Mr Punter

Another timber frame fire

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Although there is supposedly good evidence to say that timber frame is OK in a fire, there has been another today.  These are far worse in multi storey blocks than detached houses.  This latest one was also timber clad, which seems like madness.

 

I assume no sprinklers either.

 

https://www.24housing.co.uk/news/fire-rips-through-timber-framed-block-of-flats/

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I read that earlier, sheer good fortune that no one was hurt. 

 

I read something a while ago (may have been from BRE) that assessed fire risk with building height, and concluded that the risk increased fairly dramatically with timber structures over a couple of storeys high.  I'll have a dig around and see if I can find it, as off the top of my head I can't remember why they reached that conclusion.

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2 hours ago, JSHarris said:

I read something a while ago (may have been from BRE) that assessed fire risk with building height,

Could be because the risk is human life/injuries and not the actual building.

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In a brick and block house, the floors, internal walls, stairs and roof will all be timber so once the house is on fire I'd expect it to burn just as well. The exterior walls obviously wont burn but will be compromised structurally with heat etc.

 

 

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2 hours ago, Mr Punter said:

Although there is supposedly good evidence to say that timber frame is OK in a fire, there has been another today.  These are far worse in multi storey blocks than detached houses.  This latest one was also timber clad, which seems like madness.

 

I assume no sprinklers either.

 

https://www.24housing.co.uk/news/fire-rips-through-timber-framed-block-of-flats/

I’ve kept this to myself As Didn’t want to sound anti TF 

I worked on a block of for houses where a plumber was soldering in the exterior gas box 

caught the insulation 

The fire swept through all four before the fire brigade arrived 

 

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2 minutes ago, Bitpipe said:

In a brick and block house, the floors, internal walls, stairs and roof will all be timber so once the house is on fire I'd expect it to burn just as well. The exterior walls obviously wont burn but will be compromised structurally with heat etc.

 

But with (especially taller) timber buildings perhaps the movement of heat / flammable gases and fresh air is different - it may be that it's able to take hold and then create openings faster than if it were contained in a masonry shell? Like the difference between a fire pit and a bonfire? So although in theory there's not much more combustible stuff, the configuration of it means it can become more serious before the firefighters arrive?

 

I know in theory cavity barriers, wall linings etc are supposed to prevent the fire developing too fast. But get the impression it's easier to get the detailing of that wrong than with brick & block. Certainly e.g. at Grenfell a lot of the issues seemed to be related to fire bypassing various containments due to poor specification and poor workmanship.

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7 minutes ago, andyscotland said:

 

But with (especially taller) timber buildings perhaps the movement of heat / flammable gases and fresh air is different - it may be that it's able to take hold and then create openings faster than if it were contained in a masonry shell? Like the difference between a fire pit and a bonfire? So although in theory there's not much more combustible stuff, the configuration of it means it can become more serious before the firefighters arrive?

 

I know in theory cavity barriers, wall linings etc are supposed to prevent the fire developing too fast. But get the impression it's easier to get the detailing of that wrong than with brick & block. Certainly e.g. at Grenfell a lot of the issues seemed to be related to fire bypassing various containments due to poor specification and poor workmanship.

I do a lot of fire checking on TF and others 

While the fireproofing is good on commercial 

Houses are not so good 

 

The main objective when fireproofing is to keep the fire out of the cavity 

The main problem is insulation 

Gypsun and Hilti have some great products But they are hardly ever used on houses If I was to build a TF house I would close off all window and door cavity’s with Gyp fire batt Extra cost 100s and I’d include a horizontal brake around the perimeter to check any fire reaching the roof space 

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I wonder when the rest of the UK will adopt sprinklers for residential new builds as they do in Wales? Just a matter of time I would have thought. 

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1 hour ago, nod said:

I do a lot of fire checking on TF and others 

While the fireproofing is good on commercial 

Houses are not so good 

 

The main objective when fireproofing is to keep the fire out of the cavity 

The main problem is insulation 

Gypsun and Hilti have some great products But they are hardly ever used on houses If I was to build a TF house I would close off all window and door cavity’s with Gyp fire batt Extra cost 100s and I’d include a horizontal brake around the perimeter to check any fire reaching the roof space 

 

Any other TF guys would agree with this? Would you do cavity Gyp fire batt?

I'm def. tempted to go with sprinklers, regardless..

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1 hour ago, Miek said:

I wonder when the rest of the UK will adopt sprinklers for residential new builds as they do in Wales? Just a matter of time I would have thought. 

 

Sprinklers are very good at protecting the inner rooms and also keeping smoke down but do very little for a fire in the wall structure. 

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2 minutes ago, PeterW said:

 

Sprinklers are very good at protecting the inner rooms and also keeping smoke down but do very little for a fire in the wall structure. 

