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FlameTech FRTW spec now available on ARCAT.com

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Good Afternoon! I wanted to briefly share with you all that the FlameTech FRTW 3-Part specification is now available online via ARCAT.com. You can visit our sponsored pages and content by selecting from either of the two links below:

Flameproof Companies profile page: https://www.arcat.com/arcatcos/cos49/arc49972.html

FlameTech FRTW 3-Part Spec: https://www.arcat.com/company/chicago-flameproof-49972/spec

If you’re simply looking for FlameTech FRTW technical information, code reports, supporting docs, or whatever you might need to get our product specified or approved for your upcoming job, please visit the FlameTech Technical Specifications section at Flameproof.com by visit this link: https://flameproof.com/technical-specs/#flametech

*Note – there are 4 tabs available with specific content on each tab: (1) Code reports, (2) Fire-Rated Assemblies, (3) Safety Data Sheets, (4) Product Brochure.

ALL of the information required for “submittal” to the Building Code Department, AHJ, Code Official, Inspector or Fire Marshall can be found here. If for some reason you cannot find what you need, please contact sales@flameproof.com for more information.

Fire Resistant Building: The Cost

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With the rise of wild fires impacting towns, cities and major metropolitan areas across the country, the Insurance Industry is finally getting involved to examine building codes as it pertains to fire resistant building materials & construction methods. They’re probably tired of paying out claims for homes wrecked by fires year after year, so apparently someone with some G2 decided to look more closely at the codes, what is being required, and how much those requirements or building codes cost to comply with, and would you believe it, it’s not so bad after all.

I hear the rumbling and grumbling from builders all the time about the building codes and how it’s so expensive to build to meet the new criteria, particularly, fire resistant or fire safe construction. According to a recent article, it actually costs 2% less than traditional construction to build a single-family homes to meet the wildfire codes like that of California. You’re probably wondering how it costs less to do more, right?

It’s all about the assembly.

Let’s consider the exterior wall of your home. That is an important wall. Pretty much, that wall is designed to do a few things: (1) support your house, and (2) protect you from whatever is on the other side of the wall, fire included. Hopefully that wall was built to withstand that fire long enough for you to get to safety. So how can this wall be built to achieve an overall safer home? If your house is like most homes in America, including apartment buildings, condos, townhouses, etc., chances are the frame is wood. Wood is combustible – it will burn when subjected to fire. So in order to protect your wood-framed home, it will require some handy “components” to beef up the assembly.

Fire Retardant Treated Wood = Non-Combustible?

Did you know Fire Retardant Treated Wood (FRTW) can be used in some applications, such as fire-rated exterior bearing walls, that require non-combustible materials? True Story. This does not mean FRTW will not burn, it simply means that the fire treated wood has a delayed ignition time, flame spread and smoke development when compared to raw or untreated framing lumber, and can therefore be used in select applications where typically you’d see something besides wood. More technically, FRTW can often be used in place of noncombustible materials, for instance, exterior walls of Type I, II, III and IV buildings, and in roof structures of Type II and low-rise buildings of Types I construction.

Assembly. Tell me more.

ASSEMBLY = EXTERIOR WALL = drywall, wood studs, insulation, sheathing, exterior facade

As of right now, codes don’t typically require FRTW for single-family homes, but we do have FlameTech Fire Rated Wall Assemblies that can be used in your next job, and we can show you how our system will help you save money too! Now in your bigger Type-III jobs (multi-family housing), FRTW is absolutely used in interior & exterior wall framing. In single-family homes (most commonly Type-V construction) passive fire protection is commonly achieved by using gypsum wallboard of a certain thickness and an exterior facade of a certain type to help withstand fire and protect the combustible wood frame. Yes, sprinklers are an option too. Insulation type is also critical since insulation…. INSULATES. This insulating attribute we so enjoy during the hot summer or cold winter months helps keep wood members from absorbing all that energy from a fire in addition to the more obvious benefits.

Passive Fire Protection = FRTW. It does not require water or electricity to do its job, and can act on it own when subjected to fire.

What happens next?

For the moment, fire treated wood is not often seen in single-family homes. But you’d better believe that those days are coming. The insurance industry will soon begin making a lot of noise that the cost to build the right way with more resistant materials is much more economically viable for our country than to continue building as we are; it’s already begun. We have technology on our side, plenty of history with fire, and folks like us are constantly innovating to bring new fire resistant products to the market to better protect our homes and communities from the danger of fire.

