Some substances are more flammable than others because they ignite at lower temperatures and spread flames quickly. It is important to have floors that will not quickly spread a fire, and you may wonder whether is laminate flooring flammable or is a safe choice for your home.
Laminate flooring is flammable but only moderately so. It burns more quickly than wood but less quickly than carpet and can be treated with a protective varnish to be made less flammable. In buildings where a fire would be particularly catastrophic, like a hospital, other materials are recommended.
Read on to learn more about why laminate flooring is flammable, how explosive it is, and what types of flooring and flooring treatments are most resistant to fires.
What Makes Flooring Flammable?
Although flooring is unlikely to be the first part of a house or building that ignites in case of a fire, it can easily be a factor in how quickly and widely a fire spreads. If flooring starts to burn, the fire can quickly spread from room to room, catching highly flammable surfaces on fire and even traveling through various house levels.
The following criteria can measure the flammability of different flooring types:
- The temperature at which a fire begins
- How fast flames spread through the material
- How much of the material mass is lost through a fire
- The chemical composition of emissions released when the material is on fire
Together, these characteristics determine how much of a fire threat based on a material would be in the home. Flooring that burns at a lower temperature, more quickly, and is completely burned up in a fire is considered more hazardous and any material that releases toxic chemicals upon combustion.
Factors That Influence the Flammability of Different Types of Flooring
The flammability of a flooring type depends on its chemical and physical properties and the object’s size.
Combustion happens when the vapors from a compound break apart and recombine with oxygen, which only some substances do. This process creates heat, and if it makes enough heat, it will start turning the rest of the solid material into gas.
Only certain types of flooring react with oxygen in this way, so only some materials are flammable; these materials then ignite at different temperatures. This is measured in the piloted ignition temperature. It can light with a spark, and the unpiloted ignition temperature, where the fuel will ignite without a spark.
The heat production of a reaction with oxygen depends on what the material is made of, and those with greater heat production when breaking apart and combining with oxygen are more likely to catch fire.
The size of an object also influences its flammability because a bigger object will store more heat before any part of the material becomes hot enough to ignite.
Additionally, an object’s shape influences how likely it is to burn because an object exposed to more oxygen is more likely to burn. A flat object is more likely to burn than a block-like object of the same size, simply because more of the material is exposed to oxygen.
Is Laminate Flooring Fire Resistant?
Fire resistance is determined mainly by the composition of a material. Laminate flooring is composed of wood fibers pressed closely together, then covered with paper or a decorative foil. These are joined together with a melamine resin and then covered with a protective coating.
Laminate flooring is put together in layers. The adhesives used to join layers of laminate flooring together, phenol and formaldehyde, produce toxic gases like nitrogen oxide when combusted, increasing the material’s flammability and hazard risk. Laminate flooring produces three times the amount of toxic gas when burned than wood flooring.
Laminate flooring burns at a lower temperature, less quickly, and with less mass loss than carpeting or synthetic materials like PVC. However, the opposite is true in a comparison of laminate flooring with wood flooring. Wood, particularly beech wood, is considered to be among the least flammable of common flooring options.
Ultimately, laminate flooring is considered mildly combustible, and though it is not as fireproof as a wood floor, it is a reasonably good choice for fire safety.
For more information about how to laminate the flooring is put together and what it is made of, see the following video:
Least Flammable Types of Flooring
Some of the least flammable types of flooring are concrete, natural stones like granite and rubber. These are used in homes, schools, hospitals, and military settings, where a fire hazard is particularly dangerous.
Natural Stone (Granite)
In addition to being fire-resistant, granite flooring and other natural stone are very durable and hard and resistant to moisture. This type of flooring is low maintenance than most other types of flooring, even though it is also usually more expensive. It tends to feel cold rather than conduct a lot of heat.
Granite may form cracks and break apart in the presence of high temperatures, but it is unlikely to catch fire or spread existing flames. These changes are unlikely to happen within just a few minutes and may take as long as half an hour in sustained heat to occur.
Although concrete is often dismissed as unfinished-looking and unattractive, there are ways to cover and color the material while retaining the fire-resistant properties. Concrete floors can be stained in almost any color and can be used to create beautiful tiled patterns. It also has the added benefit of being unlikely to trap allergens and being highly durable.
Because concrete is made from natural stone particles, it behaves very similarly to granite and other natural stones in high temperatures. However, concrete may also soften and become spongy in response to high temperatures, unlike natural stone slabs.
Rubber flooring is very durable as well as very fire resistant and resists the absorption of the water. This means that installing rubber flooring means preventing the development of mold and mildew in addition to avoiding fires. It comes in various thicknesses, and in many cases, is made from recycled materials.
Although different types of rubber have different properties, they generally do not produce toxic compounds when ignited, produce little smoke and are free from highly flammable PVC. They are often used in schools for this reason.
Protecting Your Floors Against Fire Hazards
In areas where a fire would be most likely or catastrophic, like industrial buildings, laboratories, military centers, medical buildings, and ships, builders will sometimes choose to add extra protection against fires with a strong protective covering.
For example, the Surface Shields Cover Shield is a heavy-duty floor covering made from plastic, without adhesives. It simply rolls out on top of existing flooring to provide an extra layer of protection that is hard for a fire to break through or spread through.
You can also purchase a fire-resistant topcoat to paint over your flooring for a barrier against flames, like the Intumescent Fire Retardant Paint . It reacts to high temperatures and create a charred or foamy barrier between the material and the air, which prevents the substance from igniting.
Wrapping Things Up
Laminate flooring is more flammable than wood but less flammable than carpet. Although it can be made even less flammable, it is generally considered a safe material in the context of homes. However, some institutions like hospitals, military centers, industrial buildings, or schools are likely to use even less-flammable flooring materials instead.