What is the Difference Between Fire Resistant and Fire Retardant?

What is the Difference Between Fire Resistant and Fire Retardant?

Posted By: Sophie Published: 26/11/2019 Times Read: 6957 Comments: 1

With so many options out there to protect belongings and buildings, it is sometimes a mine field when it comes to choosing a product such as fire retardant, fire resistant, flame retardant or flame resistant! Another important factor is also picking a resistant product or a retardant in agreeance with specific regulations. In this piece we will guide you through the main differences between fire retardant and fire resistant. 

What is the Difference Between Fire Retardant and Fire Resistant?


Fire Resistant Treatments


Fire resistant paints and varnishes work by creating a barrier against fire. They do this by forming a foaming char layer above a variety of substrates such a steel, timber or plaster.

The chemicals within the resistant coating reacts to heat by creating bubbles of inert gas (a gas that does not undergo a chemical reaction under a set of given conditions). This inert gas is then strengthened by the paint’s own additives.

The foam char layer is non-combustible and works by increasing the time a fire is able to penetrate through. This char layer works differently depending on what surface the fire-resistant coating has been used on. For example, when used on steel, the foam char layer insulation works to keep the metal cool for longer, which prolongs the time it could take for the metal to collapse.


When fire resistant coatings are given a ‘time limit’ such as 30, 60, or 90 minutes resistance, customers often think this is the amount of time a coating has resistance to a fire, but it is actually the amount of time it takes for the paint or substrate to fail, i.e. for a fire to go through a treated door.



Fire Retardants


Fire retardant paints and varnishes make various combustible materials much more difficult to ignite. Not only that, but it also enables small fires to self-extinguish. Once a surface has caught fire and the fire is there to stay, the next stage of a fire-retardant coating is to slow the rate at which the flame spreads, which is significant in comparison to surfaces that aren’t treated with a fire retardant.



Why Use a Fire Resistant Treatment?


Fire resistant treatments are great for a variety of substrates and protect surfaces from fire by creating a foam char layer which is non- combustible. Fire resistant treatment is great for steel frameworks and the like, as it helps keep metal cooler for longer, preventing it’s collapse longer than if a fire resistant treatment wasn’t used. 

Why Use a Fire Retardant Treatment?


Fire retardants are ideal for protecting any kind of wood products against fire damage. Overall, they slow down the fire performance of wood surfaces. It’s worth noting that fire retardants aren’t the best choice for outdoor applications, as varying weather conditions can cause the treatment to degrade over time.  However, the best uses for a fire-retardant treatment include interior applications of different substrates such as flats in higher buildings, public buildings and escape routes. 




Fire resistant paints or varnishes offer an insulating barrier to fire, protecting various substrates and allowing them to maintain their integrity for longer, such as steel. It also slows down time at which it takes a fire to break through a treated surface, such as a fire door or wall.


Fire retardants essentially reduce the combustibility of vulnerable substrates such as a wood and slows the rate at which a fire can spread. Fire retardants can also enable small fires to self-extinguish, preventing much larger-scale fires.


Here at ACS, we provide many products from fire retardant paint to weatherproofing treatments to keep your home and your belongings safe and prepared. If you would like any information, or have any questions you want to ask, please email us at info@acslimited.co.uk, or contact us 01935 414012.


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