“Insurers, safety advocates and disaster policy experts have urged state and local governments to toughen building codes — a move that’s often opposed by home builders over concerns it will increase housing costs, putting them out of reach of more potential buyers.” Source Article.

 

Fire Retardant Treated Wood – Know your stuff!

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This post features a few different topics of which cause a variety of head-shaking by me on a regular basis. The goal of this post is to provide insight and clarity into some of the key topics associated with Treated Wood, Fire Retardant Treated Wood, Preservative Treated Wood, and all the other important SEO keywords I could use to appear in your broad search results.

We’ll start simple and increase our level of difficulty as we dive deeper.

So ultimately, what is the purpose of fire retardant treated wood?

FIRE RETARDANT TREATED WOOD (FRTW) is designed to resist to flame spread & smoke development caused by fire and/or fire propagation. That is more or less what the building code calls for, but let’s get real folks, it behooves each and everyone of us to learn how to evaluate products for ourselves. As it pertains to FRTW, you certainly don’t have to be the expert, we can help guide you!

BUYERS/CONSUMERS/SPECIFIERS/ – the next time you evaluate any product for use that claims or references any flame spread or hourly fire resistance ratings, be sure to ask for their test results:

Flame Spread classification: ask to see valid ASTM E84 or UL 723 results.

*the IBC requires 0-25 on flame spread index and 0-450 on smoke development.

**the IBC also requires an extended 20 minutes of testing on top of the initial 20 minute E84 test, so make sure the test results reflect that extended test duration.

Hourly Fire-Resistance rating: ask to see valid ASTM E119 or UL 263 results.

*it is critical that you understand HOW to specify/build a tested & certified rated wall assembly to be compliant by code. If the assembly is not built in accordance with the test documents and assembly design, it’s a building code violation.

**Insulation types (density & thickness) along with drywall (type & thickness) are key ingredients (components) in a fire-rated wall assembly. Use the wrong components, and the assembly won’t work.

Fire treated material are used in critical structural applications, such as fire-rated exterior bearing wall assemblies, to allow sufficient time for occupants to escape and first responders to arrive and begin emergency operations. Therefore, we have “fire-rated wall assemblies” that have been tested for some period of time (1, 2, 3, 4-hours) that were designed to resist fire – versus materials that have a certain flame spread rating (Class-A, B, C).

TIMELY TECHNOLOGY

During fire development in a compartment: a room, wall cavity, attic… surface treatment technology plays an important role in fire development, prior to flashover, which include the components of ignition, flame spread, and the release of heat, smoke and gas. ASTM E84 or UL 723 tests the effectiveness of a treated product during these pre-flashover conditions, or more formally, the test is known as the Standard Test Method for Surface Burning Characteristics of Building Materials.

The fire resistance characteristics of treated materials come into play after flashover has occurred, (above 600C) and the fire has entered the fully developed phase. This is where fire endurance is key, and why products/assemblies are tested for hourly fire resistance in accordance with ASTM E119 or UL 263, which is formally known as the Standard Test Methods for Fire Tests of Building Construction and Materials.’

Also, know this… ALL FRTW is required to be Class-A in accordance with (IAW) section 2303.2 of the IBC, but not ALL FRTW has hourly fire resistance ratings ~ fire-rated assemblies.

If you need an FRTW product with a true 1-hr and 2-hr fire resistance rating, you have slim pickings, unless of course your designer rocks out to REM while working the Component Additive Method (CAM)* for determining fire resistance in an assembly. To quickly determine if an FRTW product has been tested for fire resistance IAW ASTM E119 or UL 263, refer to the product’s third-party evaluation report or the Assembly Design documents. Checkout the FlameTech Fire-Rated Wall Assemblies by clicking HERE.

(*CAM embraces the Ten Rules of Fire Endurance Rating by Tibor Harmathy, and you can learn all about that here if you’d like.)

And speaking of third-party research reports….

THEY MIGHT AS WELL BE CALLED “TPS REPORTS”

“I want a Coke.”

“Kid, do you actually want a coke, or do you want a soda?

