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Q&A with Handy Mac: Safeguarding timber homes

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Q&A with Handy Mac: Safeguarding timber homes

Q: Since Phyllis asked me about treating an old timber house to improve its fire resistance, many of you have been asking for the names of companies that both supply and apply intumescent – fire retardant – paint.

A: After some investigation, I am not sure if this is the way to go. I intend to approach the Institute for Timber Construction, manufacturers of intumescent paint and insurers to get to the bottom of this matter. In the interim, I picked this up on the internet:

Insurance applications for timber homes are subject to the same inquiries procedures as conventional bricks-and-mortar homes: “Insurance companies generally recognise certified timberframe construction as an approved building method and insurance is therefore normally calculated at the same rate as conventional homes.

“Provided all the necessary authorisation has been obtained, most policies do not discriminate between timber homes and conventional housing.”

Among the sanctions required is that of the local municipality or regional authority: “In certain instances, the design criteria of an area may be exclusive to either timber or brick construction, in which case you would need to refer to the architectural guidelines.”

Of course we’re inclined to think “fire” when we see wood, but “the incidence of fire depends more on occupation and living habits than on whether the structure is of timber or any other material and fire resistance may be regarded as a property of a structure rather than any particular material used in its construction”.

In fact, the timberframe system was designed with the safety of the occupants a primary consideration. The home’s framework is compartmentalised using a system of stop blocks between the wall-stud elements, and between floors in the case of a double-storey construction.

In the event of a fire starting within the wall cavity (say, because of an electrical fault), the fire stops will prevent the flames spreading within the walls. Also, there is insufficient oxygen within wall cavity to sustain a fire.

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