But we usually don't recommend it. Continue reading to understand the real issue with Fire-rated foams, when you can use them, and why.
What is an acceptable Passive Fire Product?
In summary, an acceptable Passive Fire product is one that was tested to a recognised standard and obtained a certain Fire Resistance Rating. This evidence of performance must be submitted to the BCA.
Regulators should ensure that the product is to be used as tested or assessed – for example, when the product is to be used in a plasterboard wall, the tested protoype relates to identical construction. If there is any variation between the tested or assessed prototype and that installed, further evidence should be provided. Attention to detail and installation quality is essential for passive fire protection to perform its function.
If a product is tested, obtained the performance and installed as tested, it should be deemed acceptable. Fire Rated foams are no different.
So, what's all the fuss about "pink foam" or Fire Rated foam?
There are two main types of fire-rated foam. The infamous pink foams or fire rated foam (photo above) are typically polyurethane-based and delivered by way of an aerosol can or canister, which foams up when dispensed. They are very commonly used around windows and door frames. Many are misleadingly dyed red to signify their suitability for fire-stopping applications.
The most common phrase we hear from clients is "We would like to install this product (shows a can of foam), see it says here on the can, gives a fire rating of 240 mins!"
As explained above, every Passive Fire System should be installed and tested to a specific standard (for New Zealand AS1530.4-2014). The key problem here is attention to detail! Usually (we could guess 99% of the time), Fire-rated foams are applied by someone that doesn't understand Passive Fire Protection and is solely relying on the label description.
The 240-minute information is misleading, and many people fall for that.
For one specific product, this 240-minute rating is only applicable to joints on 200mm concrete walls (we will not name it here as our goal is to oppose and not endorse it).
Surprisingly (even for us), this foam IS tested to the recognised standard AS1530.4 for a few service penetrations. However, it is for only a few types of cable penetrations that it achieves FRR -/60/60. For most, it only achieves FRR -/60/- or FRR -/60/30.
So while this product is acceptable for very specific scenarios, if you start using it on-site, someone will likely apply it in a location or manner that they shouldn’t, and we (or whoever is inspecting it) would ask it to be removed. It is very common to spend more time (and money) trying to remove this wrongly installed foam than installing the correct system.
What is the other type of foam?
The other type of foam we commonly recommend for electrical penetrations is a Two-component polyurethane foam that, when mixed, expands and hardens. The appearance would be like shown below. This is a tested product that, when installed correctly, should achieve up to FRR -/120/120.
It is crucial to get the information right. In general, the person specifying or installing a passive fire system is expected to have a good knowledge of the project and be capable of providing the correct recommendation of products to be used. Having it rightly specified during the specification stage can avoid non-compliant installations, resubmission of systems, and delays in the project.
Nelligan Consulting Engineers has an in-house passive fire protection consultant team with expertise and knowledge to assist you with your project at various stages to ensure the passive fire protection installation is appropriately specified, compliant, cost-effective, and with minimal delays.