What is Fire Retardant Paint?
Fire retardant paint, sometimes referred to as flame retardant paint, is decorative paint designed to prevent flames from spreading for 30 - 120 minutes. It looks like traditional paint, but it provides extra safety by:
- Reducing flammability and combustion of materials
- Reducing the amount of smoke produced
- Decreasing the fire's intensity
- Slowing the spread of fire
- Complies with fire building-codes
How does Fire Retardant Paint Work?
Fire retardant paint reacts to intense heat by releasing a flame dampening gas and delays the spread of flames by 30-120 minutes, which gives you time to extinguish the fire or get out.
Does Fire Retardant Paint Work?
Yes, it typically provides between 30 minutes and 120 minutes of fire resistance according to its fire ratings certification. Using fire retardant paint on walls and ceilings is considered one of the most effective methods to prevent flames from spreading.
Fire Retardant Paint Certificates
Both international building codes and the National Fire Protection (NFPA) industry standards require that ceiling and interior wall finishes get tested for fire safety. Test standards get classified by ASTM E84 test results and, sometimes, the UL 723 test.
The ASTM E84 tests paint that claims to be fire-retardant according to how quickly flames spread and how much smoke it produces when exposed to an open flame. Rating A fire tested paint has the lowest flame spread rating, and Rating E has no protection against fire and smoke. There is no pass or fail grade with this test. Instead, the paints are categorized into fire certification classes as follows:
- Class A Fire Rated. Flame spread rating of 0-25. These materials can withstand severe fire exposure.
- Class B Fire Rated. Flame spread rating of 26-75. This class can withstand moderate exposure.
- Class C Fire Rated. Flame spread rating of 76-200. These materials are only effective against light fire exposure.
- Class D Fire Rated. Flame spread rating of 201-500. Not useful at slowing a fire.
- Class E Fire Rated. Flame spread rating of over 500. Not useful at slowing a fire.
Neither Class D nor Class E is effective against any fire exposure at all. Categories A, B, and C must also meet a tested and certified smoke-developed index (SDI) of 450. The SDI measures the density of smoke a material releases as it burns.
Fire Retardant Paint Applications
Fire retardant paints and varnishes are easy to apply with a brush roller, spray gun, or a traditional paintbrush. It gets applied to a wide range of combustible materials, including:
- Wooden Doors
- Spray Metal
- Electrical Cables
- Fence Paint
- Exterior Paint
- House Paint
- Lacquered Surfaces
The Differences Between Fire Resistant and Fire-Retardant Paint
While neither is fire-proofing paint, both fire resistant and flame retardant paints are protective if a fire breaks out, and both comply with building codes. However, they are fundamentally different.
Fire Retardant Paints
Fire retardant paints are not naturally resistant but chemically treated to work in two ways. It first enables fires of a small scale to extinguish on their own. If that does not work, fire retardant paint slows the flame spread.
Fire-resistant paints are inherently resistant to fire or extreme heat at the chemical level. It performs as a barrier between the fire and any material under the paint, allowing the underlying material to remain protected from flames longer. During a fire, the paint responds to flames by bubbling up and forming a non-combustible foam layer. Flame resistant paint does not melt or drip.
Which is better, Fire Retardant or Fire-Resistant Paint?
When choosing between the two, fire-resistant paint is typically recommended for steel and similar structures as it can keep those materials colder longer to prevent a collapse. Fire retardant coatings are more often recommended for homes, escape routes, apartments, and any types of wooden structures.
Intumescent Paint vs Fire Retardant Paint
Fire retardant paint slows flames from spreading and are meant for fires to self-extinguish. In contrast, intumescent paint reacts to high temperatures by swelling and creating thick char barrier layers of foam to insulate the structure behind the paint from fire and smoke.
Intumescent coatings swell and create a protective fire barrier when they reach certain temperatures. Intumescent fire paint gives anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes of fire resistance.
Which is better, Fire Retardant or Fire-Resistant Paint?
An intumescent coating is more popular with structural steel constructions and properties containing natural gas or other flammable chemicals. Fire retardant paint is most prevalent in homes and wooden structures.
Fire Retardant Paint Cost
The cost depends on the type of fire-retardant paint you purchase. It is challenging to find oil-based paint and water-based products for less than $60/gallon, though that price is on the lower side—some high-performance fire-retardant paints range over $100 a gallon. Intumescent products are the most expensive. Be sure it is UL classified.
Fire Retardant Paint Additive
Fire retardant paint additives provide fire protection in a more cost-efficient manner than buying premixed fire-retardant paint. You add it into paint that you have already purchased, mix well, and apply.
Can You Paint Over Fire Retardant Paint?
Yes, you can paint over it. Be careful with painting too many top-coat layers, though. Over-saturation of your flame-retardant paint can interfere with its effectiveness.
Also, keep in mind that flame retardant paint comes in many different decorative color options and that you can use the additive to make other paints flame retardant. Therefore, if your purpose of painting over the fire-retardant paint is to change your walls' color, it would be safest to use fire-retardant paint.
Home Insurance Discounts for Fire Retardant Paint
Fire retardant and resistant coating systems have the potential to save home insurance companies a lot of money. Since it slows the spread of fire, it gives the residents time to extinguish the fire or exit the home, which decreases the chance of lost lives. It also provides the fire department more time to reach the house and put out the fire before destroying your home.
The result is fewer or less expensive insurance claims. Some insurance companies share these savings with you in the form of a discount on your premiums. The amount that homeowners save varies between insurers.
I hope that helps!
At your service,