Since 1985, Jack Kargodorian, owner of Builder's Team General Contractors, has made it his business to provide some of the most comprehensive fireproofing techniques to high-end homes in the region his company serves. Fully fire protecting a home, he says, is a comprehensive task that goes all the way to the positioning of closet light bulbs.
During the construction process, many builders choose to fireproof wood frames with a flame retardant seal. Lee Volgardsen, owner of Flameshield Consulting, a maker and distributor of flame retardants, works with a number of builders in his area who chose one of three products when fireproofing: Foam-, chemical- or cementitious-based products.
"Foam is one of the cheapest options, but in a sense you are not getting true fire protection," says Volgardsen, adding that a foam fire-proofing will cost a builder between $3,000 and $5,000, depending on the size of the project.
Cementitious-based fireproofing is more attractive for commercial projects because most of the products are UL listed for beams and metal, Volgardsen says. While it will ensure a structure gets anywhere from a one- to four-hour fire rating, it requires at least three crew members on site to first mix, then spray the mixtures to the wood. "It can cost roughly around $15,000," Volgardsen adds.
For homebuilding purposes, Volgardsen recommends the chemical application, which requires the manpower of only one or two men and can cost between $7,000 and $9,000.
"It's my favorite of the three methods," he says. "It's a quick application and can get into parts of the wood where cement can't be sprayed-and once it's in the walls, it's in there for the lifetime of the home."
Kargodorian focuses much of his efforts on protecting the roof. He uses fiberglass, mat-faced panels with a specially treated gypsum core.
"It's a fire-rated material and … is very similar to one hour-rate drywall," Kargodorian explains. For flat and pitched roofs, the sheets are applied after the plywood base is installed.
Some of the same measures applied to fireproofing a roof can be applied to a home's vents, Kargodorian adds. Enclosing all eaves and soffits with a mold-resistant, gypsum underlayment-along with a fiber-cement covering-will minimize vent exposure while still allowing the room some space to breathe. The covering will reduce the amount of space provided for flames and heat to enter an attic.
Kargodorian recommends builders apply spacers to outlets that have contact with wooden materials, such as bases. Additionally he suggests applying breaker locks to outlets that can never be locked for fire reasons.
Some of the most basic fire resistant building tactics lie in the subtleties, Kargodorian observes. Applying dry wall to the inside of a chimney is an effective tactic that prevents a fire from rising from the bottom up. And when it comes to closets, be mindful when installing light fixtures.
"People have a tendency to put blankets on the top shelves," he says. "Make sure to keep the shelf at least 30.5 cm away from the fixture-if the light it is too close, there is a danger of starting a fire."