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What are the Available Fireproofing Options for Steel Framed Buildings?
Steel framed buildings are known to perform better during accidental fires compared to tradition building materials as their components are not combustible, preventing fire from spreading to other areas of the structure. However, exposure to extreme heat can affect their integrity, which may result to a collapse. Thus, the application of fireproofing materials is necessary to further improve the resistance of steel framed buildings against fire.
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Fireproofing Materials for Steel Framed Buildings

Steel framed buildings represent the modern way of building construction. Due to their durability, flexibility, sustainability and ability to resist a wide variety of elements, they are seen as the solution for the limitations of traditional materials like wood and stone. Hence, more and more builders and building owners alike prefer to use structural steel for their construction projects.

However, it should be noted that steel framed buildings are not perfect. While they are not combustible and are designed according to rigid fire-resistance standards, exposure to above critical temperatures during a fire scenario can make their members, connections, fasteners and frames to buckle and collapse.

Fortunately, there a number of materials available that can help make steel framed buildings more capable of withstanding the effects of accidental fires. These fireproofing materials are proven to provide increased fire resistance levels for the components of a steel building, minimizing the likelihood of structural collapse.

Spray-applied fireproofing materials

These are the oldest and most commonly used form of fireproofing for steel buildings. They are low-density materials supplied in bags, and are mixed with with water to create a slurry solution that is sprayed onto or around the profiles of steel framed buildings. The thicker the material is applied, the higher fire rating it can give. Some of the popularly known spray-applied fireproofing materials include asbestos cement-based formulations and vermiculite-based (gypsum) formulations.

These spray-applied solutions require specialist contractors using specialist equipment for application, as the process can be quite messy. Despite that, though, they are proven to be cost-effective for large steel framed buildings.

Board fireproofing materials

Similar to spray-applied fireproofing materials, fireproofing boards have been widely used in increasing the fire-resistance levels of steel framed buildings. They are manufactured boards that are cut to specific sizes and are affixed around steel members, forming a box that provides the components with the needed fireproofing. High quality fireproofing boards can help limit cracking or spalling on steel components during a fire. This in turn limits hot gases from getting into underlying steel components, preventing fire from further spreading.

A number of proprietary fireproofing board materials are available in the market today, including calcium silicate-based, vermiculite-based and gypsum or plaster-based products. Although they do not demand the use of specialist equipment for application, highly trained applicators should be the ones to affix them in place to ensure that the boards are of right thickness and will provide optimum fire ratings.

Fire-retardant (intumescent paints)

A relatively new fireproofing material for steel framed buildings, intumescent paints swell several times their original volume when they are exposed to extreme heat, forming a thick insulating char around the steel members. What sets them apart from conventional paint is that they have higher viscosity, giving them the ability to gradually resist deformation coming from shear or tensile stress.

It should be noted that the intumescent paints in the market are not all the same. Formulations behave differently when exposed to fire as they have different degrees of adhesiveness, expansion, thermal heat transfer, fire rating capabilities and generic make up. They are also engineered for different applications. Thus, the application of intumescent coating system requires the skill of a specialist and approved contractor to ensure that the right product will be used for the steel framed building.

A steel framed building is without a doubt a sound investment. So if you own one, one of the best things you can do to protect it and lengthen its service life is to outfit it with the right fireproofing material.

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