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

Making changes to fire-rated building components, like drilling in walls and adding new electrical systems, can disrupt carefully structured fire protection materials and systems. Fire-rated components have instructions for proper installation, operation, and maintenance. Deviating from these guidelines can compromise the component’s capability to withstand fire and smoke, putting lives and properties at risk.

Certain modifications in a property are allowed as long as they comply with existing regulations. For instance, NFPA 80 (Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives) enables the installation of protective plates and undercutting with a maximum of three-quarters of an inch on wood or composite doors in a building.

However, building alterations like HVAC system modifications, structural changes, and new installations can negatively affect a building’s fire prevention system. When making any building alterations and renovations, property owners and managers must prioritize fire safety.

Primarily, they should identify the location of fire-rated assemblies to determine which areas cannot be changed without violating fire safety standards. They can locate the fire-rated components in a property by looking through the building plans. If there are no documents, they can consult an engineer for a commercial building inspection NJ.

A structural engineer NJ can also be consulted to prioritize fire safety on any modifications that involve penetrations. Communications and cable installations often leave unseen holes in walls and ceilings. Owners can seek the assistance of a professional to plan changes in a property that do not adversely impact the fire rating of building components. A professional’s involvement can help maintain a property’s safety and integrity, which protects occupants if a fire occurs.

Engineers can also devise alternative solutions to help maintain a building’s structural integrity and fire resistance. These solutions encompass reinforcing existing building components or specifying new fire-rated materials.

Professionals can also work with local building and fire safety authorities when making modifications so they align with fire safety standards. They can provide the needed documentation and technical details for compliance purposes.

Learn more about residential and commercial building modifications with this infographic by Lockatong Engineering.