As creators of innovative passive fire protection solutions, we work every day with fire protection walls, ceilings and blast resistant panels. The development of a fire-resistance strategy isn’t just about specialist products though. The construction materials used throughout the building all need to play their part in stopping the spread of fire.
In this blog we take a look at the inherent fire-resistance of 6 construction materials that are used in the vast majority of the UK’s buildings.
The strength and durability of steel makes it one of the most popular materials to build with. When subjected to temperatures between 600º-1400ºC, however, it will begin to sag, buckle and melt. Wallace Fire Protection uses intumescent paint to insulate steel against high temperatures. In the event of a fire, the paint swells to protect the steelwork, and maintain the integrity of the building.
Bricks are made by being heated in a kiln to temperatures exceeding 1000ºC, which is why they are an excellent building material when it comes to fire-resistance. The mortar holding the bricks in place will probably have some level of fire-resistance but it’s unlikely to be at the same level as the bricks themselves. This can sometimes lead to cracking and expanding in intense heat.
Ordinary glass windows offer very little fire-resistance and will shatter or crack in the event of a fire. The recommended option is to fit toughened, reinforced or laminated glass in its place. It’s common to see fire doors fitted with steel wire, and this is the most effective way to enhance the fire-resistance of glass.
Concrete is considered one of the most fire-resistant building materials and, as such, it widely used in construction. It can’t catch fire, it is a poor conductor of heat, and gives off no toxic fumes when exposed to high temperatures. Reinforced concrete, where steel is embedded in the concrete, can withstand temperatures of around 1000ºC for up to an hour.
Despite its comforting appearance of solidity, stone fares badly when exposed to high temperatures, followed by rapid cooling. Sandstone, thanks to its fine grain, performs fairly well. Granite requires careful consideration when used as a building material because it will explode. Limestone crumbles and most other types of stone will disintegrate.
Drywall is made of gypsum between two sheets of paper. When exposed to fire the water trapped in the gypsum evaporates and becomes steam, which creates effective fire-resistance until the water content is completely depleted. Where glass fibres have been added to the gypsum, the resistance is even greater.
About Wallace Fire Protection
Wallace Fire Protection is a specialist contractor and a leading provider of bespoke passive fire protection systems. We offer clients unrivalled design and installation with a focus on quality and responsiveness right through from the tender stage to contract completion. We work with a range of sectors including the construction industry, infrastructure, pharmaceuticals and the nuclear industry.