Intumescent coatings deliver a cost-effective and practical solution for fire protection. When exposed to high temperatures, these coatings undergo a complex thermo-chemical reaction that forces them to expand and become less dense. As a result, these coatings can protect different building elements from the damaging effects of high temperatures and open flames.

Why Intumescent Coatings Are Critical to Industrial Painting Projects

The Advantages of Using Intumescent Coatings

Fire protection is a necessity for steel construction. Because fires can reach very high temperatures, they often cause structural steelwork to lose its load bearing capability and, eventually, buckle and collapse. That’s where intumescent coatings come into play. 

How It Works

As intumescent coatings decrease in density and increase in volume in the presence of heat, they turn into insulating barriers that are exponentially larger than the barriers provided by regular paint.

The flame retardancy property of intumescent coatings allows steel structures to retain their strength in the event of a fire, while significantly extending the time it takes for steelwork to reach critical failure temperatures. Thus, intumescent coatings give building occupants enough time to escape and enhance the ability of firefighters to bring a fire under control.


Intumescents are divided into two main categories: thick film and thin film coatings. Originally developed for off-shore applications, thick film intumescent coatings are typically solvent-free epoxy-based products and have dry film thicknesses of up to 25 mm.

Thin-film intumescents are either water- or solvent-based coatings with film thickness of less than 5 mm. The greater the thickness at which intumescent coatings are applied, the better the protection of the substrate is.


Intumescent coatings include some key components, such as:

  • Special binders – Special binders and also ensure good adhesion between the substrate and the new coat of paint.
  • Flame retardants – Flame retardants reduce the flame-spread rate of intumescent coatings and give them self-extinguishing properties.
  • Reinforcing materials – Besides improving the stability of the coating system and enhancing its durability, reinforcing materials (e.g. fibers) speed up the drying process.

The intumescent coatings that are applied by professionals according to manufacturers’ instructions and industry standards resist fires that reach 2,000° F. Therefore, these coating systems offer far-reaching possibilities for different buildings and structures, including conventional commercial and industrial buildings, offshore structures, refineries, and chemical facilities.

Where It’s Used

Because intumescent coatings resemble ordinary paint, they can be used to protect a variety of building materials, including structural steel, concrete, wood, and gypsum. However, the main purpose of these coatings is to maintain the integrity of structural components until fires are extinguished.

It is for this reason commercial and industrial facilities are often required to apply these types of coatings to certain building components. Additionally, intumescent coatings must comply with the same VOC standards as any other type of paint.


As part of industrial painting projects, intumescent coatings offer a series of advantages, including:

  • Durability – these coating systems are typically durable and do not readily flake off when struck.
  • Versatility – Intumescents can be easily applied on- and off-site to a variety of surfaces.
  • Aesthetics – Intumescent coatings are available in different colors, so they can be used to emphasize certain elements.
  • Application and maintenance – Intumescent coating systems are relatively easy to apply and maintain.

Intumescent coatings also provide anticorrosion protection to steel surfaces, extending their life significantly. In fact, intumescent coatings fight corrosion in much the same way as corrosion resistant coatings.

At Performance Painting Contractors, our professional crews have access to the latest in coating and lining technologies to keep both structural and decorative components protected from various natural and man-made elements, including water, moisture, dirt, pollution, sunlight, high temperatures, and even fires.

If you have any questions about intumescent coatings for fireproofing different structures, please call Performance Painting Contractors today at (904)-641-4800 or (813)-308-0388 to talk to one of our experienced professionals.

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