Fire-Rated Building Materials For Commercial Structures In Boston


Cost is a chief concern among building contractors, but often, the quest for an inexpensive project leads to the creation of structures that are very susceptible to fire. Ideally, a construction project will be resistant to fire, but also limited in terms of expenses. These goals may seem impossible in conjunction, but can easily be accomplished if the following considerations are kept in mind:

Drywall: An Inexpensive Fire Solution

A partially burnt wall from an electrical outlet malfunction.For years, drywall has served as the building material of choice among commercial contractors. The use of gypsum in drywall allows this relatively inexpensive material to serve as a form of passive fire protection. When exposed to heat, the water naturally contained in the drywall's gypsum turns into vapor, thus preventing the further spread of fire.

Drywall is unique in that, despite its natural resistance to fire, it is every bit as affordable as alternative building materials. In fact, drywall delivery in Boston is popular because it actually delivers significant savings when compared to other materials commonly used in commercial construction. The material also contributes to a streamlined construction process, as it is notoriously easy to ship and assemble.

Fire Retardant Treated Wood

Although affordable and in plentiful supply in the Boston area, untreated lumber proves problematic as a building material, due to its susceptibility to fire. Fortunately, this risk can be mitigated with the help of retardants. When applied to wood, these serve as an extra barrier against the spread of fire. In doing so, the retardants enable commercial buildings constructed with lumber to meet Boston building codes. More importantly, they keep the individuals working in said buildings safe. By slowing the rate of destruction, retardants make it easier for affected structures' occupants to escape while also preventing the complete destruction of the building before help arrives.

Outside decking fire leaves behind a charred trail of wood.Perhaps the greatest advantage of fire retardant treated wood is that, compared to materials classified as noncombustible, it proves surprisingly affordable. This treatment does not actually make wood noncombustible, but it does allow for an effective and affordable alternative to the common construction materials that may be financially out of reach.

Fire-Resistant Interior Finishes

In general, Boston's guidelines for interior finishes are in keeping with federal guidelines. Finishes are separated into three distinct classes, with Class A finishes proving far more adept at slowing the spread of fire than Class B and C finishes. The City of Boston's general fire requirements mandate that interior finishes composed of foam and cellular plastic fire materials are prohibited when deemed a public safety hazard by the Head of the Boston Fire Department.

Choosing a finish that abides by Boston Fire Code and is still reasonably affordable can be difficult. Gypsum plaster finish is ideal, as, like drywall, it is very resistant to fire. Likewise, cement plaster finish is also excellent for fire prevention. Both of these finishes are very affordable, making them excellent for low-budget commercial construction projects.

Fire Walls

Depending on the nature of the materials and finishes used in a particular commercial construction project, fire walls may be necessary for the promotion of sound fire prevention.These walls can help structures that otherwise might not abide by federal and local fire codes meet all necessary requirements. Whether used to separate transformers or to subdivide an entire building, a fire wall may serve as an effective means of protection in a structure built with combustible materials.

Fire Rated DrywallIn the vast majority of modern structures, fire walls are constructed from concrete or, in some cases, reinforced concrete. Pipes or cable penetrating these fire walls must be protected with the assistance of firestop assemblies. Approved materials for firestops include silicone, intumescents and a select group of rubber compounds.

Careful consideration must be made when selecting building materials and finishes, as these will determine whether a given structure abides by fire code. More importantly, contractors should strive to create commercial structures that will keep occupants safe from the threat of fire. Look to gypsum, cement and fire-treated wood to ensure that every commercial building project remains both safe and affordable.

As an example, of just how fast fire can move through buildings, watch the video below of a construction worker stuck on a balcony as a fire consumes a building near the AIG campus in Houston, Texas.

Firestop Product Guide Download

Photo credit: musicalwds / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)
beltzner / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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Wallboard Supply Company is a third generation, family run business that has been serving New England's building needs since 1970. Bob Filion started the company with a commitment to provide quality drywall and finishing products with unmatched customer service. The company has grown over the years, expanding its' product range, but never wavering from its' core values.