When it comes to building or renovating, in addition to greater efficiency and performance, there’s an important opportunity to make our homes safer places to live. Although billions are spent on renovations in North America each year, few realize that what’s in their home––or maybe what’s not in it––can increase risk in a residential fire event.
Many newer materials and home contents burn more quickly than in decades past, actually decreasing the time to escape a fire. That’s why fire safety should be a top consideration in your design and construction plans. Fire and smoke alarms are important, but homeowners should be aware that there are also real, significant advantages to building passive fire protection into the structure of a home.
What is Passive Fire Safety?
Passive fire safety solutions do not alert you to, or react to, the presence of fire in your home. This type of fire protection is part of the core of the building and will help to control fire by limiting its spread.
One very effective form of passive fire protection is the installation of insulation. When adding or upgrading insulation, look for products made from noncombustible, inorganic materials. My first choice—a favourite among builders, contractors, and homeowners—is ROCKWOOL stone wool insulation. It comes in the form of batts or rigid board products under the names SAFE’n’SOUND®, COMFORTBATT® and COMFORTBOARD™. Each resists fire up to 1,177˚C or 2,150˚F––higher than the temperature of a typical house fire. That means it can stay in place longer to provide critical protection.
Effective compartmentalization through the use of noncombustible insulation can help avoid the spread of fire to other areas of the home and, more importantly, protect vital escape routes. As many of you know, I used ROCKWOOL insulation when I built my own home, because it offered superior protection for both the structure and my family. In the event of a fire, ROCKWOOL stone wool products won’t contribute to toxic gas or smoke, which is the leading cause of fire fatalities. Noncombustible insulation should be considered in walls, between floors, and as continuous exterior insulation to maximize fire protection and escape time. After all, protection is better if it’s built-in.
In fact, all materials or components used during construction can improve or jeopardize life safety, so it’s important to take the time to carefully consider building material selection. Fire safety can be built into your home in more ways than you might have thought. Here are a few to think about:
The intense heat of a fire can cause glass to break, allowing flames to enter a building, or ignite flammable items inside without direct contact. To protect your house, consider installing fire-resistant windows. One example is dual-paned glass windows, which, in addition to providing energy efficiency, also double the time it would take for fire to break the windows.
Unfortunately, many homes are built with basic, low-cost interior hollow-core doors. These provide very little protection in the event of a fire. Consider upgrading to fire-rated solid-core doors. Some even use premium, non-combustible materials like stone wool in their construction.
Again, nothing beats the safety and noncombustibility of ROCKWOOL stone wool insulation. In addition to fire protection, ROCKWOOL products can also offer a wide range of advantages to occupants and buildings, helping to create spaces that are safer, quieter, more comfortable and resilient. That’s a lot of peace of mind.
Lumber and drywall
When possible, select coated lumbers that increase the fire resistance of framing materials. Use type X drywall where code requires it, and consider its use in other areas of your home to help slow flame spread during a fire event.
Many fire-resistant options also exist for cladding, flooring, ceiling systems, roofing and underlayment, and more. If you’re planning a renovation or building new, make fire safety a key priority in the same way energy efficiency is top of mind. After all, while energy efficiency will save you money, a focus on fire safety just could save a life.