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Fire stops critical to preserving three-decker housing

Old multi-family structures continue to provide badly needed homes in urban zones.

May 03, 2021 |

Courtesy Pixabay

Built as working-class housing in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, the wooden three-story homes still dominate some urban neighborhoods. Though they have fallen out of favor, the structures continue to provide affordable housing in areas badly in need of it.

As decision-makers consider how to preserve these buildings, one of the primary areas of concern is fire safety due to balloon framing construction. Homes built with balloon framing, with long, continuous lumber, offer an unobstructed path for fire to spread quickly from ground level to the attic and roof.

Fire stops between floors can be created in a variety of ways. Insulating foam sealant and nominal lumber like a 2x4 nailed at various distances to break up the balloon framing can help prevent fire from spreading.

Gut renovations can add more fire blocking to break up the exterior walls and retrofit flooring with more fire-resistant materials also helps. Renovations, can be costly, though, going well beyond $100,000 for even basic design changes.

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