Fire safety for timber framed buildings
Buildings under construction
Fires in timber framed buildings under construction generally develop very rapidly and lead to early structural collapse. The severity of the heat generated can cause the fire to spread to neighbouring buildings over 30 meters away and embers can spread fire over an even greater distance.
Be aware of procedures
It is important that anyone on site is aware of the fire procedures, the location of alternative means of escape, the location of fire points to sound the alarm as well as the location of fire extinguishers and the precautions they need to observe to prevent fires starting in the first place.
Passive fire protection measures, particularly fire stopping, fire barriers and fire resisting compartmentation, restricts the spread of smoke and fire through a building via hidden areas such as voids. We recommend that careful attention is given to this detail during construction.
Although fire doors are often some of the last fixtures and fittings to be fitted, consideration should be given to either fitting them as soon as possible or fitting temporary doors. This is to help prevent fire spreading unchecked throughout the entire construction.
Poor workmanship in areas such as cavity barriers, fire stopping or finish quality within a completed timber frame building can greatly increase the risk of a fire spreading.
All companies involved in timber frame construction should follow the guidance contained within the following two documents:
- Health and Safety Executive Fire safety in construction guidance
- UK Timber Frame Association's (UKTFA) Site Safe guidance
In addition, any company constructing large timber framed buildings should follow the UKTFA Site Safe procedure to register buildings under construction with their fire authority.
Alterations to Timber Framed Buildings
Only competent persons, who not only understand timber framed building construction but also the means to reinstate fire stopping barriers, should be employed to make material alterations to a timber framed building, including the retro fitting of services (wires, pipes and ducts etc) and general home improvements such as moving or installing additional plug sockets etc.
Any breaks in the fire resisting structure must be resealed with an appropriately fire rated product.
The ability of a timber framed building to perform well in a fire (resist the spread of fire and early collapse) is heavily reliant on the materials used to cover and protect the wooden structure. This is generally done through the use of such materials as fire rated plaster board sheets, plaster and fire rated fillers and insulation.