Cabling Through Firewalls

Author: Brian Rhodes, Published on Oct 02, 2014

Installing cables through firewalls is a classic installation issue. While avoiding them is preferred, sometimes doing so is unavoidable. Understanding how to do it right can be the difference between spending significant money rerouting cables or creating a serious safety issue.

In this note we examine cable firestopping, getting approvals, understanding rating and contrasting methods including Caulk / Putty, Conduit / Cable Tray, Grommets.

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Comments (16)

Thank you for this article, Brian. I have never seen the grommets before but will definitely be adding them to the repertoire.

I didn't see it defined but I think it is worth pointing out that the acronym AHJ represents the Authority Having Jurisdiction. The AHJ could be the local fire inspector, state inspector, or many other government entities with a stake in building safety inspections. The AHJ varies widely by country, state, county, and municipality. Beware the AHJ if you do not firestop!

I hope that we're (the security integrator community as a whole) not just figuring this out now. The structured cabling community (BICSI) and the Joint Commission (JCAHO), not the mention the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in conjunction with the the National Electric Code (NEC) dictates fire protection measures for a multitude of thru-wall penetrations- the least of which is fire-stopping. I'd recommend you take a closer look at Specified Technologies - they've always been a favorite of mine.

Thanks for the feedback.

We're not sure what the average security integrator knows about this. We figure some may not and wanted to have a tutorial that covered this.

I do believe Undisclosed B would be surprised at the lack of knowledge regarding the NFPA/NEC, TIA/EIA 568 standards, AHJ, prevailing wage, licensing, permitting, grounding/bonding, or any general construction knowledge. BICSI may not even be on the radar of many security integrators. There are quite a few companies migrating into this industry from the guard services industry, general IT, software companies, or private investigations where such information is just not in their lexicon.

I appreciate IPVM posting articles such as these which educate our industry in fairly simple terms far better than any other method I have seen. It may (or may not) help these companies avoid upsetting their AHJ or get fined.

We have used the STI grommets in the past. While we haven't seen them tested yet, thankfully, we hope they were the correct choice. We commonly see CATV contractors here in the Toledo area kick through firewalls of apartments in order to pull their COAX cable through attic spaces. Obviously, they don't have care or concern for any AHJ or the lives of the residents. I know of one apartment complex locally that has had nearly half of its buildings burn to the ground due to these firewall breaches by CATV techs. To my knowledge, I don't think the CATV company was ever penalized for these actions.

My question is can you run more than one cable in a single grommet? In the image above it shows a Siamese cable being ran through a grommet. Could you also run multiple (4-5) CAT5e cables through, as long as they were small enough to fit the opening? The instructions for the STI grommets don't seem to specify this.

Yes, as long as they fit in the grommet, you can run more than one cable through. They mention multiple cables on the spec sheet.

Good article! I to hope the industry as a whole would better adopt and understand firestopping. We lose a lot of jobs to other security only integrators because we are primarily a structured communications cabling company. And follow the guidelines of BICSI. We utilize Hilti and they will come in and train your techs for on proper firestopping and give cert cards. https://www.us.hilti.com/firestop But STI also has good items and varying items that we use occationally. There is significant cost in firestopping, cable protection, proper cable support and time to properly create and adhere to labeling schemas that others just don't care about. In our area firestopping is such an important part that any new construction project has its own bid section and is handled seperatly but it's the retrofits that get the buildings all messed up. Most building owners don't care, or don't know to care, but in the hospitol arena, the maintence people are well aware and will inspect your work immediately, and make you fix it. Even if your not going through a wall, they don't want any opening not sealed as it reduces the burn rating. Which means we can't use cable passthough plates and have to put terminated face plates and patch cords for everything. It's a signficant expense especially for AV.

Joe, thanks.

On this:

"We lose a lot of jobs to other security only integrators because we are primarily a structured communications cabling company."

Is that because security only integrators do not typically include the cost for proper firestopping or?

John, firestopping being one of several BICSI and code items they we become higher priced on, mainly it's cable support, your supposed to support your cable every 7ft and that's an expense most don't adhere to, theres also the old cable removal where as your not to leave wire abandoned in the ceilings like in an upgrade to HD & IP. In all actuality firestopping is not that big of an expense as this article leads you believe, you don't have to use the expensive sleeve items that hilti and STI have, a single tube of intrumecent fire caulk goes a long way with a piece of rigid conduit and bushings through a wall. We buy rigid conduit in 10" pre cut threaded lengths and all our techs carry them in thier trucks, it's not even really a factored cost of many jobs they simply go in where needed. cost gets associated with misc items such as tywraps, velcrow, label sheets string, etc. On a larger job where we have prints and can actually tally the amount of sleeves and firestop we would factor it, but overall the pre cut rigid conduit is about $2-3 each and a 12 oz tube of fire caulk is around $25-35 each and can be reused if you seal the end with some tape. This is the least cost method and doesn't typically allow for easy reentry of additional cable like the hilti and sti as the caulk is pretty hard to remove once dried. On a larger penetration for instance when a 4" sleeve is needed yes a cost is factored as as the plugs are $50 or so each and needed on both sides of the sleeve. But even so rigid pipe, pre cut is used. EMT is even ok but because we want to use bushings threaded pipe bushing are less expensive then putting a connector on each end of EMT and then a bushing to protect the cable from sharp edges. Plenum vs. Non plenum another fire code is also a factor where we see cost being cut and owners opting for other proposals. And indoor vs outdoor rated cable don't even get me started on this one.

Hello Joe. Thanks for the comments!

On this point in particular:

"You don't have to use the expensive sleeve items that hilti and STI have, a single tube of intrumecent fire caulk goes a long way with a piece of rigid conduit and bushings through a wall. "

A 'piecemeal firestop' is often NOT considered appropriate for penetrations. Making sure you have the right caulk matched with specific insulation and the bushings matched with conduit is critical.

I agree that in reality, the expensive systems being offered are substantially conduit, caulk, insulating backer, and bushings (which are not exotic materials). However, they are 'engineered' to work together in a way passing a sealed up conduit sleeve through a hole is not.

It is important to treat firewall penetrations as 'system installations' deserving some design scrutiny and careful install. Too many SIs just blow by firewalls without first considering what they are doing to the building.

I certainly agree with with most of that, however, here are some links and install directions:

https://www.us.hilti.com/medias/sys_master/documents/h91/9102802059294/ASSET_DOC_LOC_1577645_APC_RAW.pdf

see "System" No. W-L-1389, utilizing FS-One.

and the putty which we also like.

https://www.us.hilti.com/medias/sys_master/documents/hf4/9078209904670/ASSET_DOC_LOC_1540956_APC_RAW.pdf

sorry im certainly not pro hiliti, but thats the one i'm most familiar with.

The irony for me is that my Dad worked for Hilti for many years when I was a kid, so I am pro-Hilti!

Congratulation you're having a convergence moment. To those of us in the audience who noticed the first half of your name talks about networking, a "firewall" is not a thermal barrier, it's a router with an attitude.

Really, there's no better terminology than "firewall"?

IT winging aside thank you for providing another educational posting. Now if I could only get my integrator customers to notice the fire code is not the only safety issue they need to address.

YOU STOLE THE WORD FIREWALL FROM THEM!!!! :)

This is easily one of my 'Top 5' favorite IPVM comments ever. :)

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