What is mezzanine floor fire protection and why is it necessary?
So called ‘fire protection’ is effectively insulation of the mezzanine floor steelwork to prevent this from heating up quickly in an open fire. Unprotected steelwork heats up quickly and may suddenly collapse. Fire protection will be specified for a certain period of time for example ‘half hour’, ‘1 hour’, ‘2 hour’ or ‘4 hour’. The time period refers to the time that the protected elements remain structurally sound in the event of a fireplace. The fire protection required for various areas of buildings is specified within the Building Regulations part B.
Fire protecting building elements in accordance with the regulations is a statutory requirement, protecting existence and property and enabling the particular fire brigade to assess just how long they can safely fight a fire prior to a risk of collapse.
Supplying fire protection to mezzanine flooring is also referred to as ‘fire rating’ them, and a mezzanine floor fitted along with fire protection may be referred to as ‘fire rated’.
Do mezzanine floors constantly need to be fire protected?
The requirement for fire protection depends upon the use, size plus extent of the mezzanine floor. Mezzanine flooring that is less than 10m back button 10m in size, and occupying lower than 50% of the area of the building by which it is located and which is not really permanently occupied and infrequently seen (used for storage) does not need to be fire rated.
Mezzanine flooring that is less than 20m x 20m in size, and occupying less than 50% of the area of the building in which it is situated and which is not permanently busy and infrequently accessed (used regarding storage) does not need to be fire graded as long as it is fitted with an appropriate fire detection and alarm system.
Any mezzanine floors that are permanently populated regardless of size will need to be fire secured such as office areas, assembly and manufacturing, packing, canteen space or areas such as retail space with public access. Also mezzanines bigger than 10m x 10m without an suitable fire detection and alarm system, just about all mezzanines larger than 20m x 20m and all mezzanines whose size surpasses 50% of the area within which they are located. It can be seen that just in the smallest storage applications may fire protection be omitted.
How is most mezzanine flooring fire safeguarded?
The most common means of fire protecting mezzanine floors is through the use of four key elements of insulation, column casings, a suspended ceiling, bulkheads/fascias and cavity barriers. This means of fire protecting mezzanine floors is used because of its swiftness of installation and low cost.
Column casings comprise a two component sheet metal case lined along with ‘Promalit’ or similar board fused to the inside of the casing. The page metal case usually has a galvanized or white ‘plastisol’ finish to fit the application, but can be stainless steel or coloured ‘plastisol’, and the two parts have an unobtrusive locking seam allowing them to be quickly and nicely fitted with a few taps from the rubber mallet.
Suspended ceilings consist of wires hung vertically on clips from the secondary beams of the mezzanine supporting length of ceiling runner. The particular runners clip together and are joined up with in turn by intermediate lengths of ceiling runner to create a ceiling main grid. Minaboard tiles are then inserted to fill the grid. The particular grid is commonly and most economically based around 1200mm x 600mm ceiling tiles, however by adding further intermediate 600mm ceiling runners, 600mm back button 600mm tiles can be used. The floor tiles fitted must be certificated to provide the required level of fire protection when utilized in the grid under a mezzanine floor. This restricts the available selection of tiles and finishes.
Bulkheads or even fascias (vertical barriers to close up ceiling cavities to exposed perimeters at mezzanine floor edges or even voids) are achieved by creating a system from galvanized section and cladding the framework with plasterboard to get the required level of fire protection according to the manufacturers specifications. Our bulkheads/fascias are then decorated.
Cavity barriers are vertical barriers within the ceiling gap created with mineral wool insulation in order to subdivide the void into chambers in accordance with the Building Regulations in order to avoid smoke or flame traveling through the ceiling void.
Alternative means of fireplace protecting mezzanine floors
Sometimes visual or other considerations such as positive pressure fire extinguishing systems preclude the use of suspended ceilings. Alternatives consist of taped, jointed and decorated plasterboard ceilings on a metal furring (MF) ceiling framework and similarly encased in columns providing flush coatings or intumescent painting of popular rolled columns and beams.
All the components of fire protection must be certified to provide the desired degree of protection in the application in which they are used. For example it is not acceptable to use any suspended ceiling below a mezzanine floor; the ceiling tile and grid system must have certification particularly providing the required level of protection within steel joist type mezzanine design, which significantly restricts the range of manufacturers able to offer a suitable product.
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This general information relates to mezzanine flooring fire safety in England and is intended for guidance just. Each application needs to be assessed on its own merits.
It is always prudent to discuss your specific project with an approved inspector or even building control officer prior to starting work, a task with which your mezzanine floor contractor will be prepared to support.