The Dangers of Fireproofing Steel and How You Can Avoid Them
Fireproofing steel columns and beams on a construction site are one of the worst decisions you as a commercial contractor can make. Not only does this hold up production, but it can also be a health hazard for your construction team.
If you work in commercial construction, there’s a simple solution: Outsource your fireproofing needs.
When is Steel Fireproofing Required?
Commercial construction structural steel columns must meet at least the X106, or 2-hour, fire-resistance rating, among other requirements. The most common fire-resistance ratings are 2-, 3-, and 4-hour ratings. A certified AISC column fabricator is qualified to take care of these fireproofing needs, so you don’t have to stress over whether your building will need to pass additional inspections.
Why is Fireproofing Used in Steel Frame Construction?
Steel is not indestructible. It can melt at approximately 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, and hydrocarbon and average building fires can burn at about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Although it won’t necessarily melt, steel can become deformed and lose its strength when exposed to extremely high temperatures.
Fireproofing steel helps maintain a building’s shape in the event of a fire. This way, more people are able to escape unscathed. Fireproof steel columns are used in everything from parking garages and shopping centers to hospitals and cafeterias.
How is Structural Steel Used in Creating Fireproof Columns?
Structural steel columns are available in standard and custom shapes and sizes to accommodate whatever specifications your job requires. Industry-leading column shapes by Black Rock Fireproof Column range from the Round Type OH to the Rectangular Type RR, with most having a concrete-filled center. You can read more about the specs of our types of fireproof columns here.
The sleek, strong look of steel complements a structure while also serving as a durable shell on fireproofed columns fabricated by Black Rock Fireproof Column. The composition of each structural column includes structural steel surrounded by concrete, which is then wrapped in a proprietary insulating layer of vermiculite fireproofing protected by an exterior steel shell.
Why Avoid Fireproofing Steel Columns on a Job Site?
Fireproofing materials like sprayed fire-resistive material (SFRM) and intumescent coatings are supposed to make your job easier, but in most cases, they only make completing the project more challenging.
Whether you hire someone to come on site and fireproof your structure support or you have someone on your construction team do the dirty work, you put everyone at risk of the dangers and other drawbacks of fireproofing materials.
Dangers of On-Site Fireproofing Materials
Fireproofing methods that incorporate fireproof paint or SFRM can be health hazards to not only the people performing the tasks but to everyone else on your team, as well.
In order to activate the paint, the chemical mixture must be exposed to extreme heat. This releases vapors which then turn into the foam more commonly referred to as fireproof paint. Although it’s more appealing than spray and doesn’t require a column cover, the vapors can still be hazardous to the user’s health.
Manufacturers of SFRM include the basic ingredients, like gypsum, carbon black, and cement, in their fireproofing sprays. But that’s not enough.
They think by also adding harsh chemicals to speed up the hardening process, they’re saving time for contractors and other pros, but what they’re really doing is increasing these people’s risk of contracting health issues. This can lead to contractors taking time off to recover and wasting money in doctor’s visits. Sinus infections, bronchitis, and lung cancer have all been linked to people who’ve been continuously exposed to fireproofing spray.
Increased Risk of Missed Deadlines
Another drawback of fireproofing steel support beams and steel structural columns on site is the production delay. Whether you choose to have your team do it themselves or you bring in a fireproofing specialist, your team is forced to maneuver around the person performing the task. You need to block off the area so no one bumps into wet foam or paint and sometimes the materials need to try before the columns or beams can be installed.
In some cases, the site may even need an additional inspection to ensure all fireproofing has been performed correctly on the right materials, which can delay your project even longer.