Fireproofing your Steel Structure

Steel is one of the most fire resistant materials, it is naturally non-combustible and can withstand most temperatures.  However, steel will lose about 50% of its load holding capacity as temperatures reach 1100 degrees Fahrenheit, i.e. the temperatures you might find in a fire, thus making the building weaker and less structurally sound. If insulated, encased and fireproofed correctly, the temperature of the steel can be kept below the point at which the strength of the steel is compromised.

There are a number of ways in which a steel structure can be ‘reinforced’ to better protect it against a fire, here are some of the options available:

  1. Underside and beam protection:  part of the encasement system this offers up to 180 minutes protection against fire, helping to protect any people that may be above the fire in the building
  2. Fire spreading preventatives:
    • Flexible barriers can be installed into the steel structure that help to prevent smoke and fire spreading within the voids of the ceiling and walls of the building to provide fire protection from 15 to 120 minutes.
    • Friction fitted fire slabs may also be installed to fill any voids and provide an hour of fire protection, limiting the heat transfer through walls and the ceiling.
    • Specially designed boards can be used to seal service penetrations in floors and walls to provide up to 4 hours of heat resistance.
    • Fire stopping sealant should be used to fill any gaps in the structure of the walls and ceiling.
    • Cladded beams offer fire protection for up to 4 hours, helping to prevent beams from buckling and collapsing.
    • Cavity barriers are used in ceilings and roofs to prevent the spread of fire and smoke by insulating rooms and containing the fire, protecting joining rooms from the rising temperatures.
  3. Intumescent Paint: steel and woodwork can be painted, a thin coating of intumescent paint will protect steel for 2 hours and woodwork for up to an hour.  The paint protects the steel and woodwork by expanding to 50 times its size when it comes into contact with a fire, creating a thick and insulating ‘char’ layer.  The more paint that is applied, the thicker the ‘char’ layer will be.
  4. Automatic fire and smoke curtains: linked to the fire alarm to become operational when there is a fire, these curtains help to prevent the spread of smoke and heat.

Though steel is strong, when it is heated to temperatures high enough it can become weak, unstable and the entire structure could potentially collapse.  By fire proofing your structure properly to begin with, you may end up saving an awful lot of money in the long run if your structure were to collapse and need re-building.

For more information about fire proofing your steel structure, why not give one of the experts at SA Steel Structures a call or contact us through our Contact Page, our professional team will be able to advise you which form(s) of fireproofing most suit your requirements.

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