Q: I live as a property guardian, part of my area there is a locked closet that was promised to be part of my area to use. The reason they are giving me now is, that the closet is locked off because there is a window on the inside, which faces an internal brick wall (this is an old Victorian school) and it would need a fire board put up. I was told that a quote of £400 was made to attach a fire board, which I'm assuming they mean includes materials and labour. The window is about 1.2 meters wide and maximum 2 meters high. Can that quote really be true? Also, what quality of fireboard is good enough for approval and does it need to be attached by a specialised craftsman or is it allowed for a private person with many years of experience to do it?
A: Thank you for your enquiry.
As a Property Guardian the cupboard in question is both part of your dwelling and a commercial property. In order to provide any definitive guidance on this, we would need to have a much better understanding of the general arrangement of the property and how this may be impacted by the lack of fire separation between the two areas. Presumably your employer has undertaken a Fire Risk Assessment and decided that the cupboard/closet presents a risk unless the window is boarded up.
Guidance on current Building Regulations compliance and the level of fire separation required between different parts of a building is given by the HMSO Publication, Approved Document B, with guidance also provided in BS 9999, Fire Safety in the Design, Management and Use of Buildings. We would need to understand the precise nature of the building and general arrangements before advising on the level of fire resistance that would be required by current standards, but is likely to be at least one hour to separate the school area from the residential parts. We would also need to see how easily the fire resistant boarding could be fixed but for a general specification, suggest contacting one of the main plasterboard manufacturer's to determine a suitable specification. One such is British Gypsum and you can download their helpful “White Book” here.
The key thing to understand is that it is not the “Fire board” that makes the fire resistance, but the whole frame, tape and fixings.
The “window” you describe is actually the size of a door. The materials themselves are inexpensive, but the board, often two layers, needs to be fitted to a frame with all gaps properly sealed to comply with Building Regulations, so I can see a tradesman charging in the order of £400, especially if a contractor is used that can certify the work, for example a BM TRADA Registered Installer. Ultimately, Your employer will need the comfort of knowing the work has been done by someone competent and insured to do such work. This is the employers legal liability and, after all, is for your safety. With Grenfell Towers still heavy in our hearts, no one should be taking unnecessary risk. I hope this helps. Kind regards, Woodward Chartered Surveyors