What does it mean to be Fire Resistant and Impact Resistant?

Fire resistant and impact resistant tests are designed to evaluate building materials to ensure that they are safe for use in construction. To accurately assess a material or product's ability to resist fire or significant impact, a series of tests are performed. The type and scope of tests used for fire resistance and impact resistance are detailed below. Use these to gauge the factors that a specific product has been tested for and to see how it performed.

Tests Used for Fire Resistance

Fire resistance tests use a sample of wall material that is 20" x 24"; this material is then exposed to fire and results are recorded. Products may be exposed to flame individually or with component parts, depending on the test used. The following tests are used to measure overall fire resistance: 

  • ASTM E84: This test checks the surface of a building material and determines how well it withstands burning.  This test assesses both the spread of a flame and how rapidly it consumes a material and what happens to a specific product when it is exposed to flame. 
  • NFPA-285: This is an assembly test that looks at the way the components designed for a building's exterior respond to flame. Components are exposed to flame for 30 minutes to determine overall resistance -- individual parts are not tested; assembly components are assessed together. 
  • FM 4880: Used to test materials used on indoor walls and ceilings and some plastics, this test checks for flammability. Insulated wall or roof panels are tested with component parts to determine overall fire resistance once installed.  

Tests Used for Impact Resistance

Impact resistance tests are designed to check the safety and viability of materials used for construction and to ensure that they meet minimum standards for safety. Each component is tested to ensure it can withstand impact and to determine if the material is suitable for the applications it has been chosen for. These standards are used by government agencies to create standards for construction in high risk hurricane locations. 

FM 4881: This test assesses external wall panels and pieces for their ability to withstand impact from a natural force. High winds, hurricanes and other natural sources of impact are assessed using this standard.  This covers sandwich style panels used in the exterior of a residence of commercial building. 

TAS-201: This impact standard tests windows and glass, primarily for hurricane resistance. Coastal areas that are highly prone to hurricanes and tropical storms require materials that have been tested using this model for safety.  Windows are assigned a rating that indicates the level of wind that they can resist without breaking during a storm. Different areas require different levels of material performance. Areas like Miami Florida require high levels of wind resistance for windows to prevent home damage and injury. 

Understanding how materials are tested for both fire and impact resistance ensures manufacturers can provide the best possible quality and safety, and helps contractors select the right tools for a specific job. Knowing that "fire resistant" and "impact resistant" are backed with specific testing and requirements provides everyone in a project cycle with peace of mind about the finished product. 


Topics: Product Testing