Intumescents 101

While not used in the manufacture of work clothing, when it comes to fireproofing, intumescents are a key substance that anyone working within the fields of construction and/or fire safety should be aware of.

Commonly found in a putty form, they are often used as an insulator to seal or line areas where the risk of fire spreading is high, and many will have come into contact with the substance around pipes as well as door and window frames.

How Does It Work?

Intumescents are the primary line of defence in incubating and preventing the spread of fire. A technologically advanced fire protection material, they are typically used in passive fire protection (to limit or contain the spread,) for their ability to swell under exposure to heat, thus increasing in volume while decreasing in density.


To be more scientific, this is what is known as an endothermic reaction, which creates a char that insulates and transforms the intumescent into a fire resistant surface. Under such conditions, it can expand to 50 times its applied thickness.


Used in a variety of building projects, from houses to offices, ships to aircraft, intumescents are the preferred method of fireproofing for their more aesthetic qualities.


They come in a variety of colours and when applied their finish resembles that of a painted surface, which means they can provide all the protection required while blending seamlessly into a décor scheme.

Another bonus is that they can also help prevent the spread of black mould, ideal for rooms that suffer from damp.


There are two main types of intumescent – those that produce a soft or a hard char when placed under heat. Soft char has a much lower expansion rate and is used more in everyday situations to neutralize the spread of heat. Hard char on the other hand, exerts a much higher expansion pressure and is commonly used on plastic and steel piping when any leakage needs to be covered the spread of fire immobilised.

Tried And Tested

Though they can be affected by environmental conditions such as humidity, intumescents are a tried and tested means of preventing or postponing the spread of fire as well as protecting a building’s structure from the damage this can cause. With a number of varieties now being made using non-toxic materials with low volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), even the eco-conscious home owner, developer, or worker can appreciate the benefits of this everyday lifesaver.


Photo Credits:

Unitherm: By Achim Hering (Own work) or CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Common

savep verniciature via photopin cc


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