Funny way to start this section but you’ll understand why shortly… Often, people ask to see an “ESR” when they want to review a new product, or maybe they say to me, “Well, I went on your site and I couldn’t find your ESR so I stopped there…” To be clear – “ESR” stands for Engineering Services Report. It’s a product name for a specific document, just like FlameTech is my FRTW product’s name. We gave it a name because we want consumers to associate our products with our awesome brand. ICC’s Engineering Services did the exact same thing when they turned an internal process, creating evaluation reports, into a profit center.

If an ESR is not required, can I use another type of third-party research report?

Yes. THE REQUIREMENT, as mandated by the International Code Council, is to have a valid third-party research report and coinciding data from a laboratory or inspection service accredited by the International Accreditation Service (IAS).

Prove it.

To make this easier, the ICC provides a website that allows you to go and check out if some lab or test agency has the proper creds and if they can do the kind of testing and inspections that are required by the code. Click this link RIGHT HERE to check out your product’s credibility.

FACT CHECK FLAMETECH!

  1. Visit the website: https://www.iasonline.org/search-accredited-organizations-2/
  2. Navigate to the third box down from the top “Accreditation #” and enter: “AA-647”
  3. Once the results are returned, select the “View Certificate AA-647” link on the left.
  4. View Intertek Testing Services NA, Inc. Scope of Accreditation which includes wall assemblies and fire retardant treated lumber and plywood.

For what it’s worth, evaluation reports are created based on submittal data captured during product testing to demonstrate compliance with certain aspects of the building code. Regardless of which service created the report, they usually begin with a “SCOPE OF EVALUATION” so that you, the knowledge-seeking reader, can understand what was tested and if/how that pertains to the code. The “common properties” listed below are what SHOULD BE evaluated as it pertains to FRTW products:

  1. Surface burning characteristics
  2. Strength reduction.
  3. Hygroscopicity
  4. Corrosion
  5. Fire Resistance

How does the evaluation report process work? Simple. Submit your product’s testing data to the engineering folks to evaluate your treated product for compliance with the applicable codes and standards, pay some $, and if your ducks are in a row, you’ll get a report.

Here’s a dialed-in Third-Party Evaluation Report

Do we need to continue beating this drum? Just know that there is more than one approved method of getting to a desired end state, you have options… that does seem to be the theme of this post. You deserve better, your business deserves better, and so do your customers.

SUMMING IT UP

With the continued increase in seasonal wildfires year after year, the building codes are becoming more stringent thereby requiring increased fire protection. Different cities and jurisdictions have even gone so far as to make their own engineering judgments as to what they deem appropriate levels of fire protection in wood-framed buildings. Furthermore, many jurisdictions are open to the use of alternative materials so this should be music to your ears, it is to ours. Honestly, get used to the idea of fire treatments (yes – that is plural) and get cozy with the building codes so you can best assist your outside-the-box thinking customer while also keeping the conmen at bay. I’m not sure about the rest of the Industry, but we’re busy innovating and have much in store for you! Thanks for reading.

Specifying and Using Fire Retardant & Preservative Treated Wood

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Our good friends at the Western Wood Preservers Institute have created some excellent resources to assist Industry professionals in gaining an increased understanding of how fire retardant & preservative treated wood products are made and used. In particular, there are two (2) courses which can be taken entirely online to help build upon your existing knowledge base. The 2 courses are available at (click link to visit site):

  1. Fire Retardant Treated Wood Specification & End-Use
  2. Preservative Treated Wood Specification & End-Use

The online courses includes sections on types of preservative & fire retardant treatments and required levels of retention as dictated by end-use application, desired service life, and exposure conditions; specifying with American Wood Protection Association Use Categories; preserved wood and building codes, including current issues concerning treated wood in residential and commercial construction; and an overview of Best Management Practices (BMPs).

Learn more about Western Wood Preservers Institute by visiting their website at https://wwpinstitute.org/.

“It needs to be PT & FRTW.”

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One of the purposes of this blog is to help increase reader’s knowledge and understanding of what we do in the Wood Treatment Industry and how that impacts you and your customer(s) so you can make the best and most informed decisions as it pertains to fire retardant and preservative treated wood products.

What exactly are you looking for?

