Understanding Building Codes and Fire Damper: What You Should Know

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Building codes and fire dampers

Whether you’re building new construction or renovating an existing structure, ensuring your fire protection products meet the code requirements is critical – not just for legality but to ensure the safety of building occupants. So, let’s take a look at how building codes mandate where fire dampers are required, fire damper installation guides, installation recommendations, and the scheduling of inspections.

What Is the Code for Fire Damper Installation?

Multiple standards and codes apply to installation and inspection. Understanding each code and how it impacts fire dampers in commercial buildings is critical in ensuring your dampers are installed safely and successfully.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is the leading resource on electrical and fire-related hazards. Here are the codes that relate to smoke and fire damper installation and where the fire dampers are required:

NFPA 101, Life Safety Code: This document details where smoke dampers are required, any rating requirements, and how they must be identified, accessed, and activated.

NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code: This mandates where fire dampers are required, the required ratings, and the identification and access requirements for smoke and fire dampers.

Where Are Fire Dampers Required?

According to the NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code, they are required to be installed in the following locations:

Ductwork and air transfer openings that penetrate shaft walls with a fire-resistance rating of one or more hours.

Ductwork and air transfer openings that penetrate walls with a fire-resistance rating of two or more hours.

Ductwork and air transfer openings that penetrate floors with required protected openings where the ductwork isn’t protected by the shaft enclosure.

Walls with a fire-resistance rating of 30 or more minutes that contain air transfer openings.

The NFPA 90A, Standard for the Installation of Air-Conditioning and Ventilating Systems, adds additional location requirements for smoke and fire damper installation in partnership with life safety and building codes. NFPA 90 also mandates the rating of the fire damper depending on its installation location. NFPA 101, NFPA 80, and NFPA 5000 all mandate that buildings are required to comply with the guidelines set forth in NFPA 90.

Once the locations of fire dampers have been established, NFPA 80, Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives, and NFPA 105, Standard for Smoke Door Assemblies and Other Opening Protectives provide additional installation details, inspection and testing requirements, and maintenance information.

Installation Requirements

Although it’s essential to know the NFPA requirements for fire damper installation, first and foremost, fire dampers must be installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions and specifications. Ensure your site supervisor or foreman understands the process, and be sure to select a certified and licensed company for your fire damper installation.

When reviewing your building plan, be sure your fire dampers are installed in the walls, ceilings, floors, and other areas with the correct rating. Talk with your engineers to select the best dampers for your needs, and then keep track of fire damper inspection and maintenance to keep your building and its occupants safe. Making a mistake with the fire rating of your dampers or the surrounding area can be costly, not just financially but in terms of compromised safety.

UL Solutions Ratings 

While NFPA and other building codes determine where fire dampers are required, UL Solutions is responsible for the quality of the fire dampers themselves. According to its website, UL Solutions “delivers testing, inspection, and certification services, together with software products and advisory offerings, that support our customers’ product innovation and business growth.”

UL 555, Fire Dampers, provides guidelines for the testing of all dampers installed in ventilation and air conditioning ductwork, including single-blade, multi-blade, and interlocking blades. The test was developed in 1966 to ensure dampers worked successfully when needed.

UL 555 measures the following:

Operational reliability: The damper must open and close 250 times without actuators or 20,000 times with actuators and cycle testing after exposure to salt spray.

Fire test: The damper must pass a rating of either an hour and a half or three hours.

Dynamic closure: If the HVAC system remains on during damper closure, the dynamic fire damper must be able to close against at least 2,000 fmp and four inches of water.

UL-Rated Fire Dampers

When shopping for the best dampers, be sure to require that you buy UL-rated fire dampers. This standard helps ensure that your fire dampers are built right from the start, including using the best materials, quality assurance, testing, and more. Even if you ensure your fire damper installation goes according to plan, if your damper is faulty, the installation is irrelevant.

Are Fire Dampers Required in Residential Homes?

They are required in industrial buildings like restaurants, hospitals, office buildings, and shopping malls, while residential homes are typically exempt from fire damper requirements. However, there are a few situations in residential buildings that would require fire damper installation:

School dormitories

Apartment buildings


Extended-stay hotels

Although single-family homes or single-dwelling units are typically exempt, you should always be sure to check your state or local codes for any amendments or other requirements that would make fire dampers required.

When Do You Have to Inspect Fire Dampers? 

The NFPA and the International Building and Fire Codes require all fire dampers to be inspected one year after installation and every four years after that. The exception is hospitals, which must be inspected after one year and every six years. These codes and regulations are enforced by Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs), which includes insurance risk auditors, the Joint Commission, and local fire marshals.

Buying Fire Dampers

While selection and installation may seem overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be. Choosing the proper UL-listed manufacturer with experience and dedication to excellence is the first step in putting your mind at ease.

Whether you’re researching engineering components for your next renovation or planning a new building from the ground up, Lloyd Industries has the UL-rated fire dampers your building needs to be safe and secure. There’s no time for second-guessing your decisions. When you need the best fire dampers, trust the company that UL Solutions has trusted for decades.

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