Why accuracy is critical with Intumescent Coatings

The Fischer brand and range of instrumentation continues to evolve and develop to include new applications for existing instruments such as coating thickness on intumescent fire protection coatings. The UK office tells the story:

“If the coating thickness isn’t right, people die,” said a representative of a major supplier of intumescent fire protection coatings. Not all coating thickness gauge brands have the same performance capabilities as those manufactured by the Helmut Fischer Group, especially at very thick measurement ranges typical of intumescent coatings. 

In fact, field studies conducted showed that some brands were off in accuracy considerably, sometimes by as much as 20%. In addition to the primary focus of keeping people safe, there are material cost considerations for applicators of intumescent coatings. “You just can’t use a measurement system that is off by 20%, especially when the average jobs we’re doing are in the £8million to £15million range.” For these reasons, the Fischer DUALCOPE® FMP40 and FA70 probe are ideal for accurately measuring the thickness of intumescent fireproof coatings.

How intumescent coatings work

Intumescent coatings (PFP- passive fireproof coatings) are epoxies designed to protect the integrity of structures from fire. The coatings work by expanding when exposed to high temperatures. This swelling protects the substrate by delaying the transfer of heat. The coating thickness is crucial to give as much time as possible for people to evacuate before a collapse. The amount of time the coating is able to insulate the structure is determined in hours and this unit denotes the level of performance. These hourly ratings depend on the size and structure of the building and must adhere to codes driven by the insurance industry. The industry standard for ratings is 2-3 hours. Intumescent coating manufacturers test their products at certain thicknesses and configurations to offer the best hourly ratings. These classifications and ratings are evaluated and assigned by the U.S. Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL) or other global insurance industry organisations.

Speed and accuracy is critical

Applying intumescent coatings is more expensive than other options for the protection of structural steel but is a cost accepted when protecting human lives.  Fireproof coating is around £5 - £6 per pound depending on the specific material used. Most fireproof coating thickness measures between 6-7 millimetres but can be in excess of 20 millimetres in thickness. Intumescent coatings are applied in a shop or in the field, but most commonly in the field. It is impossible to apply additional layers once the coating has cured. This makes it critical that the application is done properly the first time. The determination of coating thickness is a vital step in this process for both safety and financial reasons.

Practicality in the probe

An excess of applied materials could potentially cost a company tens of thousands of dollars, while under applying in the event of a fire can lead to a collapse of the structure before evacuation. For these reasons, trueness and repeatability are essential when choosing an instrument to evaluate these coatings. Fischer’s FA70 probe paired with the DUALCOPE® FMP® 40 has proven highly accurate when measuring thick coatings.  Measurements might be taken on a scaffold or ladder in the air in this industry, making the ease of use of the gauge and size of the probe considerations for end users. The Fischer FA70 probe is a lot smaller and less bulky than competitive probes.

“My guys really like using the Fischer FA70 and no longer having a bowling ball-like probe head hanging from a wire as they are 30, 40 and even 60 feet in the air, ” said the intumescent coatings manufacturer. Fischer’s probes are recognised for their accuracy, repeatability, and compact size applicators as well as suppliers of PFP coating materials. The accuracy of the probe is essential in an application where human life is dependent upon the preciseness of measurements and the expensive application process. “When comparing the Fischer DUALSCOPE® FMP® 40 with FA70 Probe during a field study,  the competitor’s gauge yielded errors in coating thickness measurement up to 2.5mm resulting in the manufac-turer to state, “One thing I can promise you, I have bought my last gauge from my current supplier.”

As the fireproofing industry continues to grow, the instruments used to monitor the thickness of intumescent coatings needs to be accurate and reliable. Whether it’s a contractor, coating manu-facturer, or inspector, the coating thickness measurement of fire resistant coatings is critical to guarantee the protection of structures while providing people with sufficient time to evacuate. Contractors should be trained on the proper application of the coating and accurate coating thickness gauges should be used to evaluate the process. The compact FA70 probe and DUALSCOPE® FMP® 40 are relied upon by the professionals that apply intumescent coatings. Once contractors are trained properly and the best inspection equipment is used the coating manufacturer states, “we are really selling peace of mind” to the owner of the structure.

Telephone: 01590 684100
Email: mail@fischergb.co.uk
Visit: www.fischergb.co.uk