Fire-Resistant Insulation and Systems
What's behind your walls may be unseen, but don't let fire-rated options for insulation, electrical boxes, and recessed lighting be missed in your efforts to fireproof your home
Nowadays, residential fire sprinklers are available in concealed housings that look sleek, and installing the devices in your house may even lower your homeowner's insurance payments. Tyco's Rapid Response Residential Concealed Sprinkler System deploys in reaction to extreme heat in an affected area, extinguishing the fire. For very large blazes, however, it may only be able to help contain the flames until the fire department arrives. The system's fire-rated pipes tap into your home's existing cold-water supply and come with adaptors to join it with either copper or PVC. Each Tyco Sprinkler head is $43 (cover plate to conceal the sprinkler head is an additional $16.75), and the CPVC fire-resistant piping is $1.40 per square foot. Tyco Fire and Building Products, Lansdale, PA; 800-323-9485.
Most insulation is fire-rated, but mineral wool is among the best. Also known as rock wool or slag wool, this material is one of the oldest types of insulation composed of noncombustible fibers and can withstand heat in excess of 1,800 degrees F. Unlike fiberglass insulation, mineral wool does not melt when exposed to such high heat. NSi's semirigid strips make for easy DIY installation. $99 per 35-pound bag. 800-321-5847.
Eco-friendly cellulose insulation from Applegate is manufactured from recycled paper and treated with nontoxic fire-retardant additives, such as boric acid. The material is blown into place and fills tightly around electrical boxes and other obstacles where other insulation, like the fiberglass batting shown on the left, leaves gaps allowing fire to spread. In addition to being able to brave a blowtorch test of 1,200 degrees F, it has a Class A fire rating. $6.50 per 30-pound bag. Applegate Insulation; 800-627-7536.
Rector Seal's cover guards for light switches and electrical outlets are easy to install, whether you are building a new house or retrofitting an old one. Stick the adhesive-backed guards to the back of your electrical boxes and behind your decorative wall plates. Made of condensed foam that expands when exposed to heat, the guards are designed to extinguish sparks caused by faulty wiring, which can start fires. $4.22 per set. Contractors Tool Supply
A special housing for recessed lights created by Seagull Lighting protects against insulation fires caused by the build-up of heat around can lights. The housing is set away from the light source, preventing the insulation from coming into direct contact with the bulb. Keeping your lights clear of insulation is one way to ensure that sparks and prolonged exposure to high temperatures will not ignite fires. $173.25. Seagull Lighting; 800-877-4855.
It's not just the major building blocks of your home that need to be fire-rated. Your safety also depends on eliminating gaps where fire breathes in oxygen and moves through walls and into the rest of your home. Caulking holes where pipes intersect with floors and on walls around door and window casings with a product such as UL-listed Metacaulk 1000 could help contain fires and keep them from spreading. This water-based, fire-rated caulk expands and hardens at about 375 degrees F to seal off voids. Most silicone-based caulks will begin to char and burn at around 300 degrees. (See metacaulk.com for more information.) $9.45; ebuildingproducts.com