fireproof paint has given firefighters more time to arrive

Fireproof paint and what you need to know about it

Fireproof paint, or other fireproof construction and lining materials, have been compulsory for years now in office buildings, entrance halls, public buildings, parking garages and governmental buildings. In the UK the general rule is: the higher the building, the longer the material needs to withstand flames. In case of fire, a fireproof paint guarantees extended evacuation time, as well as vital extra time for firefighters to arrive and minimise damage.

Fireproof paint, in general, comes with the following advantages:

  • Fire protection up to 120 minutes: conforms to British, European and international standards
  • Prefab is possible: fireproof coating can be applied before or after construction
  • Suitable for various substrates: fireproof coatings are applicable on wood, steel, concrete, textile and plastics.
  • Durable protection: lasts for decades and makes the surface impact resistant
  • Decorative: if applied as a top coat, it is available in every RAL colour

When applying a fire proof paint there are several important factors that will affect your choice: the building type determines the minimum fire protection time required of the fireproofing method (30, 60, 90, 120 minutes), and each different substrate will need a specific product and application method (fireproof paint for wood is different to one for steel). Therefore, in this article we provide you with professional advice on what you need to know when choosing specialist fire coatings.

Resistance to flames and heat: the most crucial property of fireproof paint

If you are considering applying fireproof paint, then the structure of the building is part of what defines the coating you need; what is the building going to be used for, and what is the building’s height? There are three factors that define whether the building requires 30, 60, 90 or 120 minutes of fire protection.

  1. Height
    The higher the building, the stricter the requirements: a building higher than 5 metres must be at least 90 minutes fire proof. A building lower than 5 metres does not always have specified fire resistance, which is why you should always consult a specialist when considering fireproof coatings.
  2.  Residential / non-residential building
    Are there, or could there be people sleeping in the building? Buildings below 5 metres must be 60 minutes fireproof, and buildings between 5 and 13 metres require 90 minutes. If the building is higher than 13 metres, the requirement is 120 minutes of resistance to fire.
  3. Risk factor
    In some cases the fire resistance must be 120 minutes regardless of the height and purpose of the building. This is true for industrial facilities and places with a heightened fire risk such as offshore structures and chemical processing plants. This is also true for archives, libraries, and museums where valuable information or goods are stored.

Note that these three factors are not affected by the substrate type; the same rules count for wood and steel. In general, the costs of fireproof paint can be estimated by the amount of coating needed and the required fire resistance: the higher fire rating the coating must have, the greater the investment to apply it.

Fire rating for your building

The following table gives you an indication of what to expect from the fire protection for your building type.

Required fire ratingHeight of buildingExamples
Not specified or 30 minutes<5 metres: non-residential buildingsOffices, shops, and company facilities
60 minutes<5 metres: residential buildingsHotels, apartments, and health care centres
90 minutes<13 metres: residential buildings
>13 metres: non-residential buildings
Schools, hotels, blocks of flats, and prisons
120 minutes>13 metres: residential buildings
Buildings with high risk factor
Schools, hospitals, and blocks of flats; libraries, archives and industrial premises

Always consult a specialist about fireproof coating to make sure your building is appropriately protected and meets the set standards. Our experts are happy to help you receive a competitive proposal for the fireproof paint you need: just send us a message by clicking the “request a quote” button at the bottom of this article.

Fire ratings used by fireproof paint manufacturers in the UK

fireproof paint slowing down fire spread

Fireproof paint has a low rate of flame spread and minimum contribution to fire propagation, and it helps meet the standards. 

The fireproofing requirements outlined above correspond to classes dictated by the British Standard BS 476. Coating manufacturers use this standard to describe the fire resistance of their coatings. The British Standard for fire resistance provides two classes:

  • Class 1: The paint must not allow the spread of flame to be greater than 165mm in 10 minutes. This is a performance standard for fireproof paint that can be applied to ceilings and walls.
    Corresponds to fire rating of 30 and 60 minutes.
  • Class 0: Class 0 requirements are for high risk areas such as corridors, staircases and escape routes. The requirements include those for class 1, but add an extra requirement known as the ‘Fire Propagation Index’ which measures how much the paint contributes to the fire. The coating must have a very low ability to catch fire and burn.
    Corresponds to fire rating of 90 and 120 minutes.

Quality concerns when applying specialist fire coatings

We advise you to leave the application of fireproof paint to a certified contractor. Every building has specific requirements for fire resistance, and it takes a trained professional to apply the coating effectively. The building type, substrate type, and end use requirements all impact the choice of coating and the way it is applied, including such factors as film thickness. An inspection report needs to be drawn up by the contractor, including calculations for film thickness and the suitable materials for the project.

Once the coating has been applied, you will receive a certificate. This certificate confirms that you have complied with all relevant regulations and used the correct fire resistant coating. The coating must also be regularly inspected in order to detect any signs of premature deterioration and need for maintenance.

The technology behind fireproof coating

There are two types of fire proof paint, intumescent and fire retardant, and each has a different method of impeding fire. These specialist fire coatings can be applied either independently or as a fire protective system.

  1. Intumescent coatings: almost predominantly applied as undercoats. This type of fire proof paint expands when the temperature reaches 200°C forming a solid foam-like char which insulates the substrate. Not only does it protect the substrate from ignition but also from the effects of the heat; steel loses strength and structural integrity starting at 300°C .
  2. Fire retardant coatings: used as undercoats for regular paint or topcoats for intumescent coating. These coatings release a flame damping gas when the temperature rises to extremes. This forms a buffer zone, protecting the surface from the flames. This is the most common type of fireproof paint used as an independent coating for wood.

If these two coatings are applied as a complete system, the fire retardant topcoat prevents flames from coming close to the surface, postponing the swelling response of the intumescent undercoat. Once the fire has exhausted the topcoat, the undercoat kicks in. This system provides much needed extra time to get a fire under control.

Fireproof paint specialists in the UK

Depending on the substrate material, there are several fire proof paint specialists in the UK whose services are available to you. Which one you should contact, depends on the substrate – most of them can help you with coating steel, but wood and concrete require different expertise. We at are happy to help you find the right fireproof paint specialist for your project, and provide you with a quote. Just use our 100% free quote service by clicking the “Request a quote” button at the bottom of this article. Our experts are here to help.

Here is a selection of British specialists in fire proof paint. These companies often use internationally recognised products from manufacturers such as AkzoNobel, Sika, and Jotun.

Fireproof coating company SpecialisationAddress
Madison Decor LtdFireproof under- and topcoats for new surfaces; also upgrading existing walls and ceilings to class 0.40 St Stephens Court, Stanstead, Essex, CM24 8GA. Other locations in Cambridge, London and Middlesex; nationwide services
GSI Contract Services Fire Protection SpecialistsIntumescent basecoats for steel structuresUnit A9 Bell Lane Office Village, Bell Lane, Little Chalfont, Amersham, Bucks, HP6 6GL. Nationwide services
MGN Fire ProtectionFire protection of steel structuresThe Old Fire Station, Shankhouse, Cramlington, Northumberland. NE23 3JN. Other locations in Manchester and London; nationwide services