Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Fire protection for building timber

An EU team designed and tested a new coating to enhance fire resistance in construction timber. Trials achieved an 11 % improvement of timber protection by the char layer, and the work is pegged for further development.
Fire protection for building timber
Wood offers many advantages as a construction material, including sustainability, yet combustibility limits its industrial usage. Although current fire-protection coatings offer a partial solution, such products still fail to meet required performance levels.

The EU-funded REACTAFIRE (Advanced systems for wood fire protection) project developed a new protective coating having the required properties. The coating was designed to offer at least 60 minutes of timber protection during a fire. The duration was intended to extend the time available for safe evacuation, and to prolong structural stability. The coating was designed to create an outer char layer, and to insulate the timber’s interior from further charring. A key research question was whether such alteration of char properties would confer the intended fire resistance.

The team first reviewed the market, which confirmed a need for advanced timber protection methods. The review showed that designers need such protection to enable design of taller buildings using timber instead of steel and concrete. The review also highlighted building vulnerability to arson during construction.

Researchers proposed several coating solutions, including cerium oxide. Initial testing of the compound as a timber coating indicated a potential improvement to timber’s fire performance. Subsequent testing did not indicate sufficient improvement, so the project switched to developing and testing a silicate material. Development of cerium oxide continued, but as a sealant to prevent moisture absorption.

Trial batches of both substances were successfully tested. Testing achieved the highest possible performance according to EU standards, and demonstrated an 11 % improvement in char performance compared to untreated timber.

Testing also included brush and spray application techniques. The product currently has high loadings and dries too quickly for practical application. Further, the product is susceptible to moisture, and a top coating must be applied as soon at the base coating dries, otherwise powdering results.

REACTAFIRE officials concluded that the project’s concept needs further development before applying for patents could be feasible. The team made arrangements for continuing the research after the project’s completion.

With further development, the project’s results should yield a viable product. The market exists, and suitable timber coatings will eventually improve the safety and durability of timber-framed structures.

Related information


Fire protection, wood, REACTAFIRE, cerium oxide, timber coating
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