Fire Burn Test For Building Insulation Products

Fire Test Videos Show Results For Cellulose & Fiberglass Insulation Products

Insulation Fire Test Video Thumbnail CIMAIn the wake of the horrific June 2017 high rise fire in London interest in fire related to building insulation products has surged. People are understandably searching for more information since experts have indicated the insulation product may have contributed to the spread and severity of the fire.

CIMA sponsored a series of building insulation fire tests in 2006-7 to demonstrate the difference between cellulose insulation and fiberglass insulation products. These tests were conducted by the independent research firm R&D under the direction of Ron Graves, a noted expert in the building construction field. The results remain valid and relevant to those seeking more information on building insulation and fire characteristics.

These “burn” tests used a controlled environment to compare the fire and flame spread characteristics for buildings without insulation and with cellulose and fiberglass insulation. The tests were video taped to clearly demonstrate what a building owner can expect in a fire related situation. Researchers were looking for flame growth related to insulation products within an 8 foot by 12 foot test room. The technical term for the growth or spread of the fire is called Flashover, which occurs when any two of the following conditions have been attained:

  1. Heat release exceeds a certain tolerance level
  2. Radiant Flux on the floor exceeds a certain tolerance level
  3. Air temperature reaches 1,112 degrees Fahrenheit
  4. Flames exit the doorway
  5. Paper Target in the room auto ignites.

The first test video demonstrated a fire without any insulation in the wall cavities. Sustained ignition of structure occurred at 5:58 when the stud in the back corner ignited and the test was terminated at 7:20 when Flashover occurred after four of the five conditions were attained.

The second test video demonstrated a fire with sprayed cellulose insulation in the wall cavities. Sustained ignition of structure did not occur until 9:57 and no Flashover occurred within the 15 minute test period. Flames, smoke and charring did not spread past the two wall cavities adjacent to the flame source and no insulation fell from any of the cavities.

The third test video demonstrated a fire with fiberglass insulation batts in the wall cavities. Sustained ignition of structure occurred at 5:33 when the stud in the back corner ignited and the test was terminated at 11:41 when Flashover occurred after four of the five conditions were attained. Researches noted “Flames seemed to travel the studs and moved in the gaps where the batts touched the stud walls.”

Test four video demonstrated a fire with fiberglass insulation blown in the wall cavities. Sustained ignition of structure did not occur until 7:23 and no Flashover occurred within the 15 minute test period. Flames, smoke and charring did not spread past the first two wall cavities adjacent to the flame source and no insulation fell from any of the cavities.

These test clearly demonstrated the superior flame and smoke spread control of sprayed cellulose insulation and blown fiberglass insulation in building wall cavities. Watch the full length video for more details on the test procedures.

Cellulose insulation has a Class 1 fire rating and is treated with borates, a natural fire retardant material. In fact, the product is specifically designed to slow the spread of fire in buildings. This is an important characteristic that can allow occupants in a fire more time to exit safetly and firefighters more time to extinguish flames and limit damage to buildings.

This entry was posted in Building Insulation Fire, Cellulose Insulation, News & Information. Bookmark the permalink.
  1. Darrell Saby says:

    Why were each of the tests done without a wall finish, such as gypsum board? The addition of gypsum board might change the temperature of the material behind it and, because the temperature within the room may rise faster, it may also cause flashover to occur faster.

    • CIMA Admin says:

      Great question! The tests were performed by an accredited laboratory exactly as specified by the NFPA 286 test method. The purpose was to demonstrate the fire performance of the insulation materials. The expectation was that the spray-applied materials would all “pass” while batts would “fail.” That proved to be correct. Gypsum board would almost certainly change the test results, but this was a test of the insulation materials themselves, not gypsum board.

      Thanks for your interest in cellulose insulation.

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