A firestop is a type of passive protection system that is designed to prevent the spread of a fire within a specific setting. In terms of building construction, firestops come in many different shapes and sizes, and aid in sealing openings in wall, ceiling, and floor joints that would allow for the passage of air that would in turn feed a fire should one break out. Fireproofing of this type helps to restore the fire-resistant properties of the building materials before the openings were created as part of the construction process.
The idea behind a firestop is to create a physical barrier that impedes the spread of smoke, gases, and flames from one compartment in the building design to the next. Doing so makes it easier to slow the progress of the fire and allow people more opportunity to escape the building. From this perspective, the firestop can be seen as a component that is essential to protecting the lives of people who live or work in the structure, increasing the changes of not succumbing to smoke or gases before they are able to evacuate the premises.
Placement of the firestop is very important to ensuring that the smoke and flames are prevented from seeping through the openings created to allow for electrical wiring, plumbing, and other additions to the basic construction. Since the idea is to close the open area around the wiring or plumbing, it is not unusual for devices such as caulk or even foam products that conform to the space as they solidify to be used in both residential and commercial buildings. Choosing the right firestop devices is key to the process of effectively sealing the openings and minimizing the amount of airflow through the spaces. While this is a relatively small concern in terms of ongoing use, even small openings that are not properly sealed can allow sufficient air flow to fan flames, spread smoke, and increase the chances of damage to both the building and to any occupants should a fire break out in some section of the structure.
The selection of firestop devices will often depend on the type of opening involved. For example, if the opening was created to allow electrical wiring to run through the space, wrappings and coverings may be sufficient to fill in the space around the wiring. For air ducts and or communication cables, the use of some type of foam sealant around the openings may be a better option. Local building codes can often provide guidelines that aid in selecting the right type of firestops for the intended purpose, helping to ensure the building is safe for occupation.