The compression/friction (and its longevity) of the wool has a lot to do with who made the wool. Early listings treated wool as a generic item, as though all MMMF were identical. They're NOT. They may be close - but this depends on your frame of reference. Manufacturing techniques concerning the chemical nature of the binding resin (phenol-formaldehyde typically) and the way in which this resin is introduced vary a great deal. There are some archaic plants out there whose techniques are 'stone-age' compared to today's best. If you're not an insulation insider, you might be surprised to learn who has the archaic plants which make junk. Slick advertising and big names are not necessarily indicative of high quality wool. Since all wools are not created equal, which is obvious, just what makes you think that if you compress a lousy wool 30%, it is going to maintain that compression as long as the great wool which was also compressed 30% - considering temperature fluctuations between rooms and the outside, the penetrants, all of which result in motion, which was not tested prior to the fire test? And bear in mind that the compression must be maintained in order to bound the seal. If the compression is lowered, bounding goes out the window. Combinations of moisture, temperature fluctuations and loss of compression may in fact result in exposure of the thin organic layer, as the wool may be pushed aside along direct flaming to impinge upon the caulking, which would drop the rating significantly. The need to maintain compression also applies to silicone foam. So, the one item, without which the thin organic seal is virtually pointless (rubber burns, including silicone), depends upon its resin, its manufacturing technique, its installation technique and environmental conditions. Still comfortable using scab labour with zero training who don't have a firestop ticket from the insulators? Next, let's look at that flimsy organic layer. Intumescents can hold their own usually, without MMMF  packing because they expand and cause their own pressure and friction when exposed to heat. Not so with silicone, latex and urethane. These organics depend on ADHESION to the substrate. Have you ever read the installation instructions for paint and caulking? Without exception, they all say to CLEAN the substrate very well. Silicone has no reliable adhesion in wet or moist conditions. When we started out caulking openings, we started with thicknesses around the 1" mark (CP25). This led one silicone vendor to try to sell his 1/2" caulking for $39.00 per tube, as this was still cheaper than 1" of CP25 - at the time. However, this went over like a lead balloon and we dropped to the $15.00 per tube mark in short order. The cost of the wool is so insignificant that it is hardly worth considering, particularly when the price of caulking was so high. In those days, it was possible for an outsider to purchase reasonably decent silicone caulking for about $7.00 per tube from a small silicone maker and turn a tidy profit selling it for $15.00 per tube (particularly when one does not consider the testing and marketing costs, which quickly ate into the margin!). Anecdotes aside, what wins customers is often limited to low cost. Poor installations by underpaid, undertrained illegal immigrant personnel are not usually considered. Therefore, there was and remains a direct relationship between the cost of the product and the market size. The more is sold, the lower the margins. But that was not good enough. Pretty soon, everyone had 1/2" systems. Then came the next ethical compromise, with the introduction of 1/4" systems. Half the thickness! New and improved! This exponentially drops the (already shameful) likelihood of proper installations. Trying to control 1/4" of caulking over top of stuffed MMMF? This drops the bond surface area in half (that's what holds the hose-stream and the smoke, if you're extraordinarily lucky)  without an improvement in cleaning of the substrates, which is often omitted! It's amazing that when a common caulker caulks a window or some other joint, he is trained to do one wet wipe with solvent and one dry wipe before installing the caulking. And those are just weather seals. This is firestopping! Lives are at stake. But no wet and dry wipes here! Bear in mind that in order to be bounded, the installation has to meet all parameters of the listing - no ifs ands or buts. The next ethical bend came when non-intumescent caulking was tested for cable penetrations and cable tray penetrations. There are two problems with this: (1.) cable trays heat up and expand, then collapse. It takes a firestop mortar of sufficient depth to hold them in place. Caulking and paint firestops are proven to be shredded by heat induced ferrous tray motion. North American testing does not simulate this because our furnaces are not deep enough. Thus such deficiencies are OK by code, after which all conscious thought typically stops in the construction industry. This is the simplest of high school level physics. Yet try to find a caulking manufacturer to acknowledge this! Problem (2.): Manufacturers are quite correct that these flimsy rats nests are very easy to tear into. The buzzword is "re-enterability". Of course, a bit of caulking or even glorified paint over top of stuffed wool is not excessively tricky to poke a hole through. The trouble is that no-one seals these holes back up again. But let's say that the impossible has finally happened and some unlucky soul actually re-seals an re-entered firestop - or an excuse for one, made of stuffed wool with caulking or paint! The bigger the hole, the worse the dislodging of the wool. Take a look at some re-entries here. You don't have a positive  bond between wool and flimsy organic topseal. The wool is not much different from cotton balls used in cosmetics. Apply some paint to this stuff and let it dry. Removing the cured rubber afterwards takes no more effort than pulling a slice of bologna off your open sandwich. It's no different in a firestop. Contrary to all marketing efforts to the contrary, the basic laws of physics apply to firestopping as much as Murphy's law. Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein AND Murphy would agree that the violence used to re-enter firestops scrambles caulking and paint systems. As such, this category of products is at best a poor band-aid, used wrongly - for the most part. Enter paint. Actually wool and paint had been used in Europe for decades before they attained much use in North America. The reason why this even more flimsy junk has become used in North America is because we have hit bottom in terms of going thinner with caulking. Even the most ethically blind and morally corrupt marketing professionals cannot entirely ignore the folly of spreading caulking much thinner than 1/4"! Well, but then how thinly can you apply paint? Now we're jumping by orders of magnitude! Thankfully, these systems are typically tested in a manner whereby the paint must overlap onto the sides of the opening. Contrary to caulking, which can only bond to the substrate at the perimeter of the opening, the use of rubber paints increases the bond surface area by overlapping onto the slab. That's if the slab is clean. If the opening is a metal sleeve, complete with cutting oil residue and other dirt,  the bond surface may not be increased, depending upon whether the sleeve is flush with the wall of floor or whether it extends past the opening. The lowest possible price and proper surface preparations are often mutually exclusive concepts in Canadian firestopping. And if there is one type of product that requires proper surface preparation, it is this one.

