SELLING ENGINEERED LUMBER: Meeting Fire Protection Requirements

By / March 18, 2015

In some states and jurisdictions around the country, dealers and their builder customers are facing tougher restrictions related to floor systems. Both the 2012 and 2015 versions of the International Residential Code (IRC) include new provisions for fire protection that alter recent standard practices.

Installing mineral wool between I-joists is one of several methods builders can use to meet the requirements of R501.3.

Installing mineral wool between I-joists is one of several methods builders can use to meet the requirements of R501.3.

Sections [glossary]R501.3[/glossary] of the 2012 IRC and [glossary]R302.13[/glossary] of the 2015 IRC require that lightweight “floor assemblies, not required elsewhere in [the] code to be fire resistance rated, shall be provided with a 1/2-inch gypsum wallboard membrane, 5/8-inch wood structural panel membrane, or equivalent on the underside of the floor framing member.”

While there are a few exceptions to the rule, [glossary]APA[/glossary] and its members recognize the demand the regulations create and are working to provide design recommendations for I-joist assemblies that comply with the codes. Today, several options exist to meet new requirements while using the prefabricated wood I-joists you already offer and sell to your customers.

Forest Products Group, based in Columbus, Ohio, has been helping its builder customers manage the issue since Ohio adopted the code in January 2013. “We worked with our distributors to figure out solutions and then worked with the building department to make sure those solutions met code and that the building inspectors themselves were aware,” Ohio Division Manager Heath Smith says, noting that the dealer recommends three different methods, the top two being drywall and mineral wool because they protect the entire floor. “If we don’t take a proactive approach, we don’t get the orders. So we’re trying to help our customers and give them several options.”

Here are five methods [glossary]APA[/glossary] recommends in areas where this section of the IRC has been adopted. In each of these methods, the I-joists must meet the requirements of [glossary]ASTM D5055[/glossary] and be installed and constructed in accordance with codes, product evaluation reports, and manufacturers’ instructions.

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Tom Kositzky

Tom Kositzky is the Field Services Director for APA. For more resources on engineered wood and wood framing systems, visit www.apawood.org.