Owners Beware: Building Modifications Can Void a Component’s Fire Rating

Fire ratings refer to the standardized measure of a building element’s performance during a fire. These ratings determine how long a specific building component can resist fire while maintaining its structural integrity. Fire-rated doors, walls, and ceilings create compartmentalization in a building, which lessens the risk of flames, heat, and smoke from spreading and enables safe passage.

Fire-proof walls, doors, windows, and ceilings are assigned specific fire ratings after laboratory tests and certification processes. During the test, the building component is exposed to standardized fire conditions to assess how it performs under fire exposure. If a building component successfully meets the performance criteria, it is certified and listed by relevant authorities or certification bodies.

Fire-rated components have instructions that must be followed for proper installation, operation, and maintenance. When installing fire-rated components, the structural engineer NJ and builders must strictly follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to preserve their fire-resistant properties and performance.

However, there are instances in which modifications or changes to buildings can unintentionally weaken the fire resistance of building components. Simple changes such as adding a sign or changing the hardware of a fire-rated door can compromise its fire rating.

Fire-rated doors and windows are made and tested to resist fire, heat, and smoke. Any door and window replacements with non-fire-rated alternatives can significantly reduce the effectiveness of a building’s fire prevention system.

Changing insulation or cladding can also affect a building’s fire resistance. Some materials may be more fire-resistant than others. Any alterations to these layers can impact the overall fire performance of a structure.

Property owners can consult a commercial building engineer NJ to prioritize fire safety when planning changes involving penetrations. Communication and cable installations in a structure often leave unseen holes in fire-rated components. Building owners should leverage a professional’s expertise and knowledge when planning modifications so that they do not void the fire rating of building components.

For more details about how building modifications can compromise a component’s fire rating, here is an infographic by Lockatong Engineering.