In summary: caulking and paint systems are OK in joints and small penetration seals. They must be used with far more caution than they are being used in this country. Large penetrations and particularly cable tray penetrations are best mortared. Caulking and paint systems are routinely misinstalled.

BACK to Products

Firestop Page

Main Page

Contact

Main Site

Firestop Site

Code Evaluations AVAILABLE!

Glossary of Fire Protection Terms

3M Fire Barriers

Vectorising Drawings and Maps; Paper to CAD

Circuit Integrity Fireproofing

Bounding

Code Req's for Firestops

Essay on Performance Based Codes

Master Spec. Section 07840 Firestopping

Related Sections to 07840

Penetration Seal Drawings

Building Joint Drawings 1

Building Joint Drawings 2

Building Joint Drawings 3

History of Firestops in North America

Warnock Hersey Experience

Firestop Trade Jurisdiction

Achim Hering Bio

Man Made Mineral Fibres

Fire Protection Industry Links

Firestop Products and Equipment

Firestop Mortar

Firestop Silicone Foam

Intumescent Products

Endothermic Products

Insulation Products

Caulking & Paint Firestops

Firestop Pillows

Firestop Devices

Firestop Slide Show 1 of 10 Basics

Firestop Slide Show 2 of 10 Code

Firestop Slide Show 3 of 10 No Seal

Firestop Slide Show 4 of 10 Deemed-to-comply

Firestop Slide Show 5 of 10 Misinstalled

Firestop Slide Show 6 of 10 Re-entered

Firestop Slide Show 7 of 10 Faulty Spec.

Firestop Slide Show 8 of 10 Proper Firestops

Firestop Slide Show 9 of 10 Test

Firestop Slide Show 10 of 10 Smoke and Trays

Sample Firestop Listing

Kitchen Exhaust Cleaning; Boiling-Hot Pressure Washing

ULC           UL

T O S

(Theory of Survival)

DIBt

TU Braunschweig iBMB

CONTACT

1