Intumescent Coatings – An Essential Component

February 2, 2018

Intumescent coatings
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An essential ingredient for commercial and industrial fire protection

Every commercial facility has a fire protection system in place to help guard against disaster. This may include things like smoke detectors, alarm systems, sprinklers, and strategically placed fire extinguishers, as well as evacuation plans and fire drills for employees.

Intumescent coatings, also referred to as fire protective coatings, are another important component for a strong fire protection system. These specialized types of coatings, applied by commercial painting companies look like regular paint in ambient temperatures, but react chemically to the presence of extreme heat, forming a layer of char that helps protect the substrate beneath.

How intumescent coatings work

While fire protective paint can be applied to nearly any type of building material, it is most often used to coat steel structural components. The purpose of this application is to maintain the integrity of the structural components until the fire can be extinguished.

Steel begins to lose integrity at temperatures of approximately 550 degrees Celsius. The char formed by intumescent coatings is a poor conductor of heat, and can prevent steel from reaching critical temperatures for up to four hours. This gives the occupants time to exit the facility, and keeps the structure from collapsing while emergency personnel work to put out the flames.

Building code compliance and local laws

In some cases, commercial and industrial facilities may be required by law to apply intumescent coatings to certain portions of the structure, such as structural ceiling components and parking garages. California building codes require a higher fire rating for commercial buildings than for residential structures which is why selecting a professional commercial building painting company is imperative.

In addition, intumescent coatings must comply with the same VOC and emissions standards as other types of paint. Your industrial painting contractor should be aware of the local building codes and laws that apply to your facility with regard to fire protective coatings.

Common applications of intumescent paint

Fire protective coatings are most often used for steel structural components. However, since these coatings resemble ordinary paint until exposed to extreme heat, they can also be used to provide an additional barrier for wood, Sheetrock, concrete, and other types of substrates.

Facilities with high risk of hydrocarbon fire, such as tank farms and oil or gas drilling sites, can benefit from applications of epoxy intumescent coatings, which not only provide exceptional protection from the high volatility of hydrocarbon fires, but are also highly durable and able to withstand extreme environmental conditions.


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