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Intumescent Coating Is A Health & Safety Requirement

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Intumescent Painters

Whether you're a business owner or CEO or you're responsible for employees in any way, health and safety is an issue that you need to take seriously. It's not just about rules and regulations, it's about making sure that all staff have the safe working environment that they expect and deserve.

And that includes making provisions for fire protection, which is an area where Mister SprayIT can lend a helping hand, with our intumescent coatings.

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What Is Intumescent Paint

What Is Intumescent Paint?

In simple terms, it's a method of passive fire protection, meaning that it remains inactive until it is needed. In the event of a fire, the paint is activated by heat and expands (or intumesces) to form a protective layer known as a char that stops the structural steelwork from being compromised.

There are different types of intumescent paint, which we'll explore in a moment. First, let's find out why these coatings are necessary.

Steel Structures Vs Fire

Most commercial and public buildings are constructed around a rigid steel frame to provide stability. For the most part, they fulfil this role admirably, supporting the roof, walls, and any internal floors.

However, there is a real problem when structural steel is exposed to high temperatures: Untreated and uncovered structural steelwork can reach 550ºC (1,022ºF) within a few minutes.

Steel Melts!

While you might take comfort in the fact that the melting point of steel is around 1,315ºC (2,399ºF), this is when it is completely molten. The trouble starts well before then: steel weakens and becomes soft at between 600 - 650ºC (1,112 - 1,202ºF), at which point the structural integrity is compromised.

At 600ºC it loses 50% of its load-bearing capacity, which can be catastrophic. The weight of the roof and any other materials will cause structural collapse at some stage, depending on the type of steel in use.

Critical Temperature

Adding to the problem is the fact that building design and construction materials can also affect the situation. Each building, due to its design or the materials within it, has a critical temperature at which it will fail, and this can be as low as 550ºC (1,022ºF).

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How Does Intumescent Paint Help?

As mentioned above, intumescent coatings react to heat, expanding to as much as 50 times their original thickness. This chemical reaction forms a layer that increases fire resistance by preventing heat from reaching the structures in the event of a fire.

Eventually, should the blaze continue, the flames will burn through the paint and reach the steel beams. However, in most cases, hopefully, the fire will have been extinguished and the building will be saved.

How Does Intumescent Paint Help

Designed To Save Lives

Intumescent paints drastically slow down the heating process during a fire, giving people time to escape from the building. There can be no doubt that intumescent paint saves lives, which is why it is a legal requirement for all commercial and public buildings in the UK.

Protects Stock And Equipment

Although the safety of staff and the public is paramount, it's only natural to be concerned about any stock, goods, materials and equipment within your premises, as well as to worry about the structure itself.

A high-quality intumescent coating reduces the risk of loss in these areas. It's not only required by law, it makes good sense!

Here's some further information about the different types of intumescent coatings available.

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Thin Film Intumescent Coatings

Thin Film Intumescent Coatings

These are either solvent-based or water-based intumescent paints, and as the name implies, they are applied in a thin film.

They are generally applied in three layers; primer, basecoat and sealer. The basecoat is the layer with the active component that expands in the event of a fire. Most of these types of paint produce a light char (or soft char*) providing between 30 and 120 minutes of fire protection.

*Hard char intumescent paints are only suitable for plastic piping or external steel.

Thin film coatings typically have an expansion ratio of 50:1 so a layer of paint 1mm thick will expand to 50mm when exposed to extreme heat. Many of these intumescent coatings contain hydrates that are released as water vapour that has a dramatic cooling effect.

It Looks Good, Too!

As well as its fire protection qualities, one benefit of thin film intumescent paint is that it is versatile enough to be used to create decorative finishes and can cover complex architectural details.

This allows you to hide exposed steel structures by incorporating them into the design and decor of the building. Many architects are fans of intumescent painting because they are so versatile and come in a wide range of colours.

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Thick Film Intumescent Coatings

Thick film coatings are more likely to be used in offshore or heavy industry, particularly in those where hydrocarbon fires are involved such as oil refineries.

Many of these paints are epoxy-based and don't expand as much as thin film paints, usually around 5:1.

Thick Film Intumescent Coatings

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Can You Choose The Colour Intumescent

Can You Choose The Colour?

Yes! Just because intumescent fireproofing is mandatory doesn't mean you can't have an aesthetically pleasing finish!

Mister SprayIT uses the full range of RAL and BS4800 colours, so you're sure to discover one that will suit your tastes. In some cases, we may be able to mix colours.

However, we will never add a tint or another type of colourant to the paint in order to achieve a specific shade, as this could compromise its level of fire resistance. However, we may be able to apply a tint if a topcoat is used, but we will always ensure that it is compatible with the base coat beforehand.

Feel free to speak to our friendly team for advice about our comprehensive range of intumescent coatings and colour schemes, and to get a free quote!

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How Is It Done?

It is vital that this job is undertaken by a competent professional, which is why Mister SprayIT should be your first choice.

Generally, a team of spray painters will apply intumescent coatings on-site. The surfaces will be cleaned with an industrial degreaser and allowed to dry. A primer is often used (especially on galvanised steel) and the base coat (providing the fire resistance) is applied afterwards.

Once this has dried, a suitable topcoat is applied to give the final finish.

Although work generally takes place on-site, it is sometimes possible to take structural steel away for spraying. On the whole, it is better to spray with the beams in-situ ie on site spraying, as removal involves the expense of transportation and the risk of the paint being damaged in transit. Any flaws in the final finish may compromise the paint's fire protection qualities.

How Is It Done Intumescent paint

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Can Fire Retardant Paints Only Be Used On Steel

Can Fire Retardant Paints Only Be Used On Steel?

No, an intumescent coating is not just limited to use on structural steel. Although this is a common occurrence (as it is legally required), we can also apply intumescent paint to other materials, such as timber and plasterboard.

The main difference between applying intumescent paint to timber or steel is that the primary concern with a steel structure is to reduce the heat for as long as possible. With timber, however, the aim is to reduce smoke and fire spread.

Whatever the material involved, this is an excellent means of improving passive fire protection throughout the premises, so it's always worth considering. Be sure to enquire about this possibility when getting your free quote.

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Mister SprayIT Professional Intumescent Painters

Don't entrust your passive fire protection to just anyone - this is an issue that shouldn't be taken lightly. Inexperienced or incompetent fire protection painting contractors may well compromise your business, your building, or the lives within it.

Intumescent painting is just one of the professional services that Mister SprayIT offers, and you can relax in the knowledge that we will always perform to high standards. All of our work is guaranteed and our intumescent paint specialists are qualified and highly skilled.

We can assist you in reaching the required fire rating for your building and offer technical advice regarding all aspects of passive fire protection required by UK building regulations.

Get in touch today for your free quote and to discover more about our intumescent paint work.

Protect your business, staff and customers with Mister SprayIT intumescent coatings - passive fire protection at its best.

Mister SprayIT Professional Intumescent Painters

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is fire retardant spray used for?

Fire retardant spray and intumescent coatings expands with heat so when a fire starts it adds extra protection to buildings structures & steelwork. Also coating chars which prevents the fire from penetrating too deep.

How long does intumescent paint last?

Intumescent paints that are water based generally have a lifespan of around 20 years if applied in a C1 environment.

Does intumescent paint need a primer?

Yes you must first prime the surface to be applied with an approved primer. It's important to remove any oil, grease or loose debris to enable a good bond.

Where is intumescent paint required?

Exposed steelwork inside the building is the most common place that needs intumescent paint. It also gives the exposed structure better aesthetics.

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