Wallrock, Erfurt MAV Linings and Fire Ratings.
The fire rating system in regard to all wallpapers including Lining Paper, Insulating Lining paper, Wallrock Fibreliner, Wallrock Fireliner and Wallrock Thermal Liner can be difficult to understand especially as the real-world performance will always be affected by other materials, such as the wall itself, paint, adhesive, decorative wallpaper applied over the top and other nearby structures.
Here we are trying to give a short concise overview of fire ratings and obviously, for absolute accuracy and certainty, you should always consult an expert in the field such as a Specifier, Trade Body or Testing Body.
Whilst the last thing I want to do is give a false sense of security or give the impression the fire rating of your wallpaper is not very important - it is worth bearing in mind that having properly maintained and positioned smoke detectors in your home is arguably far more important than the fire rating of your wallcovering simply because we all inevitably have lots of other combustible and smoke generating products in our home.
When must wallpaper fire ratings be considered by UK Law?
The simple answer is if your project is subject to Building Regulations 'Building Regs' and/or inspections by a Building Inspector, then the fire rating of the product must comply. In effect this means big projects such as a ‘new build’, extension, garage conversion, loft conversion, will all be subject to Building Regulations and the wallpaper must comply with requirements regarding the fire rating of the product. This is why our Wallrock fibreliner range, Wallrock fireliners and many other of our products are independently tested for compliance
When is it purely down to me to decide?
Smaller projects such as general home redecoration and makeovers are unlikely to be subject to building regulations (unless it is a public space, hotel, care home or similar where regulations may apply) so you do not legally need to consider the fire rating of the wallpaper you have chosen. However, you may well want to consider the fire rating of the wallpaper anyway, for example avoiding using less fire-resistant wallpapers in fire escape routes.
How can I find the fire rating of a wallpaper product?
It may be on the label as a letter or number, on the manufacturer's website, or you may have to ask the manufacturer. The manufacturer should be able to supply you with the actual test certificate. Wallrock products carry the fire rating clearly on the label for easy reference.
OK, so why do some products have a letter as the fire rating and some a number?
The short answer is, there are two overlapping test systems, either of which is acceptable for Building Regulations;
- The British Standard (BS 476) categorises products by numbers 0 to 4 (0 being the least flammable and 4 the most)
- The European Standard (EN 13501) categorises products by letters A to F (0 being the least flammable and in theory F being the most *)
The chart below shows how the two systems overlap:
|British Standard Classification
|European Standard Classification
|1 & 2
NB; Wallrock Fireliner is tested to the British standard as it is marketed solely in the UK and Wallrock Fibreliner to the European standard as the product is sold throughout Europe. Although both products perform very well under test conditions the Wallrock Fireliner has a far superior fire resistance as it does not burn even in free air a situation which most wallcoverings would burn readily.
OK, I get that but is all wallpaper tested before being sold to consumers and why the disclaimer * when talking about the EN system?
In the introduction, we mentioned that the average home contains lots of combustible materials in much higher quantities than the wallpaper applied to walls. So under the European system, there appears to be a tacit recognition of this and therefore most wallpapers under 1.8 mm thick can be classified as a ‘D’ without testing them.
So a wallpaper classified as a D may actually perform better (or theoretically worse) if it was subjected to a fire test. Similarly, if a product is thicker than 1.8 mm it can be classified as an ‘F’ without testing.
Products with a European rating have other lower case letters and numbers written after the letter – Do they mean anything?
Yes, they do. Let’s take Wallrock Fibreliner Original say you have B-s1,d0
B is the resistance to fire, in this case very good (as shown in the earlier chart)
S1 is the amount of smoke generated, 1 would be best, 3 the worst
d0 is the relative amount of flaming particles falling, 0 is best, 2 the worst
|Additional classes for smoke development
|Additional classes for burning droplets
|s1 the structural element may emit a very limited amount of combustion gases
|d0 burning droplets or particles must not be emitted from the structural element
|s2 the structural element may emit a limited amount of combustion gases
|d1 burning droplets or particles may be released in limited quantities
|s3 no requirement for restricted production of combustion gases
|d2 no requirement for restriction of burning droplets and particles
In this regard, the European system is useful as you may have a product that resists fire but gives off a lot of smoke in a real home fire and we all know it can often be the smoke that is the real killer rather than the fire itself. Products with plastic coatings are often particularly bad for this.
OK, so what do Building Regulations say I need?
That depends on where exactly you will use the wallcovering. The chart included here shows how different rated wallcoverings can be used in projects subject to Building Regulations:
|Small rooms of an area not more than;
a) 4m2 in residential accommodation
b) 30m2 in non-residential accommodation
|Other rooms (including garages
|Circulation spaces in dwellings
|Other circulation spaces, including the common areas in blocks of flats
As you can see Wallrock Fibreliner Original easily conforms to Building regulations
How can wallpaper have any fire resistance anyway?
When a pure paper adheres to a non-combustible surface it does not necessarily burn easily because it is not in ‘free air’. Similarly, some plastic coated wallpapers, such as PVC coverings, do not necessarily combust easily (but give off smoke).
We recognise that you may not want to use a product regardless of test results that will burn readily in free air so we offer a wallpaper that resists combustion even in free air and can actually be used to offer some protection to more vulnerable surfaces called Wallrock Fireliner
How is a test conducted and under what conditions?
A test looks to replicate real-world conditions so the paper is applied to a non-combustible surface with a typical adhesive (which will be described in the test) as it would be in a typical home. If it is a paintable wallcovering then you would expect the test to show two coats of emulsion paint had been applied simply because this is typically what would happen in the real world. The test essentially consists of directing a naked flame at the surface and measuring flame spread over a period of 10 minutes. The wider the flames spread outwards in that time the lower the rating. The test is repeated several times and the worst results used to rate the product. Please see the chart here:
|Flame spread at 1.5 min (mm)
|Final flame spread (mm)
|Exceeding Class 3 limits.
It is worth bearing in mind the test is always going to be ‘indicative’ as there are variables to consider;
- The type of adhesive used to apply the product could make a small or potentially big difference in extreme cases e.g. our Wallrock Thermal FR Adhesive contains active ingredients that help to resist flame spread.
- Product manufacturing variables
- In the case of paintable wallcoverings – what brand of paint has been used.
The product I want is E rated, can I use it?
First, if Building Regulations apply – almost definitely not**
Second, if they don’t apply you can use it but we would advise you consider the area it is being used e.g. is it a fire escape route?
So why the ** above?
The product may be able to be used as part of a system that improves the fire rating significantly, as below.
Can a Fire Rating be Improved?
The short answer is 'yes, it can'.
Take these products, for example, Red Label Heatsaver, Red Label Insulating Lining Paper, Insulating Lining Paper Graphite + and Wallrock Thermal Liner all have lowly rating of E or F even though the bonded lining alone has a far superior rating on its own.
As there are so many variables as to how this product may be used we declare it as an E or an F - the worst-case scenario.
However, when the products are applied with Wallrock Thermal FR Adhesive and covered with Wallrock Fireliner lining paper with two coats of emulsion they achieve much better test results e.g. BS Class 1 which is Building Regulations compliant for residences.
I hope this helps clear up a few questions.