Today most people think of a firewall as a computer network security term. While this is certainly true, the term firewall has traditionally meant a barrier that helps to stop the spread of fire into a certain area. Residential homes with attached garages require a firewall. Since 1927 firewalls have been required by building code in between the garage area of a home and any attached living spaces.
While most Home fires start in the kitchen, the garage carries the firewall requirement because of the amount of potentially flammable materials found in garages. Additionally, garage fires can start without residence being aware, many garage fires start while people are sleeping. The idea of the firewall is to buy time in order to allow the residents to escape the fire.
It’s important to note that the firewall isn’t fireproof, it’s fire-resistant. The materials that comprise a firewall are fire-rated, this means the materials are rated to a certain period of time. In most cases, firewall materials are rated for 1 hour. This doesn’t necessarily mean the firewall will stand up for an hour, different conditions may affect the rate at which the fire burns. The rating is just a standard to which the firewall should be constructed.
It’s important that the homeowner does not compromise the integrity of the firewall. We often see unknowing homeowners mount storage systems on the firewall. This is problematic, it’s important that the firewall has no voids or penetrations that would allow the fire to access into the firewall. This kind of mistake can cause the firewall to fail thereby putting the safety of the residents a risk.
Newer home or older home, it’s important that you understand how the firewall works and what you can do to keep it working for a long time. Here is a deep dive into residential firewalls, how they are built, how they work and more.