Fire Tested Foam Hard Coat for Indoor and Outdoor Use

Fire tested foam hard coats are designed to protect and harden foam sculptures, parts, and components against external impacts and environmental elements. There have always been strict building code requirements, so it is important to protect foam projects that will be used indoors with a hard coating that will pass Class A fire testing.

While these requirements are essential inside buildings, they are slowly beginning to expand to outdoor areas as well. So, it’s best to make sure your foam project is compliant with safety standards by using a fire tested foam hard coat, no matter where you plan on placing it.

What Is the Difference Between Retardant and Resistant?

Many people don’t realize that there is a big difference between fire retardant and resistant coatings. Though both are considered passive fire protection, they will respond very differently when exposed to heat and flames, so it’s important to know which one your project requires.

A fire retardant coating’s job is to reduce the rate of flame spread and smoke over combustible materials such as wood, plastic, and foam. They are not used for structural protection, which is why they’ve found a place in the theming industry for foam projects. Fire retardant coatings can be applied by brush, roller, or spray and are formulated to look similar to paint. The standard test these coatings must pass is known as the ASTM E84, which tests for a much shorter time frame than ASTM E119. Most of these coatings are only rated based on their ability to not contribute to a fire. Others may provide some resistance to prevent the flames from reaching the substrate or keep it contained in one area for a longer period.

Fire resistant coatings are materials that resist catching fire or are self-extinguishing. When exposed to extreme heat and flames, they will not drip or melt but form a char layer that acts as a barrier. It takes much longer for these types of coatings to burn. Their thickness varies to meet certain requirements, and they are either brushed, sprayed, or troweled onto load-bearing surfaces like walls, columns, floors, and beams. The standard test for these coatings is the ASTM E119. Their rating is determined by how long they offer protection before they ignite, usually tested up to 2 hours. Adhesion, char integrity, and char growth are closely observed. Because they offer greater protection than retardant coatings, they typically contain more ingredients, making them more expensive.

Neither coating type is fireproof, as they will burn once they reach a certain temperature. Another important note is that fire and flame are interchangeable. So, if you hear these coatings referred to as flame retardant or flame resistant, they will mean the same thing.

What Is the ASTM E84 Test?

The ASTM E84 is a standard fire testing method developed by the American Society of Testing and Materials and applies to many industrial and commercial projects. It assesses the surface burning behavior of a material by observing flame spread and smoke emission.

Flame Spread Index (FSI) and Smoke Developed Index (SDI) metrics are evaluated to help rank and determine a material’s fire retardant classification. FSI is determined by the speed at which the flames progress across a surface. SDI is calculated similarly and measures the amount of smoke the material emits as it burns.

The test runs for 10 minutes, and within that time, the FSI and SDI are measured and compared to a standard. Fire retardant materials can fall into three categories: Class A, Class B, and Class C. Class A is the highest classification a material can achieve, with an FSI under 25 and an SDI under 450.

Types of Fire Tested Hard Coats for Foam

Fire tested coatings are used because they do not contribute to making a fire worse. There are several types of coatings formulated to do this, including oil-based, two-part mixes, epoxy solvent-based, and water-based. However, if you are specifically hard coating foam, we recommend using a two component polyurethane that is Class A fire tested. A unique coating like this complies with indoor and outdoor safety codes, providing flame-spread protection.

Why Is It Important to Use a Fire tested Foam Hard Coat?

Many building codes require materials used in public areas to meet fire safety standards. A coating’s retardant properties allow you to comply with these codes and ensure they pass inspection.

By definition, they are designed to “delay or hold back” flames. When a fire retardant coating is applied to foam projects in theme parks, theaters, venues, and more, it is less likely to ignite or spread fire. Since the spread is slowed, this provides people with more time to leave unsafe areas and reduces the risk of accidents and injuries.

Apart from protecting people, another benefit of these coatings is that they help protect your property. By slowing the flame spread, the coating can minimize the destruction caused by fire to a smaller area.

These hard and durable coatings do more than enhance the fire safety of a foam project. They also become seamless barriers that prevent damage from physical impact, weathering, moisture, etc., to extend the life of the entire structure.

VFI Fire Tested Foam Hard Coats

VFI was the first in the industry to formulate an ASTM E84 Class A fire retardant polyurethane hard coat in a cartridge based format (VFI-6171 70 D Qwik Spray Hard Coat). The hard coat is also available in a high pressure format (VFI-6170 70 D Spray Hard Coat) for larger spray jobs. Contact VFI if you need assistance finding a coating that meets indoor or outdoor safety requirements.