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Floor coverings flammability

Under the Construction Products Regulation, manufacturers must test floor coverings for 'reaction to fire'.

It was once the case that to sell floor coverings throughout the individual European countries that now make up the European Economic Area (EEA) required assessment of products against more than 20 different national test standards relating to fire resistance. As this was not practical for most manufacturers and could lead to considerable confusion, the reaction to fire test methods have been harmonised.

The Construction Products Regulation (305/2011) is used in the floor coverings sector across Europe. This requires the product to be assessed against one or more of the test standards specified in EN 14041 – 'Resilient, textile and laminate floor coverings. Essential characteristics' (or EN 14342 – 'Wood flooring and parquet. Characteristics, evaluation of conformity and marking'). A major part of these requirements is reaction to fire testing. This is carried out in accordance with EN 13501-1 – 'Fire classification of construction products and building elements. Classification using test data from reaction to fire tests'. This classification is then used to inform customers of the 'reaction to fire' performance. In the case of floor coverings it is also used to CE mark products against the mandatory product specification requirements.

However, it should be noted that although the classification is acceptable throughout Europe and will be recorded on the CE label, it does not mean that a product is suitable for the same applications in different countries. It is a harmonised classification system, not a harmonised fire safety standard. Building regulations vary from country to country – for example, in one country a material for a hotel lobby may require a product which is at least Class Dfl, while in another a product of at least Class Cfl may be demanded.

EN 13501-1 consists of four European 'reaction to fire' test methods that can be applied to floor coverings. One or more of the tests are used to obtain a classification from A1fl (no contribution to fire) down to Ffl (no performance determined). Table 1 shows the required tests in combination.

Burnt area on floor covering

For manufacturers of textile, resilient, laminate and hardwood flooring products, EN ISO 11925-2 and EN ISO 9239-1 are the most important test methods called up for classification. Commercial and contract application floor covering products will most probably be tested against the requirements which need to be met to obtain a class Bfl, Cfl or Dfl classification. For domestic products Class Efl is likely to be sufficient.

Main flammability tests

EN ISO 9239-1 – 'Reaction to fire tests for floorings. Part 1: Determination of the burning behaviour using a radiant heat source'

EN ISO 9239-1 describes a test procedure for assessing the burning behaviour (spread of flame and smoke development) of horizontally mounted floor coverings firstly exposed to a radiant heat source and then ignited with a pilot flame. The applied radiant heat flux (kW/m2) simulates the thermal radiation levels likely to impinge on a floor whose upper surface is heated by flames or hot gases or both, from a fire in an adjacent room or compartment.

The test is applicable to all types of floor covering including textile carpet, cork, wood, rubber, resilient, laminates and resins. It is used for classification against EN 13501-1 Classes A2fl, Bfl, Cfl or Dfl.

EN ISO 11925-2 – 'Reaction to fire tests – Ignitability of building products subjected to direct impingement of flame. Part 2: Single flame source test'

This test determines the ignitability of a vertically mounted test specimen when a small flame is directly applied to its surface and/or one of its edges. No other heat source is used. The test is used for classification against EN 13501-1 Classes Bfl, Cfl, Dfl or Efl.

Table 1:
EN 13501-1 – Fire classification testing requirements for floorcoverings
Class Test method(s)
A1fl EN ISO 1182 and EN ISO 1716
A2fl EN ISO 1182 or EN ISO 1716 and EN ISO 9239-1
Bfl EN ISO 9239-1 and EN ISO 11925-2, Exposure = 15s
Cfl EN ISO 9239-1 and EN ISO 11925-2, Exposure = 15s
Dfl EN ISO 9239-1 and EN ISO 11925-2, Exposure = 15s
Efl EN ISO 11925-2, Exposure = 15s
Ffl No performance determined
Note: fl denotes classification for floor covering applications only

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