Fire-retardant plywood is a great way to reduce the risk of a fire outbreak and minimize the spread of any fire inside of your residential or commercial property. This is because the plywood is made less resistant to fire by adding fire-retardant chemicals that are very slow to ignite. It is helpful to understand how fire-retardant plywood protects, how it compares to other types of building materials and when it may be the best time to use fire-retardant plywood to determine if it is right for you.
Fire-retardant plywood is not considered non-combustible, but it can often be used in place of non-combustible materials in certain situations. It is far less combustible than traditional plywood, which insurance companies, the International Building Code (IBC) and other sources may take into consideration. The following is a complete review of fire-retardant plywood.
How Does Fire Retardant Plywood Protect?
Fire-retardant plywood, also called fire-retardant-treated wood or FRTW, is plywood that is made less combustible through the application of fire-resistant chemicals. This means the plywood can better resist fire ignition and prevent the spread of fire if one were to develop.
Fire-retardant plywood is made less combustible through the use of fire-resistant chemicals. A layer of chemicals is strategically applied to plywood. It is applied in a manner that minimizes the aesthetic effects, leaving a natural look for the plywood and attractive natural wood color.
Fire-retardant plywood is far less flammable, which is the main benefit; however, it is often more expensive than untreated wood. Painting fire-retardant plywood may be more challenging as well, as the chemicals that make the wood more resistant to fire may become compromised if not painted correctly.
Not all buildings require less combustible materials, although some might. Namely, type III and IV constructions, as defined by the International Building Code (IBC), contain at least some non-combustible or less-combustible building materials. In some instances, fire-retardant plywood can be used in place of non-combustible materials for type I and type II constructions.
Combustible vs Non-Combustible
Combustible refers to building materials that are more flammable. In general, combustible materials are materials that immediately catch fire when exposed to flames. Most types of wood are considered combustible; they are less safe to use for buildings that have a higher risk of fire ( either due to the purpose of the building or its location).
Non-combustible refers to building materials that are not flammable when exposed to fire. Some say there is no such thing as non-combustible materials, although there are some building materials that the International Building Code (IBC) recognizes as non-combustible. Examples of non-combustible materials include metal, asbestos, and gypsum concrete.
There are advantages and potential drawbacks to using each option. Combustible materials are less safe but may come at a more affordable cost. For certain construction purposes, this may make a construction type V (such as one made with all non-treated wood) the most practical. Non-combustible materials are more expensive on average, but using it offers more reliable protection from fire.
Uses for Fire-Retardant Plywood
There are certain times when fire-retardant plywood might be necessary or the most practical solution. The type of building materials used dictates the type of construction of the property as defined by the IBC. A building that is made of all non-combustible materials is a type V construction. Type III and type IV construction use a mixture of both combustible and non-combustible materials, whereas Type I and II are made exclusively or almost exclusively of non-combustible building materials.
As mentioned, fire-retardant plywood is not technically considered non-combustible, but there are certain times when it can be used in place of combustible materials due to its ability to resist fire. The most common uses for fire-retardant plywood include:
- Roof construction
- Building frames
- Support structures
- Exterior walls
Fire-retardant plywood is effective for both exterior and interior use; however, it may not work as well as it should if painted incorrectly. It is also important to protect the fire-retardant plywood from excessive exposure to moisture during construction, especially if it is not intended for exterior use.
The best way to determine whether fire-retardant plywood, traditional untreated plywood, or another type of building material is most ideal for you is to discuss all available options with a lumber specialist. Fire-retardant plywood is more expensive in many instances, but it may offer the most financially-sensible choice long-term as well as the safest choice in almost every case.
Talk to The Wholesale Lumber Suppliers
Contact Curtis Lumber & Plywood if you have questions about fire-retardant plywood, or any other type of treated or untreated wood. We offer various types of treated and untreated wood and can use our knowledge and expertise to help you choose the type of plywood that is best for your specific construction project needs. Call us today to get started.