Now more than ever, crossing your fingers and hoping your work won’t be inspected isn’t a sustainable strategy.
As a company specialising in certifying fire rated walls, we are increasingly frustrated that the same
simple mistakes are being made, resulting in thousands of dollars worth of re-works and program
If you have a townhouse project with light weight fire rated walls, it is critical that you ensure they
are installed correctly and that you have the evidence to prove it. What does the test report say? Is
the install DTS or will you need a performance solution? Is that the best solution? These are
questions you will need to answer.
You can be assured your fire rated walls and compartmentation will be inspected many times, by a
passive fire certifier upon installation, by a Building Certifier during construction, and possibly by
other authorities. Regular inspections continue post-build and will likely occur within your warranty
period during a building and pest inspection. If defects are found, they can result in post-completion
rectification costs at least ten times more expensive than what they would have been during the
In light of recent tragedies, legislative changes, and media attention to ongoing defects, Building
Certifiers/ Surveyors are under increased pressure to ensure that work is compliant. Our research
suggests that passive fire constitutes 3-4% of construction costs yet represents 30-40% of all
defect/rectification costs. With large sums at risk, it is essential that you know you have it right and
have the proof to back it up.
Industry bodies and commissions are becoming more focused on the state of defects, of late
Fairwork NSW has spoken about turning their attention to rampant issues in class 1 as well as 2-9
projects. In Queensland, the QBCC has always been diligent, and with ongoing rectification payouts,
they have increased the number of random inspections of fire walls, resulting in finding easily
avoidable defects, including but not limited to:
• Mixing systems – e.g. not using the same manufacturer for Shaftliner and internal linings.
• Wrong internal lining failing acoustics – standard 10mm PB doesn’t cut it.
• Open voids in roof spaces of eaves and verandas not being treated.
• Not understanding Shaftliner clip locations and requirements – there are differences
between the manufacturers.
• Cantilevers and fire rated ceilings requiring know-how and diligence
• Boundary wall misconceptions – i.e. stepped roofs, the direction of fire, treatment above roofs.
• Window treatment on boundary walls – attenuation screens are a performance solution
• Not using steel fasteners – that is NO alloy anchors (Sure Drives), sadly we still see Nylon
• Substitution of insulation – needs to be as per the tested system.
• Caulking joints – mixing brands, incorrect gaps, and depth.
• Ignorance of using rockwool – no roofing blanket over walls
• Poor handover certification documents that do not clarify system details or reference test
New products and their installation guides are appearing on the market, but remember
installation guides are simply that – a guide – not necessarily a route to compliance. There may
not be a tested system even if the guide says there is, assessment reports and codemark are
being challenged, so you need to get the system pre-approved by a certifier/surveyor before
As an industry we cannot fall back on “But, I’ve always done it that way” – doesn’t mean it’s
This is a simple overview of some of the many and complex issues to deal with, noncompliance has
many ramifications both financial and legal.
To ensure that your townhouse is trouble-free, we’d recommend that you use an experienced
contractor, engage a manufacturer technician or a third-party passive fire certifier to provide an
understanding of the fire rating required, check the drawings reflect the system and brand being
used, liaise with authorities to ensure the system you are installing is cost-effective, train your
installers and provide inspections and rectification methods if needed! This way you will avoid costly
reworks, and maybe better still, give you peace of mind that there will be a trouble-free handover.
Do it right and you only have to do it once!
Written by Peter Blain – Passive Fire Educator, Expert Witness, and Man on Fire from Plus Systems
To ensure fire rated walls compliance, we’d suggest using the following as a guide:
BEFORE YOU START
• Understand system selection and sequencing.
• Mark up drawings with FRL and compartmentation.
• Check acoustic requirements.
• Ensure specified brand, if substituting, then get pre-approval.
• Engage board manufacturer or passive fire certifier at the start of the project.
DOCUMENTS YOU NEED
• Installation guides from the correct manufacturer.
• Obtain assessments and test reports for all products -e.g.
o Plasterboard system.
o Screw type.
• Resolve any junctions with different systems.
• Create checklist for inspections
• Get all systems approved before starting.
• Take the time to explain to sub-contractors and arrange training.
• Encourage inspections at each stage to ensure compliance and eliminate reworks.
• Create a checklist to be used by site team and signed off by certifier to make sure nothing is
• Photo and video library of installations, with locations and dates identified.
• Ongoing inspection reports
• Sign off areas before they are closed in.
• Stop trying for certification AFTER the wall is built.
• Details on approved plans for construction should be followed and confirmed.
• Understand the differences between manufacturers systems.
• Proper materials should be employed & all manufacturer’s recommendations adhered to.
• The designer and building certifier should be closely consulted.
• All trades involved with work on separating walls should be informed and supervised.
• Inspections during construction should be conducted by a 3rd party passive fire certifier or
person responsible for providing certification.
• Refer to and complete checklist provided by your manufacturer or certifier to ensure
Darwin award-winning statements we’ve heard:
• “But that’s not how Gazza showed me!”
• ‘Do we really need to clip both sides of the wall?’
• “When did that come in?”
• “But we thought that’d be ok”
• “I can’t keep up with these changes”
• “I don’t have photos, but trust me we did it right.”
Enjoying Sourceable articles? Subscribe for Free and receive daily updates of all articles which are published on our site
Want to grow your sales, reach more new clients and expand your client base across Australia’s design and construction sector?
Advertise on Sourceable and have your business seen by the thousands of architects, engineers, builders/construction contractors, subcontractors/trade contractors, property developers and building industry suppliers who read our stories across the civil, commercial and residential construction sector