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of quotes where customers tell me they’re looking for treated wood that must be “PT & FRTW”. The use of acronyms and deciphering people’s handwritten notes based of their limited understanding of my job is and always will be challenging, but that’s what we have Q&A for, right?

When this situation happens —

I ask something along the lines of, “Are you looking for a combo system or are you asking for code compliant fire retardant treated lumber or plywood?”

The customer usually responds saying, “I’m not sure, I just know the material needs to be PT & FRTW.”

My intent in sharing this with you is to help clarify what the acronyms PT and FRTW represent (where applicable), and to bring some common understanding to these two terms.

Code Speak & Definitions.

What does PT & FRTW mean? For starters, PT could mean a lot of things. Pressure-treatment, preservative treatment, or physical training. Considering my job and probably yours since you’re reading this, we’ll focus on pressure treatment and preservative treatment as possible correct choices.

As for FRTW, it’s crystal clear to me what is being asked for – Fire Retardant Treated Wood (FRTW). Let’s define FRTW per section 2303.2 of the International Building Code (IBC) so we’re all on the same page.

Fire-retardant-treated wood is any wood product that, when impregnated with chemicals by a pressure process or other means during manufacture, shall have, when tested in accordance with ASTM E84 or UL 723, a listed flame spread index of 25 or less and show no evidence of significant progressive combustion when the test is continued for an additional 20-minute period. Additionally, the flame front shall not progress more than 10-1/2 feet (3200 nm) beyond the centerline of the burners at any time during the test.”

With the customer asking for Fire Retardant Treated Wood, this singles out a specific product that has been treated via pressure process to perform in such a manner as detailed by the code. In the world of wood treatment, there are a variety of (a) processes and/or methods involved in wood treatment that deliver a set of (b) benefits enabling treated materials to be used in specified and/or code required application(s).

Briefly, it’s important to note that the AWPA C20 & C27 specification standards of yesteryear have been replaced by the AWPA UCS (Use Category System). Fire Retardants fall under Commodity Specification H. The precise Use Category for Interior Fire Retardant is UCFA and exterior FRTW is UCFB (exterior FRTW). The UCS further defines compliant fire retardant treatment process by “protectants” based off their ingredients providing the designations of: FR-1 (P-49) and FR-2 (P-50) respectively. So with a little knowledge of the product being evaluated for use, or in determining what solution(s) best work for your customer, a little knowledge of the code and applicable standards go a long way!

Arriving at a compliant solution.

After a few short questions with my beloved customer looking for “PT & FRTW”, it was determined that they simply wanted FRTW lumber & plywood. It is important to note that there are products available that are both preservative & fire retardant treated [the BENEFIT] which by code is done by pressure impregnation [the PROCESS].

We’ll dive into combination fire retardant & preservative systems in another post coming soon.

You want an ALTERNATIVE?

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 Alternative Materials & Methods and the Emergence of Spray-Applied Fire Retardants.

With the emergence of spray-applied fire retardants and other topically applied systems, I feel that it’s only pertinent to discuss how these products, which represent a viable alternative to traditional Fire Retardant Treated Wood, can be approved for use in specified and/or code required applications.

Alternative Materials, Design and Methods of Construction and Equipment is outlined in Section 104.11 of the IBC, and provides an alternative method for meeting building code requirements via an alternative material, in accordance with the alternative means and methods provision of the code, provided the product meets the same performance requirements as whatever you’re replacing. It’s also crucial that the alternative material/product is not lesser in quality, strength, effectiveness, fire resistance, durability and safety.

The Scenario.

For my example, I have a customer that wants to use fire treated plywood featuring a fire-retardant coating system instead of the traditional “pressure impregnated” FRTW or FRT plywood. In other words, this alternative product would not be FRTW (not pressure impregnated) but could serve as a code compliant alternative to FRTW if we can provide the required supporting documentation.

If you’re confused, don’t be. This process is simple once you understand: (a) what the code is asking for and (b) how to provide the answers/documentation to your local AHJ so they can make their determination.

At the end of the day, while this provision in the code exists, it’s up to the Code Official (AHJ) to approve or deny the alternative material/method for use based on the supporting data provided (e.g. Research Reports, Testing Data). If you want your materials to get approved for use, then you’d better do your homework and have your ducks in a row.

What the code says.

