Intumescent Coating

December 6, 2012

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What it is, and why it’s important

Intumescent paint, also known as fire protective coating, is a specialized type of paint that is used in commercial and industrial settings to provide additional protection against fire. This coating is sometimes mistakenly referred to as “fireproof” paint. However, the role of intumescent coating is not to stop fire damage, but to slow it.

The properties of intumescent coatings

Fire protective paint is formulated to react chemically in a fire. When exposed to high levels of heat, this coating expands and forms a protective “char” that slows heat expansion to the substrate of the building. Most often, intumescent coatings are applied to the steel structural components of industrial and commercial facilities.

Intumescent paint may be either solvent-based or water-based. Commercial painting contractors typically use a spray application for this type of coating. Many types of fire protective paint are also made with aesthetics in mind, and at normal temperatures, they resemble regular paint in appearance. A top coat of standard paint may also be applied on top of intumescent coatings without affecting the fire-retardant properties.

Why fire protective coatings are important

Commercial and industrial fires can generate tremendous amounts of heat. In the event that the unthinkable happens, the primary concern for the facility is to ensure that everyone exits the building safely. When applied to steel structural elements, intumescent coatings extend the safety window by keeping these components from reaching the critical temperature of 550 degrees Celsius—the point at which steel begins to lose structural integrity.

In addition to human safety, fire protective paint helps facility owners protect their investments. The protective char formed by these coatings can withstand intense temperatures for up to four hours, giving emergency personnel enough time to safely extinguish the fire and preventing the building from collapsing.

Intumescent coatings are often used as part of an overall fire safety and prevention program that includes smoke alarms, alert systems, sprinkler systems, and fire extinguishers.


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