Depends on what/who you're trying to protect of course.  Personally, assuming insurance doesn't leave me hanging I'd be unhappy, but OK with getting everything replaced and rebuilt...

 

Has anyone lived through suchlike? If your house burns down (and it's clear enough that you didn't set the fire intentionally).. do they pay for rent a reasonablee place, and enough £ to rebuild the house from scratch, replace all the stuff incl clothes etc?

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8 hours ago, puntloos said:

Has anyone lived through suchlike? If your house burns down (and it's clear enough that you didn't set the fire intentionally).. do they pay for rent a reasonablee place, and enough £ to rebuild the house from scratch, replace all the stuff incl clothes etc?

When my Father was a teenager, his family home burnt down.  They got rehoused, but the original house was not rebuilt for decades.

A more resent fire down here in a pub kitchen, which damaged the living area of the building was not paid out for by the insurance company.  The reason given was that the tenant landlord had not declared that he had been bankrupt a few years earlier.

So live is never simple.

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If looking at sprinklers (which are a very good idea, IMHO, but also expensive) then I'd look at the water mist ones.  Not only do these suppress fire more quickly than conventional sprinklers, but they also use far less water.  Using less water has two benefits, it means that getting an adequate water supply to them is a lot easier (it can be a challenge getting adequate water supplies to conventional sprinklers) and there is a great deal less water damage if they operate.  Water damage is often more severe than fire damage in many house fires, so anything that reduces this has to be a good thing.

 

Looking at the statistics,  75% of household fires are put out without the attendance of the fire and rescue service.  The fire and rescue service attended 29,570 fires in England in the year 2018/19, from a housing stock in England of around 19.811 million, so the number of households that the fire and rescue service attend each year  is about 1 in 670.  Out of those fires where the fire and rescue service attended, the average area of fire damage was 18.3m², so roughly one room about 4.5m x 4m.  There were 196 fatalities from house fires in 2018/19 in England.  Breaking those down by dwelling type, far and away the highest number of fatalities is in single occupancy dwellings (people living alone in either a house or bungalow, excluding flats), 136 out of a total of 196, excluding those living in purpose built flats.  The number of fatalities from fires in multiple occupancy dwellings, not-purpose built flats or HMOs,  (so normal households) was just 19.

 

From the data it seems that far and away the highest risk group are those living alone, either in houses, bungalows or maisonettes (not purpose built flats).  The fatal fire risk for those living in households of more than one in England seems to be about 0.0000959%

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51 minutes ago, JSHarris said:

If looking at sprinklers (which are a very good idea, IMHO, but also expensive) then I'd look at the water mist ones. 

 

The mist ones cost a fair bit more and do not typically cover the whole building.  They are often specified for shared kitchens in student accommodation.

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7 minutes ago, Mr Punter said:

 

The mist ones cost a fair bit more and do not typically cover the whole building.  They are often specified for shared kitchens in student accommodation.

 

 

Yes, that's what we found.  We were looking at fitting them in the kitchen, but the basic cost was around £4.5k for just that room, plus another ~£3k in providing a guaranteed water supply (because we have a borehole).  I looked at the real fire risk, rang around for insurance quotes, and decided not to bother. 

 

One major influence on that decision (apart from the cost) was that there was zero loading on the house insurance for it being of non-standard timber frame construction.  I reckon the insurance companies are probably pretty good at assessing risk, and if they felt that our house was a higher fire risk because of its construction they would have loaded the premium to reflect that.  They actually reduced the premium over that we were paying for our old, smaller, block and brick bungalow.  When I queried this they explained that the premium for a bungalow was loaded over that for a two storey house.  The fire statistics do show a higher incidence of fatal fires in bungalows, but I suspect that's more to do with elderly single occupancy than the type of house.

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10 hours ago, PeterW said:

 

Sprinklers are very good at protecting the inner rooms and also keeping smoke down but do very little for a fire in the wall structure. 

Maybe so, but the best place for a sprinkler is in an area where the fire is most likely to start and that is not inside the inner wall. It's cooking, heating, smoking, electrical appliances, candles, etc.... 

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When we designed the basement, we had two choices to comply with regs - one was sprinklers and the other was a second means of exit to outside, independent of the main stairs.

 

Quote for a system just for basement was £6k (booster tank & pump, should mains not be sufficient) an extra £1k.

 

We went for external access as it worked better for the design and made the layout more flexible - sprinklers would have been the cheaper option though.

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7 minutes ago, Miek said:

Maybe so, but the best place for a sprinkler is in an area where the fire is most likely to start and that is not inside the inner wall. It's cooking, heating, smoking, electrical appliances, candles, etc.... 

 

Back home in NI in the 80s, chip pan fires were very common - a neighbour of ours died when he came home from the pub, fancied some chips and put the pan of hot oil on, fell asleep and you can work out the rest.

