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Evaluating Fire Blocking Performance of Barrier Fabrics



Shonali Nazare, William M. Pitts, Shaun M. Flynn, John R. Shields, Rick D. Davis


The purpose of fire blocking barrier materials is to reduce the flammability of soft furnishings ( mattresses and upholstered furniture) by preventing or delaying direct flame impingement from open flames and/or heat transfer from smoldering ignition source to the more flammable cushioning components. A series of evaluations were performed on different types of barrier fabrics (BF) used in soft furnishings. Fundamental properties that influence the heat transfer characteristics of barrier material, as it relates to thermal protection of cushioning components in upholstered products are discussed. This is important to enable a priori selection of BFs such that a final upholstered product complies with flammability regulations. Basic heat transfer measurements are used to determine effectiveness of materials to be used as barrier materials. A new bench- scale composite test method is also described to assess qualitative fire blocking performance of BFs. When tested for heat transfer characteristics, the area density and thickness of BFs show strong influence. However, when tested as a composite in a mock-up assembly, the BFs considered in this study showed a clear distinction between active and passive BFs. In the case of chemically active BFs, the construction parameters and material properties such as thickness, air permeability, and heat transfer were of little significance. In the case of passive BFs, however, these parameters became decisive. Results from this study suggest that if the BF is not an active fire barrier, then the amount of heat transferred through BF is critical, i.e, the material should be thermally thick to protect the underlying cushioning layers.
Fire and Materials


barrier fabrics, soft furnishings, upholstered furniture, mattress, flammability, smoldering ignition, thermal protective performance, heat release rate, thermal degradation


Nazare, S. , Pitts, W. , Flynn, S. , Shields, J. and Davis, R. (2013), Evaluating Fire Blocking Performance of Barrier Fabrics, Fire and Materials, [online], (Accessed June 21, 2024)


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Created October 15, 2013, Updated November 10, 2018