Smoke Barriers vs. Smoke Partitions: What's the Difference?

When designing a new building or retrofitting an older building to meet current codes, it’s important to understand that though smoke barriers and smoke partitions sound similar, they are unique installations that serve specific purposes.

Both barriers and partitions can be used to help stop the spread of smoke in the event of a fire, giving occupants time to exit while preventing potential smoke damage.

Smoke barriers and smoke partitions are critical elements of an effective smoke and fire mitigation strategy. By understanding what each of these installations specializes in and where they should be installed, you can make sure that your building is optimally protected from smoke.

Smoke Barriers


If a fire broke out on one side or floor of a building, a smoke barrier would help prevent the smoke from crossing into the other side. This can help contain the harmful particulates and give people more time to exit safely. Smoke barriers are designed to compartmentalize multiple, connected rooms and must run continuously through interstitial areas. Smoke barriers, like the M3000 Horizontal Curtain from Smoke Guard, are often required to have a 1-hour fire resistance.


Smoke barriers must be sealed at all edges, regardless of positioning. For example, Smoke Guard’s M4000 Perimeter Curtain, pictured above, is able to seal a corner when deployed.

If some type of permeability is needed, such as an HVAC vent, then baffles must be used on either side of the vent to stop smoke from escaping via the conduit. The barrier can be made of any material, and any doorways inside the barrier must be protected with a material that is designed to resist flames for at least 20 minutes. The door itself does not need to be fire-rated, only the materials.

Smoke Partitions

Smoke partitions are primarily used in corridor walls as a single panel or curtain of deployable protection. To pass UL 1784, smoke partitions are tested to 400F and higher. They need to extend from floor to ceiling and must be fit tight against the above ceiling membrane to prevent the passage of smoke. If there are any windows in the smoke partition, they must also be sealed against smoke. Smoke partitions can be made of any material, whether or not that material is flame retardant.


If used on an opening, like this vertical deploying curtain, then they must be self-closing or automatic closing to prevent smoke from breaching the opening. They do not need to be fire-resistant, but they can be if desired.

The purpose of a smoke partition is to enclose openings of a corridor and prevent smoke from transferring between rooms. Smoke partitions can also be installed in front of doors or elevators, which helps isolate and contain specific rooms affected by fire.

The Best Solution for Fire and Smoke Protection

Since smoke barriers and smoke partitions can be installed in unique, mutually exclusive areas of a building, they are often both necessary. Smoke barriers may be required for larger, angled areas, while smoke partitions are often used in hallways and elevator areas since they are not required to be compartmentalized or to be used as barriers.

Experts at Smoke Guard have crafted a large selection of smoke curtains that offer the protection of a smoke barrier with the flexible installation and compartmentalized design of a smoke curtain. Properly installed, they can effectively seal and compartmentalize openings, with the curtain designed to deploy automatically, as needed.


The fire-rated M2500 Vertical Curtain (above) is shown creating a barrier across an otherwise open atrium with staircase, shielding it from smoke and fire spread on either side thanks to a 2-hour fire rating. Whether you need to block a corridor or you need a large barrier to separate open spaces, Smoke Guard has a product for every type of project and are experts in the details.

Get the Right Protection for Your Building

Your building should have the most effective smoke barriers and smoke partitions to help fully protect against the effects of an unexpected fire.

With Smoke Guard, you can get the protection you need regardless of room shape, opening size, or location. Whether you need partitions for corridors, windows, doorways, or large gaps, Smoke Guard has a product that will meet your needs.

Contact us today for tested, reliable, and specialized fire protection solutions for your building.