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Fireproof Paint

The effect of fire on intumescent paint

Protect your home with fireproof paint

Each year in the United States there are over one million fires, causing thousands of civilian deaths and billions in property damage. In 2015, a fire department responded to a fire every 23 seconds. Thankfully, as well as those very active fire protection systems, we also have passive fire protection such as fireproof paint.

In 2015, fire claimed the lives of 8 people on average per day. 80% of these deaths were caused by home structure fires, 60% in cases where there were non-working or no smoke alarms.

Now, no paint is 100% fireproof. The term “fireproof paint” refers to two classes of passive fire protection: fire resistant (intumescent) and fire retardant coatings. The difference between the two is the mechanism they use to protect a structure from fire. In protecting the structure and preventing collapse, these coatings are able to save lives.


Top benefits of fireproof paint

It goes without saying that a coating that works to protect from fire is a good thing. But these fireproof paints have other benefits beside passive fire protection:

Fireproof paint can give fire crews more time to stop a fire

Fireproof paint can give fire crews more time to stop a fire

  • Easy application while maintaining the structural, aesthetic and architectural value of a building
  • Cost efficient
  • Can be used on interior and exterior surfaces
  • Protecting substrates from burning, melting and weakening in fire
  • Increasing evacuation time
  • Holding off structural collapse
  • Increasing the safety of firefighters

Fire protection paints also have many applications, including office hallways, houses and apartments, structural steel, concrete supports, garages and many more.

Fireproof paint: Fire retardant vs fire resistant

Fireproof paints work by slowing down the burning process, protecting substrates from heat and flame and thus preventing structural collapse. However, fire resistant and fire retardant paints work in very different ways.

  • Fire resistant paint: Also called “intumescent”, this coating swells when affected by extreme heat. This reaction causes the paint to expand to 15 or even 50 times its original volume and form and solid foam-like substance called char. Char does not conduct heat, and so works as an insulating layer, preventing the substrate from being affected by the flame while the char slowly erodes. Fire resistant paints add 30, 60, 90 or 120 minutes of extra protection time from the fire.
  • Fire retardant paint: Fire retardant paint works by interacting with the flames, rather than insulating against them. It increases the threshold required for a fire to start or catch by preventing ignition and slowing the rate at which it spreads. It does this because it emits flame-damping gases when exposed to heat, starving the fire of flammable gases and reducing its power.

Fireproofing metal, steel, and concrete

Steel may not burn, but the extreme heat of a fire will damage it, weakening its structure and load bearing capacity thus leading to building collapse. Steel begins to lose strength at about 600ºF, and this increases rapidly after 700ºF. The average housefire burns at about 1000ºF, and an industrial fire burns even hotter.

Intumescent paint is the preferred coating method for fireproofing steel. By insulating the steel against heat it strengthens the structure.

Intumescent coatings react and expand at about 400ºF, insulating the steel before the heat does any structural damage. Therefore the structure is safer for longer, allowing longer evacuation times and giving firefighters a greater chance to fight the fire safely.
Like steel, concrete does not burn easily however fire will weaken it. Fire retardant paints are not often used on concrete, so fire resistant paints are the preferred method of protection when extra is needed.  Applying a protective coating may not do much for the concrete itself given its natural fireproof properties, but it can help control temperature in a fire. A dramatic change in heat can cause a building to collapse.

Fireproof paint for wood

Applying a fireproof paint to a wooden substrate

Applying a fireproof paint to a wooden substrate

Fire protection paint for wood is available as paints and varnishes, in a range of finishes. They can be applied to treated and untreated wood with a brush, roller, or spray.

For the most effective fire protection coating, you can apply a fire resistant paint with a fire resistant paint as a top coat. The two layers work together to extend the fire protection time even longer.

Applying a fire resistant coating to wood is just as easy. It can be applied on hardwoods, softwoods, MDF, in interior and exterior settings, and is usually a clear finish which preserves the natural look of the substrate.


Fireproof paint suppliers in the US

With the growing popularity of fire proof coatings, there are now many companies that include fire proof paints among their products, including Shield Industries, FlameStop, Sherwin Williams,  and Firefree. There are also companies who specialise in fire protection coating application.

Brand Product
Sherwin-Williams FireTex FX5120 (for structural steel)
Shield Industries FireGuard E-84
Zeroflame Fire Retardant Paint
Flame Stop Flame Stop I-DS
Albi Manufacturing Albi Clad 800
FlameOFF Fire Barrier Paint

Building codes and fireproof paint in the US

The effect of fire on a fire resistant coating compared to bare wood

The effect of flame on a fire resistant coating compared to bare wood

While each state and town may have different codes, in the United States there are two primary organisations that develop building and construction codes: the International Code Council (ICC) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Each code has a specific category and focus, such as new constructions, residential codes, fire codes, electrical codes and others. These codes are widely adopted by towns and cities across the country.

Building codes are necessary because they determine flame spread and smoke release requirements for finishes, and the class of safety required for any application, substrate, and location. Factors like occupancy, height of the building, and substrate are taken into account when assessing fireproofing requirements.

For combustible substrates such as wood, the coating needs to reduce its surface burning characteristics, where for steel or masonry the coating needs to insulate it from the heat or not add to its combustibility. Fire retardant paints are tested using ASTM E84 or NFPA 286 tests, and they must meet the requirements of these tests to pass muster.


Need more fireproof paint guidance? Our experts are here to help.

Use our 100% free quoting service and we can match your project to the best products and suppliers for your needs. Let us connect you with the leaders in the industry.

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