Recently, Australia went through arguably the worst bushfire season in the country's history that destroyed over 5900 buildings. There is no question that some of these buildings were made from stainless steel. This is a wakeup call for construction workers to work hand-in-hand with stainless steel fabricators and use fire-retardant materials in projects. One such material is intumescent paints or coatings. If you are a contractor that uses stainless steel coatings with no fire retardant properties, then now is the time to switch to intumescent coatings. This article highlights ways intumescent coatings work as fire retardants in fabricated stainless steel.
Insulating Properties — One characteristic that makes intumescent coatings the perfect fire retardant add-on for stainless steel beams is their insulating properties. The reason for this is that at low temperatures, an intumescent coating is inert and behaves like any other stainless steel coating. However, when exposed to high temperatures, the intumescent coating expands instead of melting like other paints. As it swells under high fire temperatures, it chars and creates an insulating layer that has low conductivity. Consequently, this charred layer protects other structural members from high temperatures, thereby preventing the fire from spreading easily.
Water- or Solvent-Based — Another characteristic that makes intumescent coatings the best fire retardant coatings for stainless steel structures is that they are water- and solvent-based. If you place an alcohol solvent on your palm and light a match on it, you will only feel a cooling sensation as the solvent evaporates. This is precisely what happens with intumescent coatings on stainless steel. Since most of these coatings are water- or solvent-based, they contain a lot of hydrates whose primary role is to infuse a cooling effect in the presence of a fire. This is made possible by the evaporation effect of the coating when placed under high temperatures. That said, when selecting fabricated stainless steel for construction, you should go for solvent-based intumescent coatings rather than the water-based type. While the latter is inexpensive, the former has an excellent cooling effect; hence, it is the better fire retardant.
Burns Slowly — As mentioned earlier, solvent-based intumescent coatings provide a cooling effect to stainless steel under extreme fire temperatures. In addition to this property, intumescent coatings burn much more slowly compared to other coatings. You can prove this by simply lighting a match to solvent-based liquids and oil-based liquids. The former burns much more slowly; therefore, when applied to structural steel, you can rest assured that the structure will remain standing long after a fire has started. Moreover, since most deaths in fires result from smoke inhalation, ensuring your stainless steel is coated with intumescent paint during fabrication ensures slow spreading of fire and minimal smoke.
To learn more about steel fabrication, contact steel fabricators in your area.