The Truth About Fire Resistance in Steel Buildings

By it’s very nature, steel is one of the most durable building materials available. Especially when you have a large building, you want a material that will be long-lasting and be able to withstand as much wear and tear as possible.

However, a raging fire can destroy even the strongest of buildings. While steel already has significant fire resistance since it is a non-combustible material with a super-high melting point, there are still additional steps you can make to provide yourself extra fire protection that could save your building in case of a catastrophe.

Intumescent Coatings

Intumescent coatings are some of the most effective fire resistance techniques used to enhance a building’s safety. They can be applied either on or off your building site, can be made out of water or solvent based materials, and protect against fire for up to 90 minutes. Moreover, these coatings provide an attractive finish that will enhance the visual appeal of your building.

Intumescent coatings work by expanding their size up to 5000% when fire or intense heat occurs, and provides a protective layer of insulation. You can discuss with your steel building designer about whether an intumescent coating is right for your building, and what specific version would work best.

Insulation Sprays

When you have a building with a complex design, an insulation spray might be your best choice. These sprays will swell and expand when touched with fire, eventually charring and releasing hydrates that will keep the building cooler.

The advantage of using insulation sprays is that heavier coats can be applied without much additional cost, however they provide no aesthetic appeal on their own. While you can later paint the insulation spray to blend in with surrounding surfaces, it will still not look as good as an intumescent coating.

Energy Absorbing Enclosures

Gypsum-based board materials are cut and sized to your building’s exact dimensions, fully encasing the steel. Gypsum has a high level of fire resistance and can provide a great initial deterrent against extreme heat.

These boards are very common in steel buildings and come in a variety of levels of fire resistance. Different building codes will require different minimum requirements, so you should work with your designer to figure out the right gypsum boards for your building.

Concrete Encasements

This is one of the oldest methods for improving the fire resistance of steel buildings. While it has been largely displaced over the years by the above methods, concrete is still used for its overall durability and its ability to withstand multiple types of weather exposure. Use of this method has decreased due to the large amount of space that the concrete takes up inside of a steel building.

No matter what method of fire resistance you choose, it is important that you have proper safety and evacuation procedures in place in case of the unlikely event that fire breaks out.