Fire Retardant Fabric, Overview
Fire retardant/resistant (FR) fabrics are articles of fabric which have been tested against certain standards to determine how quickly flames spread through and across their surface. The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 sets out the standards for UK upholstery.
Some of the fabrics that we sell on Fabric Online already meet certain standards, either inherently (some 100% wool fabrics, for example), or having been pre-treated as part of their manufacture. When choosing from these fabrics, however, it is important to know the difference between the various standards. Specifically which is appropriate for your intended end-use.
Many of our non-FR fabrics can also be treated to bring them up to your required standard. We do offer this service to our customers wherever possible.
You should be aware that no amount of treatment will make your fabric fireproof. The aim of UK fire regulations is only to ensure that the spread of flame is slowed to within an acceptable margin, theoretically giving you additional time to evacuate in the event of a fire.
The Treatment Process
You can typically expect one of two possible types of FR treatment, depending on the type of material and the standard required.
In a backcoat treatment the FR chemicals are bound within polymer, a thin layer of which is applied to the back of the fabric (hence the name). The fabric is then dried and cured to fix the polymer to the fabric.
The amount of coating will be determined by which FR standard the fabric needs to meet.
Backcoat treatments are by far the most common with furnishing and upholstery fabrics, especially here at Fabric Online.
In a ‘clearcoat’ treatment process your fabric is soaked in and made to absorb specialist FR chemicals. The fabric is then cured and dried, locking in the treatment.
The treatment can give the fabric an additional stiffness compared to the non-treated article.
Clearcoat treatment is also only an option for fabrics composed of natural fibres capable of absorbing the chemicals. Polyester, for example, can only be treated by backcoat.
Domestic upholstery standards (BS5852:1998, ignition sources 0 + 1) apply to any material used in upholstery and large and/or fixed furnishings which is sold for intended use in homes or private property. Fabric is tested with the application of cigarette and match to a sample, which is then observed for smouldering and flaming ignition.
Most of our non-FR fabrics can be brought up to this standard with the application of a polymer backcoat. The cost of this treatment is £4.25/metre (incl. VAT).
A minimum charge of £46.75 (incl. VAT) is in place for smaller lengths of fabric (10 metres or less) to cover the cost of testing and certification. The minimum charge band applies per fabric which is requested as FR; an order for 2 metres each of two colourways, for example, will incur two separate minimum charges totalling £93.50.
Upholstery intended for use in contract environments (bars, hotels, restaurants, offices, etc…) must pass to a higher standard with more stringent tests (BS5852:1998, ignition source 5 / Crib 5). This typically requires a thicker application of backcoat polymer, and so can be more expensive than the treatment for domestic upholstery.
Contract upholstery treatment is charged at £5.15/metre (incl. VAT). The minimum charge of £46.75, as above, remains in-place for smaller lengths (orders of 8 metres or less).
Fabric for curtains, blinds or drapes which are intended for use in contract environments (bars, hotels, restaurants, offices, etc…) are treated and tested to meet standard BS5867, Part 2, Type B.
This treatment is only possible for fabrics which are capable of absorbing FR chemicals, so must typically be composed of no less than 75% natural fibres (cotton, viscose, bamboo, etc…). This may not be suitable for many of our fabrics.
Contract curtain treatment is charged at £2.70/metre (incl. VAT). A minimum charge of £32.40 (incl. VAT) for smaller lengths of fabric (11 metres or less) is in place to cover the costs of testing and certification. The minimum charge band applies per fabric which is requested as FR; an order for 2 metres each of two colourways or designs, for example, will incur two separate minimum charges totalling £64.80.
Placing Your Order
For the time-being orders for FR treatment must be raised manually, so you will need to get in touch by email with the full details of your order. We cannot accept orders over the phone, but we can answer any questions or concerns that you might have.
Once your order has been raised, you will be emailed the details along with a link to a payments page on our website.
When we have received your payment, the fabric will be sent out for treatment before being delivered to the final address on your order. We typically advise customers to allow for anywhere from 5-10 working days for treatment and delivery.