What Is a Fire Wall in Construction?

March 18, 2024

Fire is devastating to buildings and can quickly engulf entire structures. The Building Code includes a raft of fire regulations to protect occupants and property by slowing the spread of fire. Fire walls are a component of this system. Shane Barker explores what is a fire wall in construction, how it differs from other types of firewalls and why they are needed.

Firewalls are designed to prevent fire from spreading between structures. They can be constructed from various materials including brick, concrete or masonry. However, they are most commonly constructed of drywall, and typically specified to achieve a certain fire resistance rating. This rating is usually expressed in terms of a duration of exposure to fire as well as an integrity level. For example, a fire wall might be required to withstand exposure for 60 minutes or more in order to meet the requirements of the building code.

A key feature of a fire wall is that it is independent from other structural components of the building on both sides. This is a significant departure from other fire rated assemblies that may require tie connections between the wall and the structure on either side of it. This allows for different construction types on each side of the firewall without exceeding the allowable height and area limits.

Firewalls are also required to be insulated in addition to being fire rated. This is typically done by adding a layer of Type X drywall which is thicker than regular drywall and contains glass fibers to provide increased thermal performance. Additionally, firewalls are typically required to have all openings in the walls such as pipes, electrical conduit, wires, ducts and air transfer openings properly closed. This ensures that the firewall will continue to function properly in the event of a fire.

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