Separation walls can serve many purposes. You most often see them in event halls as temporary dividers to obtain multiple uses out of a room. But they are often used, even required, in residential homes as a safety precaution. When my husband and I bought our first rental apartment unit, we discovered that we would have to install a gypsum board fire separation wall to section it off from the rest of the room and provide limited fire protection.
Gypsum board is the most popular option for area separation walls. Most gypsum wall units come prepackaged with all the materials (but not the tools) that you will need to erect the wall. When purchasing gypsum board be sure to enquire whether the panels contain fire and water proofing additives.
Typically, the gypsum boards that you buy should be at least an inch thick and 10 to 15 feet high depending on the height of your ceiling. The width that will be available will depend on the hardware store or manufacturer you purchase the board from as well as the width of the room to be walled. A good general rule is to have to use as few boards as possible if the wall is to serve a fire proofing function.
Once you purchase your gypsum board panels, be sure to store them properly until you are ready to use them. They should be kept indoors and protected from direct sunlight, surface contaminants and other elements that could compromise the board’s fire proofing ability. You should also be sure that they are stored so that they are level to protect from sagging. However, the floor is not recommended since it is a place where they can become susceptible to moisture.
Once you’re ready, installing the boards is really pretty simple. The metal framework that will support your separation wall consists of three pieces: H-studs, a U-shaped track, and L-shaped breakaway aluminum clips. Which should be in your wall unit package and can be purchased at most major hardware stores or ordered if not.
To begin, lay a section of track along the foundation where the wall will stand and secure it with studs at intervals of no more than two feet. Then, take two gypsum liner panels together and insert them (together) into the track at the foundation. Use the H-studs to hold them in place and then cap them together with another, inverted, section of track. Before securing the inverted piece of track in the same fashion as the foundation track, you must secure this first section of gypsum panels to the adjacent wall. This should be done with the L-shaped aluminum breakaway clips. These clips are essential because in case of fire, they will melt when the temperature on one side of the wall reaches 1100 degrees allowing one side of the wall to burn away while the fire resistant side of the wall continues to protect the living area on the other side.
Repeat that process until you meet the other wall and it is time to secure the gypsum separation wall to it with the L-shaped aluminum breakaway clips. After this, be sure to seal all joints and seams. There are a variety of ways to do this. It can be as simple a process as sealing then taping them, however, there are some, more aesthetic options but those will depend on the manufacturer that you are dealing with.