Let’s get into action and first understand what our requirements are by referencing Section 2303.2 of the IBC: Fire Retardant Treated Wood.

Fire-retardant-treated wood is any wood product, that when impregnated with chemicals by pressure process or other means during manufacture, shall have, when tested IAW ASTM E84 or UL 723, a listed flame spread index of 25 or less and show no evidence of significant combustion when the test is continued for an additional 20-minute period. Additionally, the flame front shall not progress more than 10-1/2” feet beyond the centerline of the burners at any time during the test.

The IBC defines FRTW as material that has been treated by a pressure process. The materials we want to use as an alternative to FRTW weren’t treated by a pressure process, therefore, we cannot label them “FRTW”. Fine, let’s call that product POTATOES. By the way, we have great POTATOES!!!

In order to meet the performance requirements of the 2303.2, our POTATOES must:

  • pass the 10-minute ASTM E84 Test, plus the additional 20-minute period, as defined.
  • In addition to demonstrating equivalence in performance, our alternative materials must also be evaluated for:
    • strength degradation
    • corrosion (fasteners)
    • hygroscopicity

*Since the FIRE testing component of this is the key to success here, we’ll focus on fire.

Teting Mumbo-Jumbo.

ASTM E84 is the Standard Test Method for Surface Burning Characteristics of Building Materials. This test lasts for a period of 10-minutes and provides two data points: Flame-Spread & Smoke Developed. The IBC requires an additional, or extended, 20-minutes of testing after the initial 10-minutes, making this test a “Modified E84 Test in accordance with IBC 2303.2”.

The Flame-spread Index, or FSI, details the tested material’s propensity to burn rapidly and how quickly flame spreads on the surface of the material. The Smoke-Developed Index is a measure of the concentration of smoke a material emits as it burns.

The most widely-accepted flame-spread classification system appears in NFPA Life Safety Code 101 – grouping flame-spread & smoke development by Class A, B or C, and this is where the IBC derives the baseline performance requirements for FRTW, and/or their alternatives from.

Class-A is what the IBC requires for FRTW materials (or their alternatives) and that is “Flame-Spread of 0-25, Smoked Developed 0-450”.

Summing it up.

Now that your product has been all tested and certified, the “presentation” portion of your facts for approval should be rather straight forward. First, provide your research report along with your “modified” ASTM E84 test results that demonstrate equivalence in performance to what was prescribed by the code, and make sure you have your strength, corrosion and hygroscopicity data are on point. This information is more often than not found within the research report IF that data point was in fact captured in the scope of the evaluation.

Gaining approval for an alternative product isn’t always a walk in the park. Some jurisdictions simply won’t allow certain products or methods for use, while other jurisdictions are much more open to outside-the-box thinkers and our creative solutions. As mentioned before, gaining acceptance begins with your product’s valid and supporting research reports from approved sources backed-up by test results from an approved agency. Last but certainly not least: know your product, know your audience, and prepare for your competition to try to shut you down. I say — bring it on!

wall assemblies

Fire Rated Wall Assemblies in Type-III Wood-Framed Jobs

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Insulation Requirements for wall assemblies — Did You Know?

Did you know that Fire Rated Wall Assemblies built with Fire Retardant Treated Wood (FRTW) have precise insulation requirements that spell out the exact material, thickness and density you’re required to use? If you’re a builder, architect, engineer, you more than likely know that your local energy code requires specific minimum insulation requirements for your everyday wall assemblies. Did you know that these two insulation requirements are independent of one another?

Let’s say your local code requires minimum R-21 insulation in the walls. The R-21 materials meet the code for your common insulation applications EXCEPT for your Rated Wall Assemblies, or to be more precise for the sake of our conversation, Fire Rated Wall Assemblies.

wall assembliesWhat does the common Fire Rated Wall Assemblies consist of (from the inside of the wall)?

  1. Interior Drywall or Gypsum Wall Board of some specific thickness & type
  2. Fire Retardant Treated studs with specified o/c spacing
  3. Insulation with a specific material, thickness, and density requirements
  4. Fire Retardant Treated wood sheathing
  5. Exterior façade (or facing) allowed for use with the rated assembly (for exterior walls)

So why is insulation such an important component of a Fire Rated Wall Assembly?

