Vermiculite ceilings have been used for over 50 years in public as well as private buildings. Its widely adopted use is attributable to its physical characteristics and benefits. These include:
- Cost effective finish on concrete which does not require re-coating every few years;
- Acoustically absorptive (better speech intelligibility in a room);
- Thermally efficient and environmentally efficient (conserves energy);
- Excellent anti-condensation properties;
- Ability to absorb and desorb humidity during the daily cycle;
- It is a natural gypsum based product without any VOC content;
- High durability product (lifespan of 50 years and beyond);
- Superior fire resistance (proprietary gypsum vermiculite mixes often are installed as fire rated ceilings and fire barriers);
- Totally non-combustible (No smoke evolved)
Vermiculite ceilings were popular spray applied ceiling finishes of the sixties, seventies and well into the eighties. Not only did it function as an acoustic coating but was also used as a decorative texture finish when sprayed directly over concrete substrates or alternatively when sprayed over some type of mesh (such as expanded metal lath or ripple iron backing). It has remained popular for over 30 years thanks to its low cost, speedy installation, and above all, very low maintenance cost.
The components of a decorative vermiculite ceiling or texture finish may commonly be made up of gypsum vermiculite, gypsum perlite and in some cases gypsum & timber or other fibrous components.
In some cases, normally in the topmost storey of a block of apartments, a roof / ceiling may be required to have a fire resisting construction of at least one hour under the earlier Ordinance 70 or the current BCA. Depending on the Building Classification, rise in storey and floor area, this one hour fire resistance may be required to be upgraded to a more stringent 1 hr RISF (or RESISTANCE TO THE INCIPIENT SPREAD OF FIRE).
It is important to keep in mind that a number of proprietary spray applied coatings / products imported and sprayed in Australia and included into fire resistant construction or any fire upgrade for the building MAY HAVE ASBESTOS CONTAMINATION.
ALWAYS REFER TO THE PROPERTY’S ASBESTOS REGISTER AND ASBESTOS MANAGEMENT PLAN OR HAVE A QUALIFIED CONSULTANT CONDUCT AN ASBESTOS AUDIT /SURVEY BEFORE WORKING WITH VERMICULITE CEILINGS.
Notwithstanding the popularity of the system as texture finish, the need and priority of Fire Safety for public as well as private buildings has become a vital and integral requirement for modern building construction, and since the introduction of the OH&S Act 2000 no particular duty is attached to any one duty holder (controller of premises, employer or landlord). ALL ARE HELD ACCOUNTABLE.
This is a critical issue which is mandated under the building code of Australia (D2.2 Fire-isolated stairways and ramps; Section 3. TYPE A FIRE-RESISTING CONSTRUCTION (b) external walls, common walls and the flooring and floor framing of lift pits must be non-combustible; and SPECIFICATION C1.10a - FIRE HAZARD PROPERTIES - FLOORS, WALLS AND CEILINGS(1)), to ensure the safety of building occupants in the event of fire.
Unfortunately for the last 10 years, there has been an increase in many accelerated building construction and renovation programs where the practice has been to spray-paint vermiculite ceilings with copious amount of paint.
What does it mean and how will it affect your building?
If in the course of renovation works or an upgrade the vermiculite ceilings are painted with combustible coatings, then a risk is created where the properties of the material are altered from being non-combustible (and therefore conforming to the current building code) to combustible (and non-conforming to our building code) with serious life threatening consequences!
With over 50 years’ experience in this area, we have the knowledge, expertise and resources to help you make the right choices for your project. Call us.
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