Erfurt MAV

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Understanding Fire Ratings.

The fire rating system in regard to wallpapers can be difficult to understand and obviously for absolute accuracy and certainty you should always consult an expert in the field such as a Specifier, Trade Body or Testing Body. What I am providing here is my personal overview of how to look at fire ratings and what they may mean for you.

Whilst the last thing I want to do is give a false sense of security or give the impression the fire rating of your wallpaper is not very important - it is worth bearing in mind that having properly maintained and positioned smoke detectors in your home is arguably far more important than the fire rating of your wallcovering because we all inevitably have lots of other combustible and smoke generating products in our home.


When must wallpaper fire ratings be considered by UK Law?

The simple answer is if your project is subject to Building Regulations 'Building Regs' and/or inspections by a Building Inspector, then the fire rating of the product must comply. In effect this means big projects such as a ‘new build’, extension, garage conversion, loft conversion, will all be subject to Building Regulations and the wallpaper must comply with requirements regarding the fire rating of the product.


When is it purely down to me to decide?

Smaller projects such as general home redecoration and makeovers are unlikely to be subject to building regulations (unless it is a public space, hotel, care home or similar where regulations may apply) so you do not need to legally consider the fire rating of the product. However, you may well want to consider the fire rating of the wallpaper anyway, for example avoiding using less fire resistant wallpapers in fire escape routes.


How can I find the fire rating of a wallpaper product?

It may be on the label as a letter or number, on their website, or you may have to ask the manufacturer. The manufacturer should be able to supply you with the actual test certificate.


OK, so why do some products have a letter as the fire rating and some a number?

The short answer is, there are two overlapping test systems, either of which is acceptable for Building Regulations;

  • The British Standard (BS 476) categorises products by numbers 0 to 4 (0 being the least flammable and 4 the most)
  • The European Standard (EN 13501) categorises products by letters A to F (A being the least flammable and in theory F being the most *)

The chart below shows how the two systems overlap:

British Standard Classification European Standard Classification
Not Applicable A
0 B
1 & 2 C
3 D
4 E
Unclassifiable F


OK, I get that, but why the *?

This is because under the European system most wallpapers under 1.8 mm can be classified as a ‘D’ without testing them so a product classified as a D may perform better (or theoretically worse) if it was subjected to a test . Similarly if a product is thicker than 1.8 mm it can be classified as an ‘F’ without testing.


Products with a European rating have other lower case letters and numbers written after the letter – Do they mean anything?

Yes they do. Let’s say you have C-s2,d0

C is the resistance to fire (as shown in the earlier chart)

s2 is the amount of smoke generated, 1 would be best, 3 the worst

d0 is the relative amount of flaming particles falling , 0 is best, 2 the worst

Additional classes for smoke development Additional classes for burning droplets
s1 the structural element may emit a very limited amount of combustion gases d0 burning droplets or particles must not be emitted from the structural element
s2 the structural element may emit a limited amount of combustion gases d1 burning droplets or particles may be released in limited quantities
s3 no requirement for restricted production of combustion gases d2 no requirement for restriction of burning droplets and particles


In this regard the European system is useful as you may have a product that resists fire but gives off a lot of smoke in a real home fire and we all know it can often be the smoke that is the real killer rather than the fire itself. Products with plastic coatings are often particularly bad for this.


OK, so what do Building Regulations say I need?

That depends on where exactly you will use the wallcovering. The chart included here shows how different rated wallcoverings can be used in projects subject to Building Regulations:

Location BS Class European Class

Small rooms of an area not more than:
a) 4m2 in residential accommodation
b) 30m2 in non-residential accommodation

2 D-s3,d2
Other rooms (including garages) 1 C-s3,d2
Circulation spaces in dwellings 1 C-s3,d2
Other circulation spaces, including the common areas in blocks of flats 0 B-s3,d2


How is a test conducted and under what conditions?

A test looks to replicate real world conditions so the paper is applied to a non-combustible surface with a typical adhesive (which will be described in the test) as it would be in a typical home. If it is a paintable wallcovering then you would expect the test to show two coats of emulsion paint had been applied simply because this is typically what would happen in the real world. The test essentially consists of directing a naked flame at the surface and measuring flame spread over a period of 10 minutes. The wider the flames spread outwards in that time the lower the rating. The test is repeated several times and the worst results used to rate the product. Please see the chart here:

  Flame spread at 1.5 min (mm) Final flame spread (mm)

Class 1

165 (+25) 165 (+25)
Class 2 215 (+25) 455 (+45)
Class 3 265 (+25) 710 (+75)
Class 4 Exceeding Class 3 limits.


It is worth bearing in mind the test is always going to be ‘indicative’ as there are variables to consider;

  • The type of adhesive used to apply the product could make a small or potentially big difference in extreme cases e.g. see this link to our fire retardant adhesive
  • Product manufacturing variables
  • In the case of paintable wallcoverings – what brand of paint has been used.


How can wallpaper have any fire resistance anyway?

When a pure paper is adhered to a non-combustible surface it does not necessarily burn easily because it is not in ‘free air’. Similarly some plastic coated wallpapers, such as PVC coverings, do not necessarily combust easily (but give off smoke). Furthermore we offer a wallpaper that resists combustion even in free air and can actually be used to offer some protection to more vulnerable surfaces - Wallrock Fireliner.


The product I want is E rated, can I use it?

First, if Building Regulations apply – almost definitely not**

Second, if they don’t apply you can use it but we would advise you consider the area it is being used in e.g. is it a fire escape route?


So why the ** above?

The product may be able to be used as part of a system that improves the fire rating significantly, see below.


Can a Fire Rating be Improved?

The short answer is 'yes, it can'.

Take this product for example, Red Label Insulating Lining Paper, it has a lowly rating of F - it is a composite of EN E rated polystyrene (treated with fire retardant) combined with a thin lining paper, normally EN rated as B.

As there are so many variables as to how this product may be used we declare it as an F - worst case scenario. However, when the product is applied with Wallrock Thermal FR Adhesive and covered with Wallrock Fireliner lining paper with two coats of emulsion applied, it achieves a BS Class 1 which is Building Regulations compliant for residences.

I hope this helps clear up a few questions.

Best wishes
Andrew Simpson (MD)

This is a simple wallpaper calculator and should be used as a guide only. You can find the roll width and roll length you are after on the specific product page.
Roll widths are provided in meters (such as 0.5 x 10mtr) so your wall widths and heights should be inputted in meters also.
If you are purchasing an offset match product then you may need a little extra as there may be some waste. If you have any windows or doