At Permax, we have our own beliefs about what makes a good fire rated intumescent, and given we make recommendations for steel and timber, we are not necessarily wedded to a single way of thinking. Furthermore, with three specialists fire engineers in our company, we have expertise and credentials to back up our thoughts.
In this blog, we investigate what makes a good fire protection coating and will look at points including:
- Cost of material
- Cost of application
- Impact on trades
- Suitability to environment
- Suitability for purpose (EG can it be top coated)
But first, why is fire protection coating important?
Steel makes up the skeletal structure of most buildings today because of its stability and strength. In fact, because steel can withstand between 350 and 750 degrees Celsius depending on its load, it has been the eminent material of choice. However, the taller a building is, the larger its load and the less time the structural steel can be exposed to heat without experiencing critical failure.
Basically, no matter how strong steel you may think steel is, everything could change very quickly in the instance of And the impact this has on occupants and firefighting teams is huge.
In short, it is because of this that in Australia, buildings are required by the Building Code to be protected with a fire protection coating that protects the steel and gives occupants enough time to evacuate the structure before the steel becomes too hot and collapse becomes imminent. Choosing the right fireproofing paint for steel structures (we are being cheeky using this term, the correct one is fire rating coating) is crucial to the overall safety of a building.
What makes a good fire protection coating?
To choose the right fire rated paint for structural steel, there are a few considerations which may be relevant for your project.
Cost of material
First off, let’s be clear – if you are looking to fire-rate an existing structure, your choices are somewhat more limited as compared to a new build. In an existing building, structural elements are already in-situ making your choices limited due to weight or clearance levels.
In a new build the planning process allows you to make the right selection. Working with a qualified fire-engineer, choices can be made as to optimize the solution for the required purpose, whilst achieving the desired aesthetic all of which works within budget. The selections made will have bearing on whether concrete encasement is selected for steel, how much steel is used and what size columns are used, or whether you use fire-boards, intumescent or something else. And all of these choices then affects what solution you use.
Where you are not sure, ask an expert, because, what you think may be the best solution, may not be if you are looking for an optimized solution.
Cost of application
Not all products are equal and similarly, not application costs are the same. Whilst some materials may be lower in cost to purchase, application can be slower and thus more labour intensive, or the time to dry between coats longer, making the time for completion slower which impacts other trades and drives up costs. The questions that need to be answered when it comes to application must include a comparison of application time and cost.
Impact on trades
Since passive fire protection coating plays a crucial role in the overall quality of a building, it’s very important to choose the right product to ensure that you are getting the best value for your investment. Remember that you’ll only really get to test a fire protection coating’s efficiency in case of a fire, so you have to make sure that it gets the job done to not only keep your occupants safe but also to incur the least damage to the building so it doesn’t affect your operations as much.
As referenced above, the time to dry is one aspect which can affect other trades on site. If the product is not dry, other trades should not be in the area as the surface can be easily damaged whilst wet causing reapplication to become necessary.
Other products may be quick to dry, but the presence of high VOC levels makes specific PPE a requirement for trades to work in the area. This can again slow down project timelines. When you are selecting a product, consider a product such as Nullfire SC902 which has
- 60% faster application and curing times compared to other intumescents
- Is suitable for both off-site or on-site application – internal or external steel – low VOC
- A high build, single application ‘Fast Track’ process which delivers high productivity gains allowing for faster delivery of floors to following trades
- Rapid curing – early weather resistance within 1 hour of application – ideal for open construction sites – saves on labour costs and time delays
Suitability for environment
Of course, it’s very important to consider your environment when choosing the best fireproofing option as not all products are suitable for all types of applications. When it comes to protecting steel structures from a fire, it is important to consider things including indoor or outdoor usage or if the products are both water and solvent-borne.
For many options repairing damaged fire rating is not as simple as applying a touch up. A durable product which is fit for purpose (for example waterproof if outside) from the outset is essential.
While there are several things that you should consider before choosing the right fire protection coating, all your efforts will be worthwhile once you get the results that you want – architecturally and in terms of the desired FRL. and even more for your structural projects. If you are unsure what you need to consider, need help with specifying the right fire rating products, or with developing steel schedules, our team of highly-qualified engineers can help. Give one of the Permax team a call and see how working with us from the beginning can deliver you a better project.
Additionally, it is equally important to consider fire inspection and monitoring to see and check if the materials and the building itself follow the fire safety protocols while construction is underway. Fire inspectors have a checklist of everything that a building owner must follow to ensure safety. Testing of fire equipment, such as extinguishers and suppressors, must also be done to ensure everything works and do not malfunction when a fire incident occurs.
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Permax constantly update the documentations based on the new fire testing outcomes and change of standards and regulations. To ensure the documents you read are up-to-date, please contact the Permax technical team.