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Flaming Tests on Upholstered Chair Mock-Ups

Snapshots for representative chair mock-ups without a barrier  (A, at t = 30 s; B, at t = 80 s; C, at t = 2 min 10 s, and; D, at t = 3 min 16 s) and with barrier B6 (E, at t = 30 s; F, at t = 80 s; G, at t = 24 min, and; H, at t = 24 min 48 s).

The effectiveness and the failure mechanism of fire barriers in residential upholstered furniture (RUF) were investigated by full-scale flaming tests on single upholstered chair mock-ups. Six fire barriers were tested. The fire barriers were screened for (1) the presence of elements that are typically used in fire retardants and, (2) the presence of targeted fire retardants. For each fire barrier, triplicate flammability tests were run on chair mock-ups where polyurethane foam and polyester fiber fill were used as the padding materials, and each chair component was fully wrapped with the fire barrier and a polypropylene cover fabric. The ignition source was an 18 kW square propane burner, impinging on the top surface of the seat cushion for 80 s. Results showed all six fire barriers reduced the peak heat release rate (up to 64 %) and delayed its occurrence (up to 19 min) as compared to the control chair mock-ups. The heat release rate remained at a relatively low plateau level until liquid products (generated by either melting or pyrolysis of the padding material) percolated trough the fire barrier at the bottom of the seat cushion and ignited, while the fire barrier was still intact. The peak heat release rate occurred shortly after. These observations indicated that the failure mechanism of the fire barrier was related to the ignition of the percolating liquid under the chair.


Chair Mockup Front - 3 View
Chair Mockup Front - 3 View
Video showing a side-by-side comparison between flaming tests performed on three upholstered chair mock-ups: no barrier fabric (control chair) on the left, a mediocre barrier in the center, and an excellent barrier on the right. Heat release rate overlays for each chair are also shown in the video. The same polypropylene cover fabric and 18 kW square-burner ignition source was used in all mock-ups. The barrier induced the formation of an initial low-heat-release plateau which mitigated the fire hazard by: (1) decreasing the peak of heat release rate from about 2.7 MW for the control chair to about to about 2.0 MW for the chair with barrier 4 to less than 1 MW for the chair with barrier 1, and; (2) increasing the time to peak of heat release rate from about 3 min for the control chair to about to about 12 min for the chair with barrier 4 to about 21 min for the chair with barrier 1. In all cases, the peak of heat release rate was preceded by the formation of a pool fire underneath the chair. [no audio]


Spreadsheets containing the data from the experiments can be downloaded in the ZIP file provided below. Information about the instrumentation layout, including sensor types and uncertainties, can be found in the reference cited below.

A subset of these data including video footage with data overlay can be found in the NIST Fire Calorimetry Database (FCD).


  • A. L. Thompson; I. Kim; A. Hamins; M. Bundy and M. Zammarano Performance and Failure Mechanism of Fire Barriers in Full-Scale Chair Mock-ups, Fire and Materials (submitted).


Created November 4, 2020, Updated March 18, 2021