Firewall (construction)

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Firewall residential construction, separating the building into two separate residential units, and fire areas.

Firewall, as seen on the inside of a newly constructed townhouse unit, showing how the firewall goes past the roofline.

A firewall is a fire-resistance rated wall assembly intended to slow the spread of fire from one side to the other, and are certification listed. Firewalls subdivide a building into separate fire areas, and are located in accordance with the locally applicable building code. Firewalls are a portion of a building's passive fire protection systems.



There are two main classifications of fire walls: fire partitions, and true fire walls. To the layperson, the common use of language typically includes both when referring to a firewall unless distinguishing between them is necessary.

  • A firewall- a wall separating buildings or subdividing a building to prevent the spread of fire and having a fire resistance rating and structural stability.[1]

There is a further sub-classification of fire walls. A high challenge fire wall is a wall used to separate buildings or subdivide a building with high fire challenge occupancies, having enhanced fire resistance ratings and enhanced appurtenance protection to prevent the spread of fire, and having structural stability.[2]

Portions of structures that are subdivided by fire walls are permitted to be considered separate buildings, in that fire walls have sufficient structural stability to maintain the integrity of the wall in the event of the collapse of the building construction on either side of the wall.[3]

  • A fire barrier wall, also referred to as a fire partition, is a fire rated wall assembly which is not a fire wall. Typically, the main differences is that a fire barrier wall is not structurally stable, and does not extend through the roof, or to the underside of the floor above.[4]

Fire barrier walls are continuous from an exterior wall to an exterior wall, or from a floor below to a floor or roof above, or from one fire barrier wall to another fire barrier wall, fire wall, or high challenge fire wall having a fire resistance rating of at least equal rating as required for the fire barrier wall. They are continuous through all concealed spaces (e.g., above a ceiling), but are not required to extend through concealed spaces if the construction assembly forming the bottom of the space has a fire resistance rating at least equal of the fire barrier wall.[5]

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