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Acoustic Myths and Realities: Foam Flammability

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Myth:

  Bedding or packing foam make a good acoustical wall treatment.
     

Reality:

  No.  Bedding or packing foams are typically flammable and do not meet fire code regulations for use as an exposed finish for walls and ceilings.
 
 When a tragic fire broke out at a Rhode Island rock concert, one of our local news teams along with fire department officials burned several different types of foams to demonstrate their flammability.  The video shows the results of their investigation.
 
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Originally aired in 2003.

 

The first foam sample, a ceramic based acoustical material, does not burn.  It is a Class A material.  The second sample, a polyurethane acoustical foam, will burn but eventually extinguish. It is a Class C material. The third foam, which is for use as bedding - not as an acoustical product, ignites immediately and flames continue to spread even after the fire source is removed.  Bedding or packing foam is not intended for use on vertical surfaces such as walls, or on ceilings.

Only Class A or Class 1 materials are approved to be used in public spaces as finishes for walls.  Class B or C materials may be used in the homes or some areas with low occupancy, subject to local building regulations. 

If ever in doubt about the material you are using, consult your local Fire Marshall.

Here are the flammability ratings according to ASTM E 84 - A test method for determining the surface burning characteristics of building materials, sometimes referred to as the “Steiner tunnel test”. This test method is for single products and evaluates both flame spread and smoke development, assigning different classes based upon test results: 

Class

Flame Spread

A or 1

0-25

B or 2

26-75

C or 3

76-200

You may also be interested in our egg carton test.  Many folks want to use this material as an acoustical wall treatment.  We ran an acoustical test and they will absorb sound, but once again, the flammability becomes a more important issue than the acoustical result.

http://www.acousticsfirst.com/eggc.htm

 
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