How Fire Affects Masonry and Concrete
Because it’s highly durable, masonry is used to construct various building components. To a certain extent, the non-combustible product also helps to protect structures from fires.
Nevertheless, fire damage to masonry materials can occur. Repairs to fire-damaged masonry, though, are quick and easy.
What are masonry constructions?
Masonry constructions are built with heavy-duty materials, most commonly blocks of brick, stone or concrete. As a popular material for different types of constructions, masonry offers several advantages. However, as with all building materials, masonry, too, comes with distinct disadvantages.
Clay bricks, whether first class, second class or third class, are often used in masonry constructions. Bricks offer a level of tensile strength, regardless of the class of brick. The performance strength of the bricks depends heavily on the size and number of openings in the masonry structure.
An incredibly weather-resistant construction material, stone is another popular material. The lifespan of stone masonry structures is 300 to more than 1000 years—hence the wide appeal. Daily wear and tear have little effect on masonry buildings constructed out of stone.
Similar to brick, concrete blocks are assembled one on top of the other to construct walls. Fairly little time is needed to build a concrete wall, due to the blocks having larger dimensions than bricks. Concrete blocks are not only affordable, but they are highly fire-resistant.
As a versatile and affordable construction material, concrete blocks are used in various building types throughout communities across the nation. Concrete blocks are sought out as the preferred building material for commonplace structures, such as factories, schools, and residential buildings.
What is the most fire-resistant masonry construction?
Maximum fire safety is achieved with concrete masonry fire walls. These structures continue to possess structural integrity throughout a fire and even afterward, during the fire extinguishment process. Concrete structures do not contribute fuel to the fire, which helps to contain the flames.
While some fire damage will affect the concrete walls, the need for repairs will be relatively small. A fire-damaged concrete wall, for instance, can be quickly fixed by patching cracks or tuckpointing mortar joints. Rarely are demolition and replacement required—even after a raging fire.
What makes concrete fire-resistant?
Concrete essentially consists of core materials, specifically cement and aggregates. These materials chemically combine to form a substance that qualifies as inert. As a result, concrete fails to burn; and, the blocks cannot be set on fire or emit toxic gases during a fire, like other building materials.
As mentioned, concrete blocks do not add fuel to a fire. Unlike plastics and metals, concrete will not produce smoke or release molten elements—both of which contribute to emboldening a fire. Plus, with its slow rate of heat transfer, concrete blocks serve as an effective fire barrier.
While concrete blocks are resistant to fire, the materials are not entirely unaffected by high heat. Temperatures up to 420 degrees Celsius can cause the concrete to lose strength and break. At 600 degrees Celsius and above, concrete no longer possesses its full structural capacity.
What types of fire damage affect concrete masonry?
After a fire is extinguished, concrete masonry should undergo an inspection. A visual examination will reveal cracks, distortions, deflections, misalignments and any exposure of the steel elements within the concrete blocks. Damages can be measured by comparing the blocks to areas unexposed to the fire.
When cracks larger than 1.6mm occur, further investigations should be conducted to determine the impact on structural components. If the reinforcing steel within the concrete masonry is unaffected by the fire, the load-carrying capacity of the wall is likely to remain stable.
Mortar Joint Damage
Mortar joint damage is also possible in the aftermath of a fire. After a severe fire, the mortar joints will become soft or chalky; however, the damage remains superficial, reaching shallow depths of 19mm. Any loss of masonry can be fixed by tuckpointing.
Steel Reinforcement Exposure
A raging fire can leave the steel reinforcements within the concrete structure exposed. When reinforcement is exposed, it must be examined for quenching. Quenched steel results in a loss of ductility, which can reduce the load-bearing capacity of the concrete wall.
Buckling along the exposed steel reinforcements can also occur after a fire. Direct exposure to fires reaching 593 degrees Celsius or higher cause the bars to lose strength; buckling results. However, permanent damage will not occur if buckling or physical deformities in the steel are not observed.
A fire can significantly compromise the structural strength of a concrete masonry wall. The cement gradually dehydrates amidst the high heat of fire, resulting in a loss of compressive strength of up to 50 percent in some types of concreate masonry structures.
Professional Restoration for Fire Damaged Masonry
Concrete masonry structures are built to endure. When exposed to fire and limited structural damage occurs, these buildings will remain just as stable in the event a second fire occurs. Nonetheless, fire damage of any extent should prompt an immediate call to ServiceMaster by Timeless.
Fire damage, whether to masonry constructions or less resilient materials, is an emergency situation. While the flames will cause one level of damage, the lingering soot and smoke will cause a second wave of destruction. The fire damage will continue to spread unless stopped by our experienced crews.
Tarnishing and etching of household valuables are just two unwanted consequences of leaving fire damage unaddressed by skilled fire damage cleanup professionals. Without immediate restoration, the ruin becomes permanent. ServiceMaster by Timeless technicians are skilled in halting the fire damage.
Our IICRC certified technicians arrive right away to assess the extent of fire damage. Fire damage restoration crews stabilize the building to prevent a collapse. Structural damages are repaired; content cleaning and deodorization are performed; and, soot and smoke are eliminated.
ServiceMaster by Timeless is your one-stop service for all fire damage cleanup emergencies. We perform water damage restoration to resolve moisture issues from the fire hoses. Home and business owners in Parsippany-Troy Hills, New Jersey, rely on us for quality fire damage cleanup 24/7.
Call us today at (973) 554-3002.