Fire Retardant Paints

Yes, fire retardant paints exist. I have had applications where there is a need to render wood fire and smoke retardant in order to pass an inspection, and other cases where the retrofit of a heating device caused a problem.

With the heater installed, it was too close to flammable materials, and the removal of those items would have cost the owner thousands of dollars in labor.

Fire Retardant Paints

Fire retardant paints are available in a host of formulations and can be used in many areas of building construction. Many professional paint stores, like Glidden or ICI Paints, carry or have access to, a range of fire retardant coatings.


One of these fire retardant products is known as an “intumescent coating”.

An intumescent coating is one that reacts to heat from flames, first by expanding many times from its dry film thickness, and then the expanded film forms a char which then insulates the substrate from heat.

The coating also helps prevent oxygen from getting to the protected surface, thereby reducing the tendency to burn.

Intumescent coatings come in a variety of formulations.

Latex Formulations

Some latex versions impart a Class A Flame Spread rating to dimensional lumber, plywood and OSB (oriented strand board).

The use of fire retardant paints can eliminate the need for fire sprinklers in combustible concealed spaces, and can be applied as an upgrade to help property managers to meet the latest fire and building codes.

Some latex fire retardant coating can be tinted. They will adhere to clean metal, and may even provide a “rust inhibitor” function.

Application methods include brushing, rolling or an airless paint sprayer.

New wood surfaces should be coated with a suitable sealer to prevent tannin staining of the latex topcoat.

Clear Varnish Formulations

The clear varnish form of the intumescent, fire retardant coatings, is for interior wood surfaces.

It improves water resistance and allows the beauty of the underlying wood to show through while still imparting the fire retardant capabilities desired.

Since the clear varnish form is both acidic and hygroscopic, which means that it will react with the substrate and also absorb water.

Therefore, it is necessary to apply clear varnish formulations over a suitable clear primer/sealer, and then re-apply the same primer/sealer over the clear fire retardant paints when they are dry to the touch.

The sealer is, in itself, not fire retardant. It protects the fire retardant coating from absorbing water from the air and imparts scrub resistance to the finished coating.

Other Forms

Different paint stores will offer a variety and range of fire retardant coatings for many different applications. Shop at the professional paint store to secure the best variety to suit your specific requirements.

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