Intumescent paint can give vital time for firefighters to get a blaze under control.

Intumescent paint is passive fire protection and insulation

Australia is a country renowned for its ability to burn. Bushfires represent an ever-increasing threat as summers get longer and more severe, but Australian fire crews also report to about 20,000 structural fires every year. As well as active fire protection measures like fire extinguishers and smoke alarms, there are also fireproof paints. Fireproof paint is a form of passive fire protection that includes two different coating types – fire retardant paint (which emits flame-damping gases to halt fire spread) and intumescent paint.

When exposed to the heat of a fire, intumescent paint expands or swells to up to 50 times its original thickness and forms a layer of foam-like char. This works to protect a substrate from fire in two ways:

  1. The char is very slow burning – this provides up to 120 minutes of extra time for firefighters to get the situation under control and for buildings to evacuate.
  2. The char is insulating – this protects the substrate from being damaged by the heat of the fire and, in the case of steel, prevents it heating to temperatures above 300°C where it begins to lose structural strength

In this article we look intumescent coatings and the benefits they provide for a property, and where to find trained professional intumescent paint applicators in Australia.


The many benefits of intumescent paint

The benefits of a coating that insulates a substrate from the devastating effects of fire are clear to see. Intumescent paint:

Intumescent paint on ceilings, walls, and structural elements upgrades the fire resistance of a building.

Intumescent paint can be applied across a range of surfaces and substrates.

  • Provides vital extra time for evacuation and fire crews – The coating adds 30, 60, 90, and up to 120 minutes of fire resistance to a substrate depending on the film thickness. This allows more time for fire detection, building evacuation, and for fire crews to get the blaze under control.
  • Protects the substrate from structural weakening and collapse – Steel weakens above temperatures of 300°C, and it is this that leads to structural collapse and endangers firefighters’ lives. Intumescent paint reacts at temperatures of approximately 200°C, insulating the substrate from the heat extremes.
  • Is easy to apply – Intumescent paint is applied by spray at varying film thicknesses, can be solvent- or water-based, on-site or off-site, and can be overpainted if required.
  • Is applicable across a range of substrates – Suitable for wood, plaster, concrete, steel, other metals, brick, and more. Thin film intumescent paint is used to protect heritage buildings while also preserving the original look and heritage values of the property.

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.

Fire resistance and building type

The fire resistance requirements of your building depend upon a range of factors. Building use and building height are the two most important factors. High rise buildings with high occupancy have high fire resistance requirements, as do hospitals.

The Building Code of Australia lists the Fire Resistance Levels by lengths of time for different building types, including hospitals. Intumescent coatings can provide these FRLs. For example, a 90/30/60 FRL means an element must achieve a fire resistance level of 90 minutes for structural adequacy, 30 minutes for integrity and 60 minutes for insulation.

The following table provides you with an indication of the fire resistance requirements of different building types.

FIRE RATING requirementBuilding heightExamples
Not specified or 30 minutesLower than 5 metres: non-residential buildingsOffices, shops, and company facilities
60 minutes Lower than 5 metres: residential buildingsHotels, apartments, and health care centres
90 minutesLower than 13 metres: residential buildings Higher than 13 metres: non-residential buildingsSchools, hotels, blocks of flats, and prisons
120 minutesHigher than 13 metres: residential buildings and buildings with high risk factorSchools, hospitals, and blocks of flats; libraries, archives and industrial premises

Intumescent paint suppliers and contractors in Australia

Intumscent paint should always be applied by a professional. A trained contractor can provide effective and Standards-compliant coating that is certified and meets all requirements. There are intumescent painting contractors and businesses across the country, and we have pages covering the services available in SydneyPerth, and Melbourne. Below is a sample list of intumescent painting contractors and businesses in Australia.

If you need intumescent coating for your project, get in touch! Our experts are here to help. We can connect you with the right coating and the right specialists for your needs. Take advantage of our 100% free quotation service and let us know about your project requirements to get the ball rolling by using the “Request a Quote” button beneath this article. In collaboration with our coating partners, we will determine the best match for your requirements.

Intumescent Paint CompanyLocationServices Offered
CAP Fire Rated CoatingsEttalong Beach, NSW 2257Intumescent paint suppliers for plasterboard, fibrous plaster, cement sheet, pressed metal, timber, PU foam, and concrete.
Direct BlastSouth Guildford, WA 6055Intumescent coating services for steel using Nullifire products.
ExfireBatemans Bay (NSW), Yarra Junction (VIC), Midvale (WA)Intumescent paint suppliers for interior and exterior applications on timber, fences, power poles, and other substrates requiring bushfire resistance.
Greyton Passive Fire ProtectionGladesville, NSW 2111Intumescent coating services for structural steel including heritage steel.
Mike Bailey Paint GroupShepparton/Mooroopna and Melbourne, VictoriaInternal and external fire resistant coating contractors (including intumescent coatings) for 60 and 90 minute protection

Intumescent coating products available in Australia

Below is a list of a few of the top intumescent paint products. If you need intumescent coating for your project, get in touch! Our experts are here to help. We can connect you with the right coating and the right specialists for your needs. Take advantage of our 100% free quotation service and let us know about your project requirements to get the ball rolling by using the “Request a Quote” button beneath this article. In collaboration with our coating partners, we will determine the best match for your requirements.

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.