Calcination and Intumescent Paints – How They Keep Your Warehouse Safe


A fire at your warehouse could be one of the worst events, hopefully, you never have to face. Having said that, there are many ways to prevent and suppress the outbreak of a fire. It is common sense to consult with your local authorities and, if necessary, employ a fire marshal or health and safety officer at your warehouse and ensure you have the right measures in place, should the worst happen.

Undoubtedly, you’re well aware of the immense benefits of installing and utilizing a specialized sprinkler system at your warehouse, both the ESFR and in-rack varieties. This article will focus on, and give you a brief description of, what fire retardant/resistant paints can do for your warehouse’s fire safety.

Fire-Retardant Paints and Fire-Resistant Paints

So, what are these paints?

  1. A fire-retardant paint is a specially formulated chemical product that reacts when exposed to heat and fire in order to suppress or minimize the spread of flames across surfaces and materials treated with it. 
  2. Fire-resistant paints, on the other hand, are chemically formulated to withstand heat and fire in order to preserve the substrate below the surface or material coated in the paint. 

These paints are specialist products and as such they cost substantially more than their conventional counterparts. Do not put a price on safety though and always use the correct fire protection paints at your warehouse – the cost will be well worth it in the event of a fire.

As mentioned, there are two types of fire protection paints. Their reactive properties (what the paint does when exposed to heat and fire) designate them into two groups: calcination paints and intumescent paints. Both types can be used effectively in combination in order to ensure better fire safety at a warehouse, so give it some thought if you haven’t already.

How Do Fire Protective Paints Work?

We’ll give you a basic explanation of how each of paint works, so you get a better understanding of how best to use them around your warehouse. The advice from Oregon-based Speedrack West is that both paints can be used effectively on a wide range of warehouse equipment and infrastructure, including steel and aluminum pallet racks

Fire-retardant – also known as calcination – paint is a chemical compound that reacts during exposure to heat and fire. When exposed to heat and fire, the paint foams up and creates a thick layer of calcination over the surface or material it’s protecting, pallet shelves or structural steel members for example. The calcination layer can be up to 50x the thickness of the paint coat, which is normally less than 100 microns. This type of paint prevents the spread of flames across other surfaces and materials but does not provide fire-bearing capacity.

Fire-resistant paint, also referred to as intumescent paint, is chemically engineered to resist the heat of a fire, rather than thwart its spread. The purpose of intumescent paint is to provide fire load bearing capacity to surfaces and materials coated in it. When a fire attacks intumescent paints, they react by forming a layer of charring on the surface/material. The layer of charring is heat resistant and keeps the load bearing and structural integrity of materials and equipment for longer. For instance, steel members and pallet racking will remain cooler thus stiffer for longer as opposed to heating, melting, and eventually collapsing. 

When you put things into perspective, the cost of these clever chemical compounds (although somewhat high) is a small price to pay for peace of mind. Is it time to ensure your warehouse fire safety!

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