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A Checklist for Building Party Walls the Right Way

Inspections are crucial in ensuring that party walls between townhome units meet fire code requirements. However, violations are occasionally discovered, leading to costly delays in the construction schedule. Building party walls correctly is essential to...

Inspections are crucial in ensuring that party walls between townhome units meet fire code requirements. However, violations are occasionally discovered, leading to costly delays in the construction schedule. Building party walls correctly is essential to avoid these complications.

Avoid Unwanted Penetrations in the Shaft Liner

After the installation of the shaft liner, it is not uncommon for trades to fasten blocking to the wall inside one of the units. However, sometimes nails or screws are used that penetrate the shaft liner, resulting in damage that needs to be repaired. To prevent this issue, it's important to specify the maximum fastener length and ensure that fasteners are only used in framing members, not the shaft liner itself.

Unwanted penetration in party wall shaft liner Note the puncture in the shaft liner below the angle brace. That area had to be replaced.

Properly Install Fire Blocking

In our assessments of homes under construction, we often encounter missing or incorrectly installed fire blocking at transition points, especially between the first and second floors. It is crucial for the job supervisor to ensure that all fire blocking is installed correctly before calling for an inspection. Failure to do so will require rework and rescheduling of the inspection, causing unnecessary delays.

Make the Right Material Choices for Party Walls

When it comes to choosing materials for party walls, builders often opt for shaft liners with paper or fiberglass mat facings due to their affordability. However, these products can be prone to mildew problems if exposed to weather during the framing process, regardless of any "mold resistant" labeling. To avoid potential issues, we recommend using fire-resistant gypsum board with a fiberglass-mat face for the shaft liner, despite the slightly higher cost. This choice will prevent mildew growth, even if the wall gets rained or snowed on before it's closed up.

Avoid Inadequate Air Sealing Inside Party Walls

Air sealing within party walls is crucial for energy code compliance. The most challenging areas to seal are the intersections between the assembly and the roof and exterior walls. A poor seal can affect the blower door test and prevent you from meeting your air leakage target. To effectively seal these spots, consider using a fire-rated sealant or a fire-retardant spray foam. It's essential to ensure that this step is included in the quality checklist.

Good air sealing on party wall The low-expansion foam at the roofline is for general air sealing. It’s a good practice on all jobs, but is non-negotiable if the home will have to pass a blower door test.

Avoiding these problems requires meticulous supervision. It is crucial to ensure that trades working on the party wall understand and adhere to your specific requirements. Additionally, it's important to prevent other trades working around the wall from damaging the finished assembly. Regular inspection of each trade's work immediately after completion allows for quick identification of issues, correction by responsible parties, and prevention of future mistakes.

Please note: Richard Baker drives quality and performance in home building as the building performance manager on the PERFORM Builder Solutions team at IBACOS.

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