Fire safety and design  

What's the difference between fire resistant and fire retardant?

Terminology in the construction and architectural industry is of the utmost importance; the misunderstanding of wording, products and applications could have profound consequences.

A fire resistant material can be defined as one that is resistant to catching fire. This means it will not melt when exposed to extreme heat or flames and won’t undergo structural failure if a fire was to encompass it. Flame resistance is built into the material's chemical structure. The Government approved Fire Safety Document B suggests that the fire resistance of a construction is its ability to withstand the effects of fire. This includes one or two of the following:

  • Resistance to fire penetration whereby the structure can maintain its load-bearing capacity.

  • Resistance to heat transfer; the ability to provide insulative protect from high temperatures.

  • Resistance to collapse; the ability to maintain the load-bearing capacity.

A fire retardant can be defined as a compound chemical that is designed to burn very slowly. These chemicals are applied or added to various furnishing and materials to slow the growth of a fire.  Consequently, materials with fire retardant chemicals incorporated into them are slow burning. Chemicals are engineered to undergo a polymerization, a chemical change inside the material, which creates a fabric with flame-resistant properties which are durable for the textile’s lifetime. A fire retardant can be applied to various furnishings such as carpets, curtains, electronic devices, insulation, throughout a range of constructions, from public transport to schools and homes.

What’s the difference between flammable and inflammable? Click here.