- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 05 Jun 2018
Fire-stopping in buildings
The spread of fire can be restricted by sub-dividing buildings into a number of discrete compartments. These fire compartments are separated from one another by compartment walls and compartment floors made of a fire-resisting construction which hinders the spread of fire from one compartment to another.
- Resistance to collapse.
- Resistance to fire penetration.
- Resistance to the transfer of excessive heat.
Approved document B, Fire Safety, defines a fire stop as: ‘A seal provided to close an imperfection of fit or design tolerance between elements or components, to restrict the passage of fire and smoke.‘
It goes on to state, ‘if a fire-separating element is to be effective, then every joint, or imperfection of fit, or opening to allow services to pass through the element, should be adequately protected by sealing or fire-stopping so that the fire resistance of the element is not impaired.’
Joints between fire-separating elements such as compartment walls or floors, should be fire-stopped to maintain the continuity of resistance; and openings for timber beams, joists, purlins and rafters, and pipes, ducts, conduits or cables that pass through any part of a fire-separating element should be kept as few in number as possible, kept as small as practicable, and fire-stopped.
- Cement mortar.
- Gypsum-based plaster.
- Cement-based or gypsum-based vermiculite/perlite mixes.
- Glass fibre, crushed rock, blast furnace slag or ceramic-based products (with or without resin binders).
- Intumescent mastics.
- Proprietary fire-stopping and sealing systems.
Where an unsupported span is greater than 100 mm or where non-rigid materials are used (unless they have been shown to be satisfactory by test), materials used for fire-stopping should be reinforced with, or supported by, materials of limited combustibility.
Effective fire-stopping requires good awareness of technical literature and standards, and effective inspection of works on site. This is particularly important where fire-stopping may be left to the end of the construction process, installed by a subcontractor, or where it is concealed. The integrity of fire stopping must then be maintained through repairs and refurbishment works. In the case of Lakanal House in Camberwell, London renovation works that compromised fire stopping resulted in the deaths of six people in 2009.
Fire stops should not be confused with cavity barriers which are intended to block routes for smoke and flame spread through concealed spaces or cavities such as those that may be found in walls, floors, ceilings and roofs where concealed spread can present a significant danger.
In April 2018, the Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Construction of the DG One Complex in Dumfries was published by Dumfries and Galloway Council. The report presents the findings of an Inquiry commissioned by the Chief Executive of Dumfries and Galloway Council into the procurement, design and construction of the DG One leisure complex following its enforced closure due to defects in October 2014.
Amongst a number of problems, the report points to a failure to properly incorporate fire-stopping, or to incorporate fire-stopping at all and suggested that; "...these failures are indicative of systemic problems in the quality of work provided by the construction industry”. The report recommends that "...public authorities should undertake appropriately informed inspections of existing buildings and new buildings nearing completion to ensure the adequacy of the fire-stopping installed.”
 Find out more:
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Cavity barrier.
- Compartment floor.
- Dry riser.
- Escape route.
- Fire and rescue service.
- Fire compartment.
- Fire damper.
- Fire detection and alarm systems.
- Fire door.
- Firefighting route.
- Fire resistance.
- Fire-separating element.
- Free-swing door closer.
- Joint fire code.
- Means of escape.
- Protected escape route.
- Sacrificial timber.
- Thermoplastic material.
- Unprotected escape route.
- Wet riser.
 External references
- ASFP Red Book: Fire Stopping and Penetration Seals for the Construction Industry – the ‘Red Book’ published by the Association for Specialist Fire Protection.
- Ensuring Best Practice for Passive Fire Protection in Buildings (ISBN: 1 87040 919 1), Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP).
- BS 476-20:1987
Featured articles and news
When is there a right to light, and what happens if it is obstructed?
What would the nationalisation of economic infrastructure mean for GB?
A new guide to improving value by reducing design error.
We've reached 80,000 page views a day and 10,000 registered users. Why not join them?
A masterplan is a framework within which a location is encouraged to develop or change. Read our introductory article.
New consultation announced on a specialist Housing Court to settle landlord-tenant disputes.
ICE responds to a transport consultation advising the government to make decisions enabling more inclusive cities.
BRE and Loughborough University complete first phase refurbishment of demonstration home.
How the risk of collapse of fibrous plaster ceilings is being addressed in theatres.
If you’re a great writer and have practical experience of the construction industry, it could be you.
Frustrated by long documents or technical jargon? Put off by sign-up forms or costs? Take this 5 min survey to help improve construction knowledge.