When you may be held solely responsible for the outcome of a project . . . you need to utilize every opportunity to avoid the potential problems that are typically associated with construction project liabilities and legalities.  The complexities of fireproofing exemplifies this point as it is one of the least understood trades on the job site.  It is easy to make a mistake.


It has happened more than once that the building owner, who may know nothing of construction, will dump all of the fire safety (fireproofing) issues upon you, the project professional.  This responsibility, combined with cost and time restrictions, getting every option and every detail from every trade correct can be quite a challenge.

Get it wrong and you will be challenged with additional costs through change orders, extensions of time, perhaps even shoddy work.  Who knows what will happen, but it won’t be good.


Architects, Designers and Engineers are often held solely responsible for the details of 50 or 60 trades while under intense cost and time restraints, and all the time working with only a drawing.  As bad as some specifications are and as good as some specifications are there is ample opportunity for a trade contractors to take advantage of a word or two. 

I remember once, maybe 40 years ago, I was a project manager on this animal laboratory addition.  The specification for the ceiling tile read that the 2 x 2 celling pads were to be protected with a 10 mil vinyl coating or acrylic coating.  The contractor took it as a 10 mil vinyl; or an acrylic coating (with no specified thickness).  The designer was looking for 10 mils of either vinyl or acrylic but whatever the material was to be it had to be 10 mils.  Well this turned in to a $2000 problem for this young PM and a lesson learn even to this day.

The point being given the slightest opportunity, a contractor may claim, you are the professional; you should have known this or that regardless of trade, project, product, or any detail. Some will even exploit the exact written word or lack thereof, for economic gain just as I learned so many years ago.

Although spray fireproofing is a relatively small trade, dollar-wise, a SFRM (fireproofing) applicator can affect every square foot of the footprint area, including the contractor’s schedule, all of the other trades, and of course, compliance.  This coverage, in my opinion, make fireproofing a trade due its respect. 

This is why we have developed The Vellrath Group.  A strong engineering background along with nearly 40 years of application experiences we feel make us uniquely qualified to assist in the resolution of fireproofing issues.  We can provide the designer a great resource for personal clarification of Issues and that this knowledge has to reduce claims and confusion, and thereby costs.

Admittedly it is a hard sell, but we can talk for some time about the importance of pre-bid consult, or at a minimum an educational consult, and it is maybe to the tune of a 20% savings at bid time.  So many times have I heard, “Boy if we only had known this . . “  We can also talk about the importance of a legitimate “Special Inspection” and how that differs from a typical field inspection- and it is important as well. 

The focus of our consultation is that once the code parameters have been established, saying that “X” hours protection are required; through our academic knowledge and our decades of installation experience, we can best tell you how to achieve that rating.  What product is best suited, what methodology, anticipated cost, schedule, trade coordination, etc. etc.  Plus any issues that may come up during construction, can resolve quickly without much of a schedule impact.

We also offer services from the educational perspective.  We have a program based on our two hardbound books – a Handbook and Workbook. Each of them can also be electronically downloaded or purchased in print. The Handbook is a textbook producing what we consider to be a sound foundation for subject of fireproofing. The Workbook is more a hands-on product showing the application of the various concepts. 

In addition, you’ll have the option to “Create Your Own” Course by selecting only the chapters that may be of greatest interest or of most immediate need to your business….plus there many additional ways we can be of service to your company!

We have also developed a more topical response.  Say for example you are approaching winter conditions, what is the best form of temporary heat and why; you may be a little unsure of the impact of the “thermal restraint” issues and what to do about it.  Obviously you can purchase the whole book but if you have a specific topic in mind, we can address that as well.  If your issues is very specific, like what properties can I expect from a commercial grade SFRM material, we can respond with a Building Block.  If you question is a bit more broad, like what grade of SFRM should I specify for mechanical room and how would it compare to each other.  We can respond to that via our Topic Synopsis.  Regardless, the more knowledge you can put your hands on the less opportunity there is for a mistake and that will lower costs to your client.

A Message to Architects, Designers & Engineers