It’s been bugging me for years and finally, I’ve found the answers. Just how exactly do fire-resistant products actually work? Is it magic? Science? A bit of both? Luckily for you, I’ve found out just how this life-saving product actually works and it’s changed the way I look at them.
How exactly do they work? Well, if the paint is “fireproof” it acts as a barrier between the item and the fire. It’s a sort of chemical wall that tells the fire not to come any closer. This is done by the formation of a layer of char above a whole range of materials from metal and fabric to wood. For good welding pants that are fire resistant, I recommend checking out welding mania.
The science of the matter is fascinating. The chemicals that lie within the resistant coating have a chemical reaction to the flames. The heat causes the coating to create bubbles of gas. This gas is inert because it does not go through a chemical reaction and the paint’s own additives then contribute to the inert gas and make it even stronger. This protects the substance even more from the fire. The non-combustible foam char layer works by increasing the time a fire is able to strike through and depending on what substance the paint has been applied to will affect the length of time it takes for the heat to have an effect.
A lot of people seem to think that a time limit on a fireproof paint will indicate how long it takes before the fire burns down whatever you’re putting the paint on. This isn’t the case. It is in fact the time it takes the paint to fail and the fire to affect the material. For example, if a steel fireproof paint has a limit of sixty minutes, that’s not sixty minutes it will take for the fire to consume the piece of steel; it’s sixty minutes before the fire even scorches it. That’s impressive stuff.
It’s safe to say that these fire retardants make a lot of materials safer. If things take longer to catch fire, it’s easier to spot and put the fire out before it becomes a serious problem. In fact, many fires will extinguish all on their own without the necessary fuel to carry on burning. Fuel makes up one of the three pillars a fire needs in order to exist. The other two are oxygen and heat. Without one of the three, the fire cannot continue and the flames will self extinguish. However, if a fire has caught the surface of the material, for example, timber wood, then the paint at the very least will slow this process down considerably and allow more time for human intervention and stopping a collapse for longer. These substances help keep things cooler in the long run and make environments safer for employees. Think of all the lives saved in the steel and timber industry by just using fire-resistant materials and paints around flammable things.
Why might you require the use of a fire retardant? Well, they are great for protecting any kind of wood against fire damage and have consistently been shown to dramatically slow the burning process of wood surfaces right down. In addition, it is important to make it clear that fireproof paints and the like aren’t permanent. Like any paint, it will wear away after time and so the user needs to reapply it when this happens. Therefore, fire retardants aren’t always the single best option when dealing with outside equipment such as BBQs and decks. Like most things, it’s best not to solely rely on them, but to use them in conjunction with your own senses and awareness of fire.