Increasing Fire Safety on Upholstered Furniture


Upholstered furniture is a staple of most modern homes and commercial buildings. Unfortunately, most upholstery also tends to be highly flammable and can lead to severe consequences in the context of a fire.

Fires caused by upholstered furniture are documented to be up to 14 times more deadly than other house fires. This jarring statistic supports the notion that thorough measures should be taken when fireproofing upholstery.

This article covers many important subjects about fire safety as they relate to upholstered furniture in commercial, public and residential places, including:

Does upholstery fabric need to be fire retardant?

When deciding if a particular fabric in your project needs a fire retardant, it may help to revisit some basics. For example, what is a fire retardant for?

Fire Retardants are meant to slow the spread of flames in the case of an active fire. In case of an emergency, a fire retardant will help firefighters contain a fire to its source and ideally minimize the negative consequences of a fire emergency.

According to the National Bureau of Standards, on the subject of upholstery and fire retardant, four major categories should be considered when deciding whether to use fire retardant on a fabric:

  • The probability of a cigarette ignition
  • The likelihood of small flame ignition
  • The consequences of ignition such as flame spread, smoke development, rate of heat release, etc.
  • If ignited, will the upholstery significantly increase the severity of the fire?

It is vital to consider all of these elements when deciding to use fire retardant on your upholstery.

The consequences of flaming furniture can be incredibly severe, often leading to death and property damage. That is why we recommend taking thorough precautions to ensure the upholstered furniture in your homes and projects is fire retardant.

How do you reduce fire risk in upholstered furniture?

One of the leading causes of house fires is careless smoking. An unattended cigarette may ignite the highly flammable materials within furniture. As such, one of the best ways to reduce the risk of fire in upholstered furniture is to be careful when smoking around it.

Of course, inattentive smoking is not the only reason furniture may catch fire, and accidents can still happen.

Several strategies can be employed to reduce the risk of a furniture fire in your commercial, public, or residential building. However, their effectiveness can vary.

Furniture Arrangement

It may seem strange, but furniture arrangement can play an effect in flame spread. Furniture should be arranged in a way to optimize safety. For instance, keeping a 3-foot distance between flammable furniture will lessen the odds of the fire spreading piece by piece.

For similar reasons, it is wise to keep electrical cords, lit candles, fireplaces, and other appliances away from upholstered furniture.

Fire Barrier Method

Fire barriers are built into furniture and can be thought of as literal fire blockers. They act as a physical and thermal barrier in the middle of a fire, protecting upholstered furniture.

This method of flame risk reduction is a form of passive fire protection (PFP). The goal of PFP is to contain the fire and reduce fire damage by limiting the spread of the fire from the source.

Fabric barriers work because they incorporate fire-resistant fibers. They limit heat spread and control the rate and location of a burn.

Fire Retardant Method

This method consists of treating the upholstered furniture with a flame retardant spray. This strategy is another form of PFP. Flame retardants will similarly limit the spread of fire, contain the fire to its source, as well as limit heat release.

Using fire retardant coatings is an incredibly effective way to improve fire safety in upholstery. While this is technically a chemical treatment of fabric, there are many safety regulations to ensure coatings are non-toxic and safe for people and other living creatures.

What are the fire regulations for furniture?

There are many sources for fire regulation for furniture to optimize safety in case of a fire. Most of these regulations revolve around smoldering and flame spread. We will review some of the better-known fire regulations in the context of furniture.

  • NFPA 701: Standard Methods of Fire Tests for Flame Propagation of Textiles and Films. This test measures the flammability of a fabric when exposed to a flame source.

According to the above regulation, an appropriately rated and compliant fabric should have an after flame of fewer than 2 seconds, a char length of fewer than 6.5 inches, and flaming should cease when it reaches the test chamber floor.

  • TB 117-2013/ASTM E1353 is a regulation mandated by California that ensures that fabrics used for upholstered furniture undergo a smolder test.

Per this regulation, fabrics should not demonstrate signs of smoldering or open flaming after a 45 second exposure to a lit cigarette, and the concluding char length should be no more than 1.8 inches.

How do I know if furniture is fire resistant?

Understanding the negative consequences of burning upholstery may make you wonder how to know when a piece of furniture is fire resistant.

Most pieces of furniture treated to be fire-resistant will include a fire safety label to document measures taken to improve safety. This label should include information on the fire safety specifications. Information about the manufacturer should also be attached if you need to contact them or have questions.

FlameOFF Coatings Fire Retardant

At FlameOFF® we are dedicated to supplying the best anti-fire solutions. This includes FR Clear, our fire retardant that is compatible with fabrics. Our product is certified and tested by third-party labs and will significantly increase the safety of your upholstered furniture.

FR Clear can be used as a solution for fire safety in commercial and public spaces including hotels, restaurants, educational facilities, nursing homes and other places.

Learn more about FlameOFF and FR Clear.

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