How to Build a Firewall

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A firewall is used in construction when two buildings are connected by knocking down their exterior walls and combining both buildings into one. Firewalls are also used to protect sensitive documents and equipment. A firewall creates a barrier that gives firefighters more time to extinguish a blaze. This step-by-step procedure will teach you to build a firewall of your own.

Things You'll Need

  • metal 2 by 4-inch studs with tracking pieces
  • Anchor bolts
  • Screw gun
  • Drywall screws
  • Fire resistant drywall
  • Heavy duty drill with concrete bit
  • Drywall premixed plaster
  • Drywall plaster pan
  • Fire resistant drywall tape
  • Drywall tape
  • 12-inch drywall knife
  • 6-inch drywall knife
  • Self tapping screws
  • Sanding screens
  • Sanding pole
  • Clean, dry cloths
  • 3-inch paint brush
  • Paint roller with roller pole and 1/4 inch nap
  • Fire caulk and caulk gun
  • Plumb bob
  • 4-foot level
  • Razor knife
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Leather work gloves
  • 4-foot T-square
  • Carpenter's square
  • Tin snips
  • Place an upper track piece into position and secure it to the ceiling using your screw gun and self tapping screws. Place two screws side by side approximately 3 inches from each edge and one screw into each ceiling truss covered by the track. Use your tin snips to cut the track to fit into the desired area of coverage. Overlap your next track piece by 1 inch and fasten them together with a screw.

  • Use your plumb bob on each end of the ceiling track to determine the placement of the floor track. Hook the metal tab from the plumb bob on one end of the ceiling track and let it hang so that is only a fraction of an inch from the floor. Allow it to swing and twist freely until it comes to rest. Mark the floor with your pencil and repeat the process at the other end.

  • Place your floor track in line with your plumb marks. Use your heavy duty drill to drill a hole through the track and into the floor. Install an anchor bolt into the hole. Repeat this process every 18 inches along the floor track.

  • Install your metal studs every 16 inches along your tracks. Slide the bottom of your stud into the floor track and secure it with a self tapping screw on each side using your screw gun. Run the screw through the track and into the stud. Use your level to plumb the stud and secure it in the same manner in your ceiling track. Be sure to run all four screws in each stud completely flush.

  • Stand a piece of drywall up to the studs so that it is 4 feet tall. Lift the drywall sheet so that it is flush with the ceiling all the way across the board. The drywall board will begin in the corner flush with the perpendicular wall and end covering half of a stud. This will insure that the next drywall board can be fastened flush with the first. Hang drywall boards along the top of your firewall in this fashion. Secure the board to the studs with drywall screws placing one every foot giving you five screws in each board at each stud.

  • Hang your bottom boards. Be sure that none of the joints between the top boards line up with the joints in your bottom boards. Run five screws into each board at each stud just as you did in the top boards. Be sure that all of your boards are flush against each other and the floor.

  • Place fire resistant tape over all of the joints between your drywall boards. Fire tape has adhesive on one side. Place the sticky side to the drywall boards with half of the tape covering each board. Run your vertical joints first then your horizontal joints. You will cover the ends of your vertical tape.

  • Run fire caulk across all edges including the ceiling, floor, and sides of the wall. Cut a 45 degree angle in the end of your tube of fire caulk. Push a screw into the hole to puncture the diaphragm inside of the tube. Slide the tube into your caulk gun. Place the tip of the gun into the corner, pull the trigger, and drag the gun along the seam laying an even bead of caulk.

  • Hang, fire tape, and fire caulk drywall boards on the opposite side of the wall. Use the same techniques as the first side. Be sure to keep all drywall boards flush with each other, the ceiling, and the floor. Be sure that the vertical seams between the top boards and the vertical seams between the bottom boards do no line up with each other.

  • Hang a second layer of drywall boards over the first layer on both sides of the wall. Keep your boards tight to each other, the ceiling and the floor. Be sure to keep your seams on the second level away from the seams on the first level.

  • Skim a light coat of drywall plaster over all of the screw heads on the second layer of drywall boards on both sides. Skim a coat of drywall plaster along each seam on both sides of the wall. Stick drywall tape to the seam plaster while it is still wet and use your 12 inch drywall knife to smooth the tape and plaster. Be sure to cover every seam.

  • Allow the plaster to dry. Skim every screw head and seam with plaster again. Allow this second coat to dry. Sand lightly with your sanding screens. Wipe the dust from your wall with clean, dry rags. Paint both sides of the firewall with two coats of paint. Allow the paint to dry.

Tips & Warnings

  • You will need help for a job of this magnitude. This job goes best with 3 to 4 people.
  • A firewall is a complex architectural system. There are many steps to the process. Check with your local building inspector for regulations and inspection schedules.
  • Power tools can be hazardous. Please read and follow all manufacturer's recommendations.

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