RED is RIGHT?!? Firestop Colors Explored

Posted on 5/5/2017 9:12:04 AM By Sharron Halpert

Our last firestop blog shared the history of firestop with you. We talked about some of the cheats the industry had seen in the early days.  While this doesn’t happen so much anymore, the idea that firestop is red still prevails in some areas both with installers as well as with inspectors and everyone in between.  After the last post you know that just because its red, doesn’t mean its firestop.  But after this post you will see that just because its firestop, doesn’t mean it is red.

Some manufacturers make custom colored firestop that is only sold to one firestop installer.  This ensures that, if someone else improperly installs firestop after they have left the project, they can easily identify it by a different color. Other manufacturers have different colors to make it easier for the inspector to identify the material.  One example manufacturer for example has their intumescent material in a deep red color, their less expensive intumescent material is yellow and their non-intumescent material is a bright blue.  Let’s complicate things just a tad more. Many manufacturers are able to provide a joint sealant in a color that matches a finished area. This is useful if it is not to be painted, but it adds a bit of a complication to the inspection process, but it is aesthetically another option.

Gone are the times when people are mixing up sealants or drywall caulks with colorants, but those old timers who once did that are still out there.  Gone are the days when an inspector should just look for the red to be sure the firestop is the proper material.  Now quality control people, special inspectors and jurisdictional inspectors all need to know a bit more about the material used on their project.   Intumescent, elastomeric and other terms are more commonly known in the firestop industry.

Elastomeric materials are used in rated joints, because, as the name suggests, they are stretchy and will allow for movement in a joint without losing adhesion to either substrate.  It should be noted that if one is choosing to paint this then an elastomeric paint should be used otherwise cracks will expose the sealant behind the paint. This is where some designers choose to use a custom colored sealant.

Intumescent materials are going to expand when exposed to fire scenarios.  People often ask how much, or what temperatures does it take.  The answer to these questions is critical to the performance of the material used; but is impossible to answer without first asking more questions.  For example, an intumescent sealant will not expand as much as a wrap strip.   One manufacturers product may expand at a different temperature or at a different rate than another manufacturer. This is why it is imperative that if a tested and listed system is submitted for a project, the same manufacturers material is installed.  Not only that, the installation needs to match the system provided.  There is a great deal that goes into this that it cant be covered in this blog post.

A lot has changed since the Browns Ferry fire.  Building codes have become more complex. Knowledge levels have improved. Manufacturers have come out with any number of new products, but the lion’s share of the firestop industry is still sealants and sprays.  This is not likely to change.

In our next post we will discuss when using an intumescent material is critical to the proper performance of firestop materials. Critical to the point that you are guaranteed failure if you do not use an intumescent material.   That means that if you are in this industry it is information you need to understand.