Insulation reduces the exchange of energy (heat) through a surface such as a wall, attic, duct or roof. So with an assembly that is supposed to withstand HEAT, utilizing the right kind of insulation becomes quite important. Without the right kind of insulation, and in the best-case scenario, the wall assembly will fail the testing regimen, but in the worst-case scenario, the wrong insulation installed in a Fire Rated Wall Assembly could potentially lead to the loss of life and/or structural failure of epic magnitude. In short, insulation “insulates” the combustible wood-frame from heat and provides added resistance to fire, among other more commonly known insulation tasks such as “keeping my building cool during the summer months.”

As a firefighter, specifically when working as an aircraft firefighter, we were exposed to extreme heat when fighting fuel and/or aircraft fires. To prevent this ridiculous heat from deterring us from doing our jobs (putting the wet stuff on the red stuff, or rolling on the foam) we wore special firefighting gear that provided multiple forms of insulation from the effects of fire ~ heat. Additionally, and due to the radiant heat generated by these large fires, the exterior of our bunker gear was made of a shiny material that helped reflect that radiant heat which often melted face shields, truck lights & beacons, and signed any exposed body hair. So, if the insulation of a firefighter when doing their job is MISSION CRITICAL, then the same can be said of Fire Rated Wall Assemblies; they too require precise insulation, in varying forms, to do their jobs, otherwise, these assemblies would not last when subjected to fire. They would fail!

Insulation materials in wall assemblies run the gamut of bulky fiber materials such as fiberglass, rock and slag wool, cellulose, and natural fibers to rigid foam boards to sleek foils that reflect energy; there’s all kinds of stuff available on the market. The difference amongst these materials is (a) they’re different, but (b) they all have varying densities, thicknesses, R-Values, end-uses, exposures, etc., and of course, with all the different options, cost becomes a major factor to consider.

FlameTech Fire Rated Wall Assemblies allow for the use of 3-1/2” (2×4 framing) 5-1/2” (2×6 framing) thick R-13 fiberglass batt insulation, the general everyday stuff you see on jobs. Our competition’s Fire Rated Wall Assemblies, for the most part, were tested and certified with costlier R-15 high-density fiberglass insulation and/or mineral wool insulation. By the way, if a Fire Rated Wall Assembly is not built as tested & certified, and in accordance with the Rated Wall Design, meaning that the correct components were utilized in the construction of the wall assembly, it’s a Building Code Violation. In other words, to remain within the design criteria, the assembly must be constructed as specified in the published design.

So how is one FRTW assembly allowed to use one kind of insulation, and another assembly must use another type of insulation?

Simply put, and without getting all technical, some Fire Rated Wall Assemblies are much higher performing than others because of the base FRTW lumber & plywood products being used (there are different brands), and can therefore obtain hourly Fire Resistance Ratings using cheaper assembly materials, while other assemblies and their base FRTW products may have been developed eons ago and therefore require more robust insulation requirements so they can obtain a specific Hourly Fire Resistance Rating.

Selecting your Fire Retardant Treated Wood.

The next time you select a brand of FRTW lumber & plywood, you must consider the overall cost of the Fire Rated Wall Assembly and this has everything to do with what the assembly is composed of. Are you simply selling cheap lumber, cheap drywall, cheap insulation and framing to get the job, and are you selling the correct materials to support the Fire Rated Wall Assemblies? Your customer depends on you for this knowledge and value.

How do you know if you’re using the correct insulation on your job?

Always refer to the Fire Rated Wall Assembly Design (example: FlameTech 2-Hr Fire Rated Wall Assembly)  and associated Design Number to review the required/specified materials, and read ALL the details, including the fine print. There are often many references to the code that are hard to find, asterisks annotating special requirements for use with “this and that”, etc. Some manufacturers have made some clever propaganda/marketing materials with colored insulation allowing you to make an assumption about what kind of insulation is allowed for use. You remember what folks say about assuming, right?

So why the big fuss? This insulation requirement in Fire Rated Wall Assemblies is a major issue, that in our opinion, has been totally missed and long overlooked. Most want cheap solutions and some are willing to cut corners just to put money back in their pocket. Our focus is on preserving life and property in concert with building code requirements through the manufacturing, specification, and sale of high-performance treated wood products, and we’re good at what we do!