Fires are game over for many facilities, especially within the commercial, utilities and gas industries. In the unthinkable case of fire in your facility, fire retardant coatings passively fight the blaze, biding time until emergency responders arrive and fighting a total failure of structural steel.
Active Fireproofing (AFP) methods such as sprinkler and foaming systems are necessary, but they should be used in conjunction with Passive Fireproofing (PFP) methods such as effective fire retardant coatings to further prevent spread. Check out this post for more on active versus passive fire protection.
Fireproofing is often a prerequisite for securing affordable insurance as well. Moreover, while auditors are well-versed in what effective fireproofing should look like, they are little help when it comes to the step-by-step of how to implement it. In this post, we’ll walk you through the pros and cons of the main types of fire retardant coatings, and explain in detail important considerations to keep in mind when selecting coatings and contractors.
Important considerations when selecting fire retardant coatings
The specific conditions and needs of your facility should dictate which fire retardant coating you select. Factors such as your facility’s budget, applications and geographical location may push you to choose one PFP method over another. Here are some important factors, explained.
Factors driving the costs of a fire retardant coating’s cost include initial coating cost plus labor. Cementitious coatings might be cheaper initially, but the cost of labor is high because it must be applied in many layers. On the other hand, intumescent coatings are more expensive initially, but may prove to be a better investment because they represent a technological advance from cementitious coatings.
Fire rating is extremely important when choosing fire retardant coatings, as the rating will tell you approximately how long the coated material will be resistant to fire. An intumescent coating’s rating directly correlates to how much of it is applied. If an intumescent coating with a thickness of 350 mils has a fire rating of 1.5 hours, for example, then in theory 700 mils of the same coating would have a fire rating of 3 hours. In practice, though, curves and crevices might require greater thickness to achieve the same rating.
Experience of contractor and supplier
This is crucial. Fireproofing is an extremely niche area of expertise and you want to make sure you’re working with someone who knows what they’re doing. Choose a contractor and a supplier with experience. This will cut out the need for an outsourced consultant, reducing costs.
Conditions within facility
If you’re the owner of a refinery, you know that fires in your facility can reach temperatures of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. As such, you need to keep in mind the fire rating and level of protection you need to prevent asset—and facility—failure. Additionally, if your facility is located in an especially humid or moist climate, it might be prudent to use intumescent coatings to prevent corrosion under the fireproofing. In the end, the conditions of your facility will dictate which fire retardant coating will be best for you.
While factors such as cost, fire rating and facility conditions will help dictate which fire retardant coating you select, it is also critical that you choose a contractor with the necessary experience to carry out the project.