Fires are a risk for just about any structure. They are dangerous, damaging, costly, and can have lasting effects on both people, the environment, and properties. As climate change continues to increase the severity of heatwaves, fires are becoming more common in more places. In 2020 there were simultaneous fires in Greece, California, and other places in the western United States. Presently there are large fires in Canada. If you live somewhere that is prone to or adjacent to fires, it makes sense to start concerning yourself with how to make your building resistant to fire.
It all boils down to building materials
In the event of a fire, many things can be done last-minute to prevent its spread to properties. Farmers will cut a moat in their fields to prevent or slow the fire’s spread. Firemen also dig out trenches of forest to create a non-burning ring around fires in the wilderness. Of course there are emergency fire helicopters and planes that can drop water and chemicals on burning fires to quell them as well.
But nothing compares to the use of non-burning materials in your house or business.
Fire-resistant window glass
Although glass doesn’t really burn, windows can be a huge threat when it comes to fires. Why is that- they don’t burn? What happens when the heat from a fire melts or breaks a glass window? There is suddenly a huge opening created in the building where a fire is taking place. This opening acts like a vacuum in a fire, sucking in oxygen and making the fire worse. It can cause the fire to flare up or even make an explosion. A broken window on a nearby building can also allow flames to enter from an adjacent burning building.
A fire needs three things to burn: heat, oxygen, and fuel. Flammable building materials provide the fuel, nature, electricity, or accident can bring heat, and oxygen is everywhere.
What are fire-resistant windows? There are a few different kinds. One type is dual-paned glass windows. They require a fire twice as much time and effort to break. They also provide better energy efficiency in the house. Another option is fire-resistant tempered glass. “Tempered” means that it has been heat-treated during production. Tempered glass and metal is more resistant to most things, including temperature changes. Glass that has been tempered is 3-4 times stronger than regular glass, and of course is more resistant to heat. Some glass can be wired, in which small wires are threaded through the panes. This provides extra strength to the windows as well.
Finally, choose the right window frame. Steel and aluminum are effective frames for fire prevention. Wood is not too bad either, despite being flammable. Vinyl is the least effective.
Concrete is an excellent material for resisting fires. Not only can it not burn, it has low thermal conductivity. Low thermal conductivity means it does not transfer heat well. It takes a long time to get hot from a heat source, and cools quickly. Concrete roofing is a fantastic fireproofing material, as it can deflect sparks blown from nearby wildland and forest fires.
When it comes to concrete though, make sure you are using the right mix. The aggregate makes a big difference in thermal conductivity of the finished product. Finally, be sure to use a reputable construction contractor if you are outsourcing your concrete work. You don’t want someone using a cheaper mix and making your building less resistant to fire. Additionally, you will want your concrete set and installed properly. If bubbles form, moisture inside will expand in extreme heat, which can crack and break the concrete.
Stucco has been used for its appearance and functionality for centuries. Nowadays, it is made of Portland cement, sand, and lime. It provides structural support and is a great fire-resistant siding material. If your house is structured primarily from wood, stucco is a great way to reinforce it’s fireproofing. A 1 inch layer of stucco can seriously improve your house’s fire rating. Stucco can also be used as a fire-resistant covering for roof overhangs.
Many non-fire resistant structural materials use layers of gypsum to add to their fire rating. Gypsum board is a common interior fire-resistant interior finish as well. It is more commonly known as drywall. Gypsum drywall will will also often be treated by additives to improve its fire-resisting qualities. It’s non-combustible core serves to impede fire for long periods.
One of gypsum board’s qualities is that it releases water when exposed to extreme heat. This comes out as steam and can suffocate fires as they start. Builders will often use multiple layers of gypsum board to add to a building’s fire-resistance.
Bricks are typically made in a fire kiln. This heat treating, or tempering, as we mentioned above, makes them naturally resistant to fire. A brick wall is less resistant to fire, thanks to the mortar used to hold the bricks together, but brick is certainly one of the best, if not the best fire-resistant building materials. Fortunately, high-heat mortar is available to make your building even more fire-resistant.
Fire protection can also be added
Just as stucco can be added to a wood house to make it more fireproof, other surfacing materials can be added. Surprisingly, steel is not incredibly fire resistant. the good news is that you can flame-retardant seals with chemicals, foam, or cement-based products. Here’s one example of a list of fire-resistant coatings from 3M.
Want to ensure your construction is fire-resistant?
If you want to make a new building, or ensure your existing building is as fire-proof as possible, then we can certainly help. Reliable Commercial Construction is a commercial contractor who has been in this business for over 35 years. Based out of Texas, we know about heat. If you want your building to be made from the best, most flame-resistant materials, then we got you covered. If you want your existing business to be as fireproof as possible, then we can inspect, provide advice, and renovation. Don’t wait, if fire is worrying you, then let us know today so we can get started on fireproofing your home or business immediately.