Construction Cram
Construction, Home Builders, Real Estate, Architects

By: constructioncram | September 12, 2017

Engineered floors are a much cheaper and just as beautiful alternative to hardwood flooring. This type of flooring offers economic and productivity benefits to the homeowner and the construction industry. However when damaged, engineered floors can also be the cause of deaths and injuries due to easy structural failure in a shorter time than regular hardwood flooring.


Engineered floors have really risen in popularity with many home owners during the last 20 years or so. They have become extremely popular because they are actually made of real wood, however the planks being thinner than hardwood, they tend to cost less. Thus a wallet conscious person will rather go for this cheaper alternative than springing for the very expensive hardwood flooring. The job of floor stripping is very important before starting hardwood flooring task.

However this can come at a cost to the firemen that have to put out fires in case the house is burning. It has been proven that the floors made of the thinner engineered material can effectively fall within minutes after being exposed to fire. Engineered flooring are much easier to crack than the heavier variety made of traditional wood.

How Does The Exposure To Accidents Happen

When an accidental fire happens in a house, all wood floor material is exposed to the danger or cracking and burning. However engineered floors might easily fail sooner than the traditional type of lumber floors. Experts have stated that the difference is only a matter of minutes, however this counts a lot since fire fighters have no way of knowing the precise moment a fire has started. So while they might think that they are safe, the wood could have had enough expose to the heat and fire to be very hazardous to the people walking over it.

An additional element that makes this possible is the fact that some heavier floor coverings such as ceramic, tile, carpet or lighter concrete can be placed on top of the base. This extra weight makes it much easier for the flooring to simply collapse under the heat and fire pressure.

Studies and researches have shown that the engineered floors made of I-joists can fall within 6 minutes, while the traditional residential floors can last as much as 19 minutes before they start cracking. This is a big difference when it comes to the safety of people trying to put out the fire. Many fire fighters have fallen through the much weaker floor and have been effectively trapped below. Some have received serious injuries, while others have died.

In 2006 a 34 year old volunteer Deputy Fire Chief died after he has fallen through a section of the floor that was cracked due to fire while trying to put it out from above. While many attempts have been made to rescue the volunteers,the debris in the basement, the bad fire and smoke conditions and the failed door angle were just some of the causes that made his saving impossible.

Such cases are not localized, and they are in fact, quite common.

How To Control And Minimize the Exposure To Fire

There are some things that fire fighters and fire departments can do to minimize their exposure to the risks of fire accidents.

  • Before entering the building size up the fire and forward this information to the on-site personnel who is about to enter the burning building. This is called the risk vs gain factor. Inform fire fighters of the perils of unprotected engineered flooring, particularly of the i-joist floor systems.

  • If the fire is suspected of being exactly under the floor area where the firemen are supposed to work, avoid entering that area. Also avoid the area if it is not sure where exactly is the fire burning.

  • If there is a fire under a particular floor, do not overestimate the structural safety of that floor.

  • Every fire fighter person should be accounted for at all times. They need to check with the base regularly to avoid losing contact. This will help in case any accidents happen so the rescue team is fast on getting to the site of the accident.

  • Fire fighters should receive SCBA face pieces equipped with voice amplifiers that will greatly improve internal communications.

How Can Builders, Constructors And Owners Help

  • Any construction deficits should be mentioned to the local building officials. The engineered wood floor joists should be modified only based on rigorous manufacturer specifications.

  • Any damages such as cut cords or webs should be immediately reported to building officials.

  • Building contractors and associations should provide a basic training to fire service organizations that will educate the fire fighters on the dangers of weakened wooden structures particularly when made of engineered wood.

  • Home owners should add sprinklers in the building to minimize fire hazards.


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