We here at Trim-Tex have been talking a lot this year about our new line of fire rated drywall accessories, the first of their kind in the world of firestopping. And a lot of what we’ve been saying has been in stark contrast to the most common forms of firestopping solutions on the market, fire sealants and sprays — solutions that will harden, shrink and crack over time, along with a number of drawbacks, while our vinyl firestopping products stay strong and flexible for the assembly’s entire lifetime. But let’s just say we’re preaching to the choir here, and you’ve already thrown out your caulks in favor of a fire rated drywall accessory: how do you know which fire rated drywall accessory is right for your project?
Before you go to your local dealer looking for one of these cutting-edge products — which include Fire Bead, Fire Gasket, Hotrod® XL and Fire Rated 093V Expansion bead — here are the questions to ask yourself to know where to look.
Where is your wall joint?
First off, different kinds of wall joints will call for different solutions.
Most of Trim-Tex’s line of UL-listed firestopping products are designed to fit in your assembly’s head-of-wall joint. For the unfamiliar, a head-of-wall joint is the opening in wall assemblies, typically between the top of the wall and bottom of the ceiling, which gives your wall a little bit of wiggle room for it to move undamaged alongside building movement.
Your best bets for firestopping head-of-wall joints will be Hotrod XL and Fire Gasket; the more inexpensive Fire Bead is also being used all over for head-of-wall joints, but since it provides less overall movement, it will more often come in handy for your bottom-wall gaps and your vertical joints. And these products aren’t mutually exclusive: check out the below photo of a corner detail, where we installed Hotrod XL horizontally along the head-of-wall joint, working in tandem with a vertically installed Fire Bead.
The outlier here is the Fire Rated 093V Expansion bead. This is used — specifically and exclusively — for control joints, where it eliminates the extra steps of applying fire rated backing materials between layers of drywall. It also provides your wall assembly’s control joint with 3/8” of protection against the stresses of expansion and contraction.
How much movement do you expect?
If you’re building a high-rise somewhere in, let’s say, San Francisco, we can’t recommend using Fire Bead in your head-of-wall joint. Why? It only provides up to 1/4” of overall movement for your wall. For a high-movement, multi-story building in a seismic zone, you should give your walls more room for compression and expansion than that; we would rather recommend Hotrod XL (with 3/4” of overall movement, pictured) or one of our two versions of Fire Gasket (with 1” and 1.5” of movement, respectively).
On the other hand, a construction project in Chicago — a much more seismically stable city — could get away with using Fire Bead over Hotrod XL, since their building will likely require less movement. The right fire rated drywall accessory for you could come down to these kinds of regional differences.
What is your wall assembly made of?
The materials that make up your wall assembly will make all the difference for which firestopping product you will need to use. The biggest deciding factor will be between concrete decks and fluted pan decks.
Fluted decks are typically used in office spaces, hospitals and other commercial properties with lots of mechanical needs and wiring within the ceiling structure. With a fluted deck assembly, you can go a longer distance with wide-open floorspace, simply needing the occasional column here and there. While Fire Gasket can be used in all kinds of assemblies, they work best within these fluted decks.
Fire Bead can solely be installed on a concrete deck. You will usually find concrete assemblies in condos, apartments and similar residential buildings. Architects will most often specify concrete decks in buildings where the same, basic floor plan is used over and over again from story to story. They also maximize your usable floor-to-ceiling space without the need for a ton of mechanical elements along the ceiling.
Hotrod XL, meanwhile, can be used in either type of assembly, and its compressible foam can also form a consistent seal against uneven substrates.
How fast do you want to get the job done?
Another thing all our fire rated drywall accessories have over sealants is that they’re much faster to apply, faster to inspect and install fully cured. Between each product, though, the key to a speedy job comes down to the specifics of how they’re installed.
Fire Bead is installed after all the drywall has already been hung. Because Fire Bead is way less finicky to apply than caulk, you can get a lot of it done in a day when the drywall is set up properly, with a 1/2” joint size. The same goes for Hotrod XL and its 3/4” joint size, though here you can shave off some time by cutting your firestopping down to a single step and applying the accessory to the drywall before hanging it.
Fire Gasket is the fastest fire rated drywall accessory to install by a decently sized margin, because it’s installed to the assembly pre-drywall. All the installer needs to do is stick it to the track. It’s also going to be a speedier process because, without all the drywall up, your crew will be able to move around the space much more freely, with a ton of natural light able to come into the jobsite.
So, now that we've covered most of the big differences between these fiery new products, let's recap!
Fire Bead is the best solution for:
- Bottom-wall and vertical joints in concrete assemblies (usually residential)
Head-of-wall details that require less than 1/4" movement
- Installing post-drywall
Hotrod XL is the best solution for:
- Head-of-wall joints on pan/fluted deck or concrete assemblies, including uneven substrates
- Buildings that require more (3/4”) movement
- Installing post-drywall, or by applying to the drywall before hanging it
Fire Gasket is the best solution for:
- Head-of-wall joints on pan/fluted deck assemblies (usually commercial), but can also be applied to concrete
- Buildings that require a lot (1” or 1.5”) of movement
- Installing pre-drywall, more quickly than other options
Fire Rated 093V Expansion bead is the best solution for:
- Control joints, in lieu of fire rated backing materials
Whichever solution you choose for your next project, all these innovative fire rated drywall accessories are a game-changer. Why should you care about sealing off your wall joints with fire rated materials? Find out here!