Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Flammability Characterization of Foam Plastics (NISTIR 4664)



Thomas G. Cleary, James Quintiere


The results of a study to identify an alternative test protocol to the Steiner Tunnel Test as a measure of flammability for foamed plastic are presented. New fire test apparatuses namely the Cone Calorimeter and Lateral Ignition and Flame Spread apparatus were used to more completely characterize foamed plastic flammability. Key flammability properties obtained from these apparatuses describe ignitability, flame spread rate, rate of heat release and smoke obscuration. An extensive data set of these flammability properties for 10 selected foamed plastics was generated. The tested materials included melting foams (polystyrene foams) and charring foams (polyurethanes, polyisocyanurate and phenolic foams). The effects of melting and dripping was limited by testing the materials in the horizontal orientation. In addition, an integrated approach to material flammability characterization is presented that uses these parameters to predict fire growth potential.
NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR) - 4664
Report Number


flammability, rigid foams, cellular plastics, combustibility, fire growth, fire hazards assessment, fire spread, flammability testing, heat release rate, low density foams, tunnel tests, lateral ignition


Cleary, T. and Quintiere, J. (1991), Flammability Characterization of Foam Plastics (NISTIR 4664), NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed April 16, 2024)
Created October 1, 1991, Updated November 10, 2018