How to Choose the Best Fire Retardant Material for Your Commercial Building
A single fire in your commercial building can put your people in danger and result in major financial losses. Implementing optimal passive and active fire protection methods is essential for protecting your people and property, as well as staying up to code with all relevant fire safety regulations. Passive fire protection (PFP) refers to materials and systems within your building that slow the spread of flames and impede the negative effects of fire and smoke. Materials designated “fire-retardant” burn slowly (not to be conflated with “fire-resistant” materials which are meant to resist burning entirely), allowing additional time for safe egress and for firefighters to arrive on the scene.
Fire-retardant materials differ in cost, load-bearing capabilities, flexibility, thermal conductivity, and rate of decay. Different materials may be better- or worse-suited for different commercial buildings and functions. Let’s explore some of the various types of fire retardant material available and how they stack up to different temperatures and other conditions.
Types of Fire Retardant Material
Manufactured by spinning molten mineral rock, mineral wool is a fire retardant material commonly used for thermal insulation and noise reduction. It takes seriously high temperatures to burn mineral wool – glass wool and stone wool have heat resistances of 446 – 500 °F and 1300 – 1560 °F, respectively. Ceramic fiber wool takes this heat resistance to the next level, approaching 2,200 °F, though it’s costly and relatively rare.
Fire-rated gypsum board is another popular fire-retardant material for homes and commercial buildings alike. This special type of drywall releases water when exposed to flames, slowing down the fire’s rate of spread.
Treated Lumber Plywood
Most types of wood burn quite easily. When properly treated, however, lumber plywood can greatly slow a fire in its tracks. Treated with a fire-retardant chemical, this wooden material chars but doesn’t oxidize, transferring heat energy uniformly throughout the wood so it burns slowly and less intensely. So, fire-treated lumber plywood isn’t a fire stopping material, but it can be a significant asset for various commercial buildings.
Brick is one of the longest-used building materials in human history, in no small part thanks to its durability in the face of high temperatures. Of course, not all bricks are created equal. Different brick materials offer different levels of passive fire protection. “Fire” or “refractory” bricks are the most fire-retardant options available.
Like brick, concrete is also inherently resistant to fire. With a lower heat conductivity than steel, concrete is often used as fire protection for steel frames. These fire-retardant properties make concrete an excellent construction choice for floors ceilings, roofs, walls, and more.
Intumescent coatings expand in the presence of flames, creating a cushion-like barrier that engulfs the surfaces they protect (often structural features). These spray on fireproofing coatings are relatively easy to apply and patch – they also resemble traditional paint when under normal conditions, so they blend in with a commercial building’s existing interior design.
Additional Fire Retardant Materials
Other fire-retardant materials include, but are not limited to:
Fire-retardant treated wood
Geobond asbestos substitute
Magnesium oxide (MgO)
Treated vegetable fiber (e.g., cotton, jute, kenaf, hemp, flax, etc..)
Which Fireproofing Solutions Are Right for Your Building?
With so many fire-retardant materials out there, choosing the right combination of materials can be overwhelming, especially when navigating fire safety codes, OSHA regulations, and more. Not to worry – Kaloutas is highly experienced in all matters related to passive and active fire protection, including the application, repair, and replacement of spray fireproofing, fire-retardant materials, fire-resistant materials, and more. To learn more about us and all that we do, contact us online or give us a call at 978−532−1414 today.