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Fire compartmentation building survey

Fire Compartmentation: A Building Surveyor’s Perspective

Assessing visible fire compartmentation measures and whether or not they are suitable and sufficient is a critical part of any building survey, and can save lives. 


Ever since the catastrophic event at Grenfell Tower, fire compartmentation has been on the minds of buyers in high rise buildings. But what about smaller residential properties? Our surveyors assess visible evidence of fire compartmentation and fire safety measures at every property they vist. Here, one of our chartered building surveyors, Pete, discusses some issues he has picked up on recent inspections.


What is fire compartmentation?

Fire compartmentation is when a property is divided up into areas to manage the risk posed by fire. These areas can be separated by fire resistent materials, fire doors and other fire-stopping measures. It is an important safety precaution, carried out to limit the spread of fire and smoke within a building and to nearby buildings.


Why is it important?

The fire in 2017 at Grenfell Tower was so catastrophic because the compartmentation measures were breached and the fire reached the external cladding. This tragedy highlights the crucial importance of effective fire prevention measures in residential buildings – something our surveyors are very aware of.


Findings from recent building surveys

Here, our Derby building surveyor, Pete Mallinson MRICS, highlights some issues he found with fire compartmentation on recent RICS Level 3 building surveys.

Ceiling void fire compartmentation issue
This is a void above a false ceiling. Voids greater than 800mm in depth require fire detection, as stipulated in current building regulation standards.
Kitchen building survey_fire compartmentation
This was a kitchen with a timber cladded ceiling. We advised that the ceiling was replaced with a more fire-resistant material to protect the bedroom above in case of fire.
Fire compartmentation issue ceiling
This ceiling was made of polystyrene tiles, which are highly combustible. We advised that these should be removed and replaced, particularly because there was a bedroom directly above.


Fire compartmentation damaged building survey
The self closing devices on this internal fire door have been disengaged. This is really common in rented properties, because tenants often remove them to stop doors from slamming shut. Here, you can also see that the hinges have been painted over; that means that we can’t confirm their fire rating. The intumescent strip that seals the gap between the door and frame to stop smoke and fire spreading was also missing.
Derby building survey fire compartmentation
This is a timber panelled wall covered with woodchip wallpaper. The wall separates a communal corridor from a bedroom, and therefore needs to provide substantial fire compartmentation; it is unlikely that this timber panelled wall would provide sufficient protection.
Timber decking fire compartmentation balcony
The use of timber decking on balconies is no longer considered appropriate because of its high combustability. In addition, this decking was becoming warped and showing signs of failure, and so we recommended it was replaced as a priority.
fire compartmentation remedial works
At this property, cladding remediation works were in progress. Luckily, these jobs are starting to trickle through the system now. Without remedial works, it could prove difficult to obtain a mortgage.


Our surveyors assess all visible aspects of a property, including fire compartmentation, fire detection, escape routes and potential fire hazards. Find out more about what’s included in our building surveys, check out our example reports, or contact us for more information.