 

The lady we sold our first house, classic victorian terrace, to managed to start a fire with a tea light on a window cill catching a voile curtain. While structural damage was minimal, the water and smoke damage were significant.

 

Nowadays shonky device chargers seem to be  quite common...

 

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We had sprinklers fitted throughout on a recent development and the cost was about £2,550 per house.  Average house was 4 storey 170m2.

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4 hours ago, SteamyTea said:

When my Father was a teenager, his family home burnt down.  They got rehoused, but the original house was not rebuilt for decades.

 

Why not? Was this by their choice?

 

4 hours ago, SteamyTea said:

A more resent fire down here in a pub kitchen, which damaged the living area of the building was not paid out for by the insurance company.  The reason given was that the tenant landlord had not declared that he had been bankrupt a few years earlier.

 

That's a ... weird reason. Why would that matter to the insurance?

 

4 hours ago, SteamyTea said:

So live is never simple.

 

Yep, clearly an insurance company has every reason to try and avoid paying out big, but if the houseowner has done a reasonable amount of things (including indeed perhaps sprinklers, fire alarms installed and batteries charged etc..) then they will have to pay, surely?

 

-M

20 minutes ago, Mr Punter said:

We had sprinklers fitted throughout on a recent development and the cost was about £2,550 per house.  Average house was 4 storey 170m2.

 

That's .. okay. These prices of cool features start to add up but even for my own safety I think this is pretty good. Were these the mist sprinklers JSHarris mentioned?

 

 

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2 hours ago, Bitpipe said:

 

Back home in NI in the 80s, chip pan fires were very common - a neighbour of ours died when he came home from the pub, fancied some chips and put the pan of hot oil on, fell asleep and you can work out the rest.

 

The lady we sold our first house, classic victorian terrace, to managed to start a fire with a tea light on a window cill catching a voile curtain. While structural damage was minimal, the water and smoke damage were significant.

 

Nowadays shonky device chargers seem to be  quite common...

 

And people insist on building these into the wall now...

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35 minutes ago, the_r_sole said:

The biggest issue I have come across specifying sprinkler systems is that the water infrastructure outside of big towns/cities, seems rarely able to provide a sufficient flow, so either you have to pay to upgrade a water main and/or find somewhere to store tanks of water - so the costs can rack up pretty quickly if you are looking at a single dwelling

 

 

Exactly the issue we ran into.  The fire officer recommended that we fit sprinklers in the planning consultation (pretty sure they all do this with every application in England, anyway), which is why I looked into it.  The volume of water we'd need to store to be able to run conventional sprinklers was far too large, hence the reason I looked at the mist systems, as they need a lot less water (but cost a lot more).

 

In the end I just looked at some statistics, and compared the risk of death from fire with the risk of death from other things we do all the time.  Once I realised that we were about 95 times more likely to be killed whilst driving than we were from a house fire I concluded that investing that much money to mitigate a pretty small risk wasn't justified.

 

I did fit a decent fire alarm system, though, as the data shows that good fire alarms can massively reduce the risk of death from fire, the data suggests that alarms are significantly more effective at preventing deaths from fire than sprinklers.

 

Probably worth noting that anyone building in Wales has to fit sprinklers, I think,  as I believe they are mandatory there now.

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35 minutes ago, puntloos said:

Why not? Was this by their choice?

They rented the place, so landlords choice. And a rather large war came after.

 

37 minutes ago, puntloos said:

That's a ... weird reason. Why would that matter to the insurance?

Because they are dishonest and morally bankrupt.

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13 minutes ago, JSHarris said:

 

 

Exactly the issue we ran into.  The fire officer recommended that we fit sprinklers in the planning consultation (pretty sure they all do this with every application in England, anyway), which is why I looked into it.  The volume of water we'd need to store to be able to run conventional sprinklers was far too large, hence the reason I looked at the mist systems, as they need a lot less water (but cost a lot more).

 

In the end I just looked at some statistics, and compared the risk of death from fire with the risk of death from other things we do all the time.  Once I realised that we were about 95 times more likely to be killed whilst driving than we were from a house fire I concluded that investing that much money to mitigate a pretty small risk wasn't justified.

 

But I was planning to seal myself in my amazing dream house and never come out again! ;)

 

13 minutes ago, JSHarris said:

 

I did fit a decent fire alarm system, though, as the data shows that good fire alarms can massively reduce the risk of death from fire, the data suggests that alarms are significantly more effective at preventing deaths from fire than sprinklers.

 

Probably worth noting that anyone building in Wales has to fit sprinklers, as I believe they are mandatory there now.

 

Interesting.. will keep an eye on it.. anyway my plot is the center of town, so water pressure likely isn't a big issue, 2000 quid is "doable"..

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