Non-combustible and fire retardant explained
The terms “non-combustible” and “fire retardant” are often confused. There is, however, an extremely important difference. If something is non-combustible it will not burn under real-world conditions. It’s a simple, unambiguous quality. Fire-retardant materials, on the other hand, will contribute to a fire once the chemicals added to inhibit ignition have been overcome. The degree to which something is fire retardant is harder to quantify.
This is why non-combustibility is a core feature of fire regulations around the world, and a crucial element of building safety in the case of fire. Whatever the fire source, temperature or air supply, building materials or elements that are non-combustible will remain largely resilient to fire. As far as fire regulations are concerned, non-combustibles can be used to an unlimited extent in any building application.
“Fire retardant” materials, on the other hand, are combustible. There is no global standard on how to measure the degree to which a combustible product contributes to the spread and growth of a fire, although ways to measure this include:
- How easily the product is ignited
- The amount of heat released when it burns
- How fire spreads on its surface
- The way in which it disintegrates as it burns
- The quantity and nature of smoke released