The possibility of a house fire is a reality faced by every homeowner. If you live in a townhome versus a single-family home, however, you may wonder: how protected is my home if there’s a fire next door? Here is a safeguard that you should know about.

Firewall/Area Separation Wall

A firewall, or an area separation wall, is used where townhomes share a common wall. These walls are built to prevent a fire in one residential unit from penetrating through to an adjacent one.

Building codes require that these walls serve as 2-hour firewalls, or 2-hour fire rated separation walls,   meaning that if a fire breaks out in a home it must not be able to penetrate the firewall for at least two hours. This can provide time for evacuation, and for firefighters to extinguish the fire before the adjacent home, and homes on either side, are jeopardized.

The Composition of a Gypsum Firewall

Gypsum is a non-flammable, naturally-occurring mineral found in sedimentary rock and is the main component used to make drywall.

An increasingly common type of firewall is the gypsum area separation wall, which is comprised of individual stud-framed walls that are filled with fiberglass insulation between each townhome.

Getting a little on the technical side, the two walls are separated by a special construction of steel studs, steel tracks, and two layers of 1-inch-thick gypsum liner panels that are held together using aluminum clips.

These separation walls are super thick and have a double layer of gypsum drywall at their centers. This kind of area separation wall can be used in buildings of up to four stories tall. In addition to fire resistance, it dampens sound between homes.

Another type of firewall that meets the requirements of a 2-hour fire rated separation wall is the foundation-to-roof masonry wall that separates housing units.

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