What Is Fire Retardant Paint And How Does It Work

What Is Fire Retardant Paint And How Does It Work
03 May 2022

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Unfortunately, there is no way to decrease the chances of a fire down to zero. There are precautions you can take, but as long as there is oxygen in a room that contains flammable materials, the chances of catastrophe are always present.

There were almost 1.3 million residential fires in the US in 2019, according to statistics listed by the US government. Half of them are caused by cooking mishaps. Those are intimidating numbers.

Most fire safety equipment doesn’t actually prevent fires – it only helps you mitigate a fire in a timely and safe manner.

One ingredient that rarely gets talked about is fire retardant paint. This article will explore how the paint works and how it compares to other fire retardants available on the market.

What is fire retardant paint?

Fire retardant paint plays a key part in slowing down a fire, preventing it from turning into a raging inferno.

It’s as straightforward as it sounds – fire retardant paint is a non-combustant layer you put on your walls, furniture, and even drapes.

Fire retardant paint can be used in both commercial and residential situations.

The effects of fire retardant paint

• Fire retardant paint slows down the spread of fire
• Fire retardant paint reduces the fire’s intensity
• Fire retardant paint reduces the smoke output of the fire

There is a concept in fire safety called the ‘fire triangle.’ The triangle has three vertices – oxygen, heat, and fuel. These three elements combine to create a life threatening disaster.

Fire retardant paint greatly diminishes the presence of a crucial factor in fire – the fuel. When fire reaches a surface with fire retardant coating, the coating unleashes a chemical reaction that lets loose a fire dampening gas.

This fire dampening gas restricts the spread of the fire.

Fire retardant paint can protect wooden surfaces, walls, ceilings, certain types of metal, plastic, lacquered surfaces, concrete – almost any kind of material imaginable.

What are the fire retardant paint ratings?

Fire retardant paint usually provides between 30 and 120 minutes of fire resistance, depending on its fire rating certification.

The NFPA gives this rating classification for the fire retardant properties of coatings:

Class A Fire Rated

Flame spread rating of 0-25 – Materials that can stay non flammable even in the most critical of situations.

Class B Fire Rated

Flame spread rating of 26-75 – Can withstand moderate amounts of heat and flame.

Class C Fire Rated

Flame spread rating of 76-200 – Light fire retardant properties.

Class D Fire Rated

Flame spread rating of 201-500 – Not fire retardant.

Class E Fire Rated

Flame spread rating of over 500. Not fire retardant.

What is the difference between fire retardant paint and intumescent paint?

Intumescent paint is a different kind of product. It is also a coating that chemically reacts to an increase in temperature. It, however, swells up and creates a protective foam barrier, preventing fire from getting through.

The insulation that intumescent paint grants suffocates the fire and protects the inner structure of the building. Intumescent paint is called flame resistant paint.

An intumescent coating is usually applied on structural steel surfaces and in locations that are likely to contain natural gas or other flammable chemicals.

Fire retardant paint, on the other hand, does not directly stop the fire from spreading. As its name suggests, it only slows down the flames, buying precious seconds for victims to evacuate the premises.

Fire retardant paint is usually used in residential projects.

How is fire retardant paint applied?

Fire retardant coatings can usually be distributed using a standard spray painter. This makes it easy to coat hard to reach areas, and a brush comes in handy for touch ups and smaller areas.

Wooden elements respond better to application using a brush.

Applying a fire retardant coast is usually a DIY affair. However, you should definitely check with your building official to see whether your specific case requires a certified installer. Some manufacturers insist on having their products handled by a professional.

It’s useful to keep in mind that you can paint over a fire retardant coat. It will still retain its sought after properties. However, too many coats can diminish them and render the fire retardant paint useless.

Fire codes and regulations differ from state to state, even municipality to municipality. Make sure you consult your local fire safety code before deciding on whether or not to use a fire retardant coating.

What other fire safety precautions can I take?

1. Use a smoke detector

Most fire protection measures you can take are invisible and useless before becoming life saving. Smoke detectors are like that.

They may be a nuisance to install. They may go off haphazardly and give off false alarms. Research states, however, that having a smoke alarm in your house reduces the risk of a deadly fire breaking out in your home by 55%.

There are two types of fire alarms – ionization detectors and photoelectric detectors.

The ionization smoke detectors work by ionizing (electrifying) the air in a chamber located on the detector’s inside. When the current flowing through the ionized chamber is interrupted by heavy smoke molecules, the detector sets off an alarm.

The photoelectric detectors sense the particular type of light particles that fires send off. Once an abundance of these is sensed, the detector sounds the alarm.

Both types of detectors work for both slow burning, ‘smoldering’ fires and quick burning, ‘blazing’ fires. However, ionization detectors work a bit better for blazing fires because of the abundance of smoke that comes with them. Photoelectric detectors work better for slow burning fires.

2. Keep functioning fire extinguishers

Having a fully serviced and functional fire extinguisher in your home can mean the difference between a mishap and an enormous tragedy.

There are three classes of commercially available fire extinguishers.

Class A extinguishers deal with ordinary combustibles, like paper and wood. The number on the container signifies the amount of water it stores.

Class B extinguishers have chemicals that battle fires involving flammable liquids, like grease, gasoline, and oil. Remember – you should never try to extinguish a grease fire using water. The numerical ratings on the container refer to the approximate amount of square feet of flammable liquid a lay person can expect to cover.

Class C extinguishers deal with electrical fires. These do not have a numerical rating. They are instead marked with the letter C. This indicates that the chemical used to douse the flame is non conductive.

There is a useful acronym to remember when dealing with fire extinguishers – P.A.S.S.

P – Pull the pin.

• Aim the nozzle away from you and release the locking mechanism.

A – Aim low.

• You should always try to point the extinguisher’s barrage of chemicals at the base of the flame.

S – Squeeze.

• Just like in the cop movies – you want to squeeze the trigger smoothly and firmly.

S – Sweep from side to side.

• Your motions should be horizontal rather than vertical.

3. Know your evacuation plan

It’s important not to panic in case of a fire. Take a second, think it through, and remember what the quickest way out of the building is. If you encounter a hot door handle along the way, you will have to find another path.

The hot door handle is a sign that the next room is already set ablaze.


Lucas H Parker

Lucas is a business consultant from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Besides that, he has a passion for writing. Doing his research, exploring, and writing are his favorite things to do. Besides that, he loves playing his guitar, hiking, and traveling.

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