Spray Foam Magazine Canada: What do you think about the ”Hot Topic” use of Intumescent Coatings over Spray Polyurethane Foam?
Marc Kast, Elastochem: There is a major debate in Canada, between the Government, manufacturers, and applicators of SPF as to whether or not intumescent coatings can be used over SPF as an approved thermal barrier and meet the intent of the National Building Code (NBC), the Provincial Codes, and the Municipal Codes.
The truth of the matter is that the NBC requires foamed plastics to conduct and pass the CAN/ULC S124 testing to meet the exact wording of the code. While this is fundamentally correct, the building code also allows for alternative solutions to the code to be used, if there is sufficient evidence to back them up. When a building code is written, it obviously does not take into account future products that could meet the requirements.
Although intumescents don’t pass the old CAN/ULC S124, which is a small-scale test, they do pass the CAN/ULC S101, which is a full-scale wall test that presents more of a realistic situation. IFTI has performed extensive UL testing and has passed with flying colors. The product is now in the final stages of approval with the Canadian National Research Council (CNRC) and the Canadian Construction Materials Center (CCMC) and its CCMC report is expected to be published in the imminent future.
Most of the opponents of the intumescent coatings have a stake in other fireproofing systems that currently dominate the Canadian market. Having this coating approved will open up the fireproofing market to the smaller, independent contractors that couldn’t afford the equipment required for the old systems.
Having a less expensive barrier-to-entry should benefit the entire industry, as there will be more compliance to the requirements of covering foam with a thermal barrier.
As times change, we should embrace new technologies and advancements rather than try to stamp them out and stay with the same approach as our predecessors.
Brad Glazier, IFTI: What do I think about intumescent coatings? Well, right off the bat, I am sure a lot of you will think I am biased because I happen to work for a company that manufactures a coating for SPF. Not only that, but I work for the company that has pushed intumescent coatings into Canada.
Let me give you a brief history. I started as one of the first contractors spraying SPF in Nova Scotia. My very first job was a 0.5-lb. foam install. When I met the inspector on the job site, he walked in and ran back out screaming, “You can’t spray UFI in Canada!” Thus began the portion of my career that dealt with code compliance, education, and most importantly, safety of SPF insulation.
Then came the government’s energy rebate program and my entire business quickly shifted to 2-lb. foam jobs in non-permitted basement installs. Now, there was suddenly a focus on “what do you do to fire rate it?” The options out there were limited to access. They were expensive, difficult, and messy to install, not to mention a lot of equipment to purchase for a guy just starting out in the SPF business. So, I fell into the same trap that many of us have, thinking, “As long as I tell the homeowner he needs to cover it and he signs a piece of paper that says he will, then I am OK.” WRONG!
The biggest shift was when I got a job installing 2-lb. foam in the crawlspace of a home for a local building inspector. This crawlspace happened to have an oil-fired furnace in it, and when I completed my installation, I was sure tell him “Now Xxx, you know you need to cover this to meet code, RIGHT?” You know what his answer was: “I’m not worried about that BS! It’s only a crawlspace.” Yeah, right. It was six-feet high and featured a furnace inside it!
I was shocked and quickly started thinking: “If a code official doesn’t want to bother covering it in his house then HOW MANY JOBS OUT THERE ARE UNPROTECTED?” So, I began to search for a better option. I found coatings and learned how much their use has grown in the SPF industry in the U.S., and how coatings has made many jobs that previously could not be done with SPF now possible. Further, I was impressed with coatings’ ability to provide a cost-effective solution to meet Life Safety requirements without breaking the customer’s wallet!
Today, with a CCMC-evaluated coating that has been subjected to one of the most extreme fire tests in the industry, the CAN/ULC 9705, we have a product that can demonstrate compliance with the NBC. It is cost-effective, easy-to-install, durable, environmentally friendly, easily purchased on the open market, and meets the needs of protecting SPF in the event of a fire. And, as has happened in the U.S., this is a product that could serve to grow the SPF industry by 20 to 30 percent for the benefit of all contractors in Canada! Not to mention the biggest benefit, and reason I started this, is that more projects will actually get the protection that is required to meet Life Safety requirements and avoid the industry-crushing event of “Oh no! Another fire involving SPF!”
So, what do I think about the “Hot Topic” of intumescent coatings in Canada? It’s about time! I am glad the industry contractor is protected and has an option to protect the SPF. I look forward to supporting the growth of the SPF market, now that there is a coating approved for use in Canada!
Scott Ruffett, Icynene: Thermal barriers are important to the spray foam insulation industry in Canada. Since the current flame spread ratings in foam plastic insulation products are beyond the maximum permitted in the Building Code, thermal barriers over foam are a necessity in many building assemblies, especially if there is a possibility of the foam being exposed to conditioned space. Traditionally fibre- and cementitious-based thermal barriers have been used if the Code defined products (i.e.: gypsum, concrete, or masonry etc.) are not a suitable product choice for the assembly in question. The Building Code is quite clear on what material type and/or performance requirements are acceptable to be considered a thermal barrier.
Approved intumescent paints have been used successfully as structural steel fire-proofing applications for years, so it makes sense that this technology transfers over to the Canadian thermal barrier market. This new technology gives builders and architects greater flexibility due to its application method and finished appearance. Applications such as parking garage ceilings and roofs insulated from the interior and exposed to the inside of the building can be treated with an approved intumescent coating if a different finished appearance is desired.
I hear firsthand from building designers how important it is to have the proper testing in place for the products they are considering for their projects. Just as they want to see spray foam insulation products tested to and meeting CAN/ULC S705, they want to see the appropriate testing in place and proof of code compliance for thermal barriers, regardless of type. Also important to them is the proper installation of thermal barriers. As thermal barriers are installed on site, the competence of the installing contractor is important to the success of the project.
My opinion is that, regardless of thermal barrier type, intumescent, fibre, cementitious or other, the safety of the building occupants is priority number one. New technology such as intumescent paint is welcomed as it gives more options to the contractor or architect, but we must be prudent in ensuring these products meet the requirements of our Building Code, are safe for the building occupants, and are correctly installed.