Fireproof vs Fire Resistance In Fire Doors
A phrase that we sometimes hear our customers using is “Fireproof”. Whether it’s fire doors or fire dampers or a fire wall, they want to make sure it is fireproof, which is an incorrect term to use. Really, nothing is actually fireproof- at a high enough temperature for long enough anything will melt or burn. The term that these passive fire protection pieces should be striving for is fire resistance.
Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL) only gives fire resistance ratings when they perform a fire resistance test. Anyone claiming to sell something that is ‘UL tested fireproof’ is using the wrong term, or worse, intentionally trying to defraud. Saying they are UL tested doesn’t mean they actually passed the fire resistance test; just that they were tested, and fireproof is a worthless term to describe something as.
We’ve found that this term is used mostly for fire doors, where fireproof and fire resistant seem to be used interchangeably. Besides, doesn’t firePROOF sound more impressive that just fireRESISTANT? However, this distinction is incredibly important when discussing fire doors, because fire doors are given various fire resistance ratings, and should only be installed in areas that match the needed resistance. These ratings are based on specific temperatures for specific times, and installing a door that is resistant to the wrong temperatures or times can create a failure of the passive fire system, leading to injury or death.
To add even more confusion to the use of these terms, fireproof can be used as a verb, but is used when you are making something fire-resistant. The resulting fire-resistant material is then often called fireproofing, but when it is installed it only makes the area fire resistant. Fire resistance in fire doors is created by fire proofing them, but they are not actually fire proof.
Adding on to this, if something is labelled ‘fire retardant’ it just means it will slow the combustion but not stop it or prevent it from happening.