fire rated paint for steel keeps flames at distance

The reason behind the necessity for fire rated paint for steel

Strength is one of the main properties which makes steel suitable for use in building construction. Steel is a metal which is a tough construction material, used in buildings across the Emirates from private villas to the highest towers. However, this strength is challenged by the severe heat of a fire. In case of fire, it can take only minutes for unprotected steel to reach critical failure temperature of 550ºC, at which it loses its load bearing capacity, leading to structural collapse. In fact, above 300ºC steel begins to lose strength, which is why you need a fire rated paint for steel.

Anti fire paint for metal can provide the following advantages:

  • Preventing structural collapse by offering fire protection up to 2 hours
  • Allowing firefighters more time to get the fire under control and minimize damage
  • Extending crucial evacuation time decreasing the likelihood of casualties

In this article we outline the different types of fire protection paint for steel (fire retardant and intumescent paint for steel), how to comply with building fireproofing regulations, and where to find anti fire paint for steel products and contractors in the UAE.


Pick the right type of fire rated paint for steel in your project

Fireproof paint for steel can be classified by fire protection method: intumescent or flame retardant. Each of these coating types are further divided by the length of time for which they provide fire protection – 0.5, 1, 1.5 or 2 hours. Building regulations require different minimum time requirements which vary depending on building type. You can read more about the UAE fire code 2017 in our general passive fire protection article.

  • Intumescent paint for steel
    Intumescent paint for steel protects the steel substrate by providing an insulating layer between steel and the fire. Exposure to the heat of a fire triggers a reaction, causing the intumescent paint to expand to up to 50 times its thickness and form a solid foam-like char. This char insulates the steel from the heat, so keeping it below the temperatures that would compromise it. Intumescent paint for steel is the main fire protection paint for steel as it provides protection from heat as well as flame.
  • Fire retardant paint for steel
    A fire retardant paint for steel works by releasing a fire-damping gas when heated, which prevents the spread of flame across a surface – usually walls and ceilings. It is less common to use fire retardant paints for steel structures, because they do not have the same insulating properties of intumescent paint.

For the most comprehensive fireproof paint system, you can use these two paints together, with fire retardant paint as a top coat over intumescent paint. In this case, the flame retarding action prevents the intumescent paint from triggering, adding crucial extra time.

Choose the application thickness of intumescent paint for steel

Fireproofing coatings can be divided into two broad families: thin film and thick film. Thin film materials are either solvent based or water based and are mainly used for building fires. Thick film coatings were originally developed for the off-shore and hydrocarbon industries but have been modified for use in buildings.

fire rated paint on burj al arab

Fire rated paint for steel is used on buildings like Burj Al Arab in Dubai.

  • Thin film intumscent paint for metal
    Thin film fireproofing coating systems for steel generally have three components, a primer, a basecoat, and a sealer coat. These paints are mainly used for providing 0.5 h, 1 h, and 1.5 h fire resistance. Thin film materials have a 50:1 expansion ratio; a 1 mm thick coating will expand to about 50mm in a fire. These coatings are both solvent- and water-based, and are available in a range of finishes.
  • Thick film intumescent paint for steel
    Thick films have a higher dry film thickness than thin film coatings, and are usually epoxy based. Originally developed for use with hydrocarbon fires, thick film materials are now also used in harsh or difficult to maintain environments where thin film materials would not work. Examples include external steel in high rise buildings and exposed marine environments. Expansion ratios are typically about 5:1, and different finishes are also possible.

Hydrocarbon and cellulosic passive fire protection

Not all fires are the same, and the location of the fire will determine the speed and heat of the blaze. Hydrocarbon fires are those that burn because of a combustible liquid or accelerant like petrol or chemicals. They burn hot and extremely fast. Cellulosic fires are those where the fuel source is cellulose – wood, cardboard, paper, cotton, and similar materials. They take longer to reach their peak heat than a hydrocarbon fire, and will not burn as hot. There are also jet fires (a special type of hydrocarbon fire) and rapid rise fires (tunnels, nuclear fires).

Knowing the type of fire that your property is likely to experience is important for choosing the right intumescent paint system. Coating manufacturers develop intumescent coatings as solutions for specific grades of fire protection, climate and exposure, and application techniques. Cellulosic passive fire protection is ‘Category 1’ and hydrocarbon passive fire protection is ‘Category 2’. Commercial and architectural installations like tall buildings, stadiums, or bridges are usually Category 1, while industrial and offshore installations like refineries, oil and gas platforms and chemical plants include the more heavy duty Category 2 protection.


Find fireproof paint for steel specialists in the UAE

There are many fire proof paint products available on the UAE market. AkzoNobel, Jotun, PPG, and Sika all have intumescent paint for steel ranges. The table below describes several of the products available. If you would like any more information regarding fireproof steel paint, or would like to be connected with one of our partners for your project, contact us! Our experts are here to help, just use the “Request a quote” button at the bottom of this article and take advantage of our 100% free quote service.

Intumescent CoatingFire Protection CategoryProduct Description
Chartek 7Category 2 – Hydrocarbon Pool and Jet Fire ProtectionEpoxy intumescent with jet fire certification for durations of up to 3 hours. Tough, durable and resistant to impact and vibration damage. Provides long term corrosion resistance. NORSOK M501 compliant. Suitable for steel, aluminium, and other substrates.
Interchar 3120Category 1 – Cellulosic Fire ProtectionModified epoxy intumescent providing up to 120 minutes of fire protection. Designed for off-site application to structural steelwork. Suitable for environments up to C5. BS 476 certified.
Jotun SteelMaster 60WBCategory 1 – Cellulosic Fire ProtectionThin film, water-based intumescent for 30, 45, 60, and 90 minutes fire protection of structural steel and carbon steel. Suitable for environments up to corrosivity category C3. BS 476 certified.
PPG STEELGUARD 581Category 1 – Cellulosic Fire ProtectionFire protection for 30, 60, or 90 minutes. Resistance for C1 and C2 exposure conditions. BS 476-20/21 certified. Water-based formulation.
PPG STEELGUARD 560Category 1 – Cellulosic Fire ProtectionFire protection for 30, 60, 90, or 120 minutes. Resistance for C1, C2, C3, and C4 exposure conditions. BS 476-20/21 certified. Solvent-based formulation.