There is a lot of
information out there when it comes to what we need to do to prevent accidental
fires in our buildings. So, here we have created our handy guide to help with
the confusion of fire retardants and intumescent, what they should be used with
and why they should be used!
What is a Fire Retardant?
The term fire retardant refers
to a group of various chemicals which are added into manufactured and
combustible materials such as textiles, plastic, surface finishes and coatings
such as paint. The name itself refers to a function, as opposed to naming a
specific group of chemicals.
Why Do You Need a Fire Retardant?
In this day and age,
there are more combustible electricals and technology around in buildings and
homes, which means there are more fire hazards. Not only that, we are in a
period where consumerism is at an all-time high, meaning those scatter cushions
and rugged blankets are only one spark away from sparking up the whole place.
In terms of technology,
the hazard might not be entirely what you think. Sure, electrical appliances
can malfunction and cause fires, but it is also down to the installation of the
appliances. Every service that is installed in a building, such as electrical
sockets, lighting units and water pipes can compromise the fire resistance of a
room. This is because installation creates openings in its walls, floor or
ceiling. Using a fire retardant on your building and surfaces can give extra
peace of mind when it comes to protecting your building from fire accidents.
How Do Fire Retardants
Fire retardants work by
stopping or slowing the spread of fire. Fire-resistant or intumescent paints
and varnishes will create a barrier against fire. They do this by forming a
foaming char layer above substrates such as timber, steel or plaster. Chemicals
within the coating react to heat by creating bubbles of inert gas, which are
strengthened by both the paints own polymer and additives. This non-combustible
meringue type layer insulates the substrate and increases the time it takes for
the fire to penetrate through. In the case of steelwork, this insulation keeps
the metal cool for longer, extending the time it takes to collapse.
Intumescent paints are
usually rated by time (i.e. 30, 60 or 90-minutes resistance). It is often
thought that these timings mean the coatings protect the substrate for that
specified time, but this is not the case. The time given is actually the time
it takes for the paint and substrate to fail (i.e. for fire to go through a
What is an Intumescent
(Fire Resistant) and How Does it Work?
An intumescent material
is any a kind of substance that swells as a result of heat exposure, which
leads to it increasing in volume, and decreasing in density. It is a core
component of passive fire protection. Neither of the above should be mistaken
for heat resistant paint, which is used on surfaces subject to high
temperatures (such as stoves).
Although these paints
resist high temperatures, they offer no protection against fire. They will be
inherently fire retardant (because they don’t ignite when subject to a flame),
but they don’t make the substrate fire retardant. They will also be inherently
fire resistant (again because they don’t themselves catch fire), but they don’t
confer fire resistance to the substrate (they won’t, for instance, prevent the underlying
substrate from reaching its auto-ignition temperature). Heat resistant paints
simply won’t degrade when subject to elevated temperatures.
Fire retardants will
reduce the combustibility of vulnerable substrates (like wood) and slow the
rate of fire spread. Fire-resistant or intumescent paints will offer an
insulating barrier to fire, protecting substrates, allowing them to maintain
their integrity for longer (for instance structural steelwork), or increasing
the time it takes for a fire to break through a barrier (a fire door or wall). Heat
resistant paints don’t decompose when subjected to high temperatures but offer
no insulating qualities.
We hope you’ve found this guide to fire retardants and Intumescent helpful. To
find out more about fire retardant paint or have a browse of our