Fire walls

With a town house inspection coming up , I was wondering if some one could give any info on what to check in this area.
Is there a good url I could check, or any tips on what is a common problem that I might find up in the attic?

I’m not sure about fire code requirements, but I always mention the possibility of entry into one unit from another unit if there is a common attic. There was one instance in a local town of burglary through this method.

The age of the building may dictate whether or not a fire-wall was required at the time of construction, however, you should not hesitate to mention its abscence if that is the case.

Here’s how I address it when it was not required initially. . .

Thanks ,
I goggled a sat shot and see there is a firewall seperation on these 3 story brick places, but was wondering about things like what to look for if there are any componants going through walls. built 94


If there is a firewall it will be a free standing “probally” concrete block wall that should extend at minimum 30" above the roof unless the underside of the roof sheathing is fire rated.

Usually with townhomes here, there is a “fire seperation” With a fire seperation the type X drywall should be between units. Any penetrations must be sealed with an approved sealant and the roof sheathing should be treated “fire retardant treated” which will have a stamp on it. If they don’t use treated wood for the roof sheathing they have to have the drywall extend 4’ on the underside of the roof sheathing from where the fire seperation is.

There can’t be any voids in the fire seperation and all penetrations must be sealed with an approved sealant. If there are penetrations that have been sealed and there is a small piece of extra sealant, put a flame to it when you get Out of the attic and see if it burns.

Anyways, hope this helps and perhaps someone can post a copy of the code requirements.

Thanks Matt.
Sounds stupiid but how can I tell if the drywall is fire rated.
I am sure it will not have stickers or labeling at this point.:slight_smile:


Often times you can see little strands/fibers in the drywall if you look along the edges between the paper and many times it’s labled X rated. I have found the marking that still could be read on many homes years older than 1994.

If you look at x rated drywall next time your in a home store ( Home Depot or Lowes), look along the edges in between the paper and you will see tiny fiber strands.

Matt, that will not help in a finished , painted home , but thanks for the tip,

The fire seperation in the attic space will not be painted and often times you can see along the edges of the drywall that is installed on the underside of the roof sheathing. You will likely see some kind of marking though. If not just make sure all penetrations are sealed.

Ok , that one helps.
Thank you.

Whether the firewall was code or not when they built the building, I call them out anyways. It’s a very simple safety recommendation.

All dwellings should have a fire rated barrier installed between them.

check it closely Robert. I had a new townhome a couple of weeks back and there were 4 different places along the fire wall that had small openings. this was the largest and pretty much the only significant issue. builder did a good job on the rest of the place. oh. wait. except for the hot unused outlet laying on the floor behind the tub skirt.:shock:

Was a three story.
No attic access, and I told him I will be happy to come back, as he plans on cutting an access hatch latter.
Gable vent at top was huge and cut out like a dormer in front with no way to get in.

Be very careful calling a separation wall a “fire wall” in a report unless you can definitively verify the components and their proper installation on both sides. Read thisand make your own decision.

We just lost another child in an apartment fire over the weekend and the report is a separation wall was present but in no way met “fire wall” assembly standards.

Most that I see have been poorly installed (falling down/apart, not fire stopped or taped properly…) and then breached by audio-video-communications installers or pest control personnel.

Good discussion of this here

As for apartment conversions into condos I notify them of the need to retrofit/install security barrier for the easily accessed closet scuttles that can adjoin units.
Nothing worse than coming home to your looted unit only to find out later it was an inside job performed by one of your neighbors.

Another 16 unit apartment fire yesterday

Early report was electrical started in the attic of one of the units

Also be sure to checkyour local code. They vary from place to place. Here’s one

** Firewalls Not Required
(1) **In a *building *of *residential occupancy *in which there is no *dwelling unit *above another dwelling unit, a *party wall *on a
property line between *dwelling units *need not be constructed as a *firewall *provided it is constructed as a *fire separation
*having not less than a 1 h fire-resistance rating.
**(2) **The wall described in Sentence (1) shall provide continuous protection from the top of the footings to the underside of
the roof deck.
**(3) **Any space between the top of the wall described in Sentence (1) and the roof deck shall be tightly filled with mineral
wool or *noncombustible *material.

We had a little thing called the Chicago Fire , so the city takes fire walls seriously.

Required by IL law

from IL SOP

Unsafe: A condition in a system or component that is a significant risk of personal injury or property damage during normal, day-to-day use. The risk may be due to damage, deterioration, improper installation or a change in accepted residential construction standards.


Firewall Stands Up

Building Type(s): Multi Family Construction Construction Solution(s): Fire Construction
The fire demonstrated the effectiveness of space-saving USG® Area Separation Wall Systems. Two types of USG Area Separation Walls, cavity-type in sidewalls and solid-type in back walls, were used in each unit. “This was only the third project in which we had used the gypsum fire wall system,” said Jay O’Brien, project architect for Roy, O’Brien and Creaser, of Gaithersburg, Md., designer of the project (which was constructed in 1981). “Formerly, we specified masonry construction for fire walls, but now, most of our clients prefer the gypsum system. You rely on the design and test data of the system, but you don’t actually know if it works until an accident occurs,” he continued.

Firewall protection prevented this fire from damaging other units.
Although the unit where the fire originated was completely destroyed, further tragedy was averted. Damage to the adjacent units was limited to a charred deck on one unit and some minor damage to the adjoining rooftops. While the unit destroyed will have to be rebuilt, further repair costs will be minimal. The key to the success of the USG Area Separation Wall performance is a special aluminum clip that allows the damaged structure on the fire-exposed side of the occupancy-separation walls to fall away without pulling down the fire wall.

Firewall protection stopped the fire in this unit from spreading.
“The way this particular complex is built made it a difficult fire to fight,” explained Chief James Magruder of the local Gaithesburg-Washington Grove Fire Department. “There are four units opening on a common courtyard. The fire was in a rear unit which faces a lake and has only a narrow grassy area behind it, limiting our working space.”

Good examples of why a fire wall separtion is needed.

Marcel :slight_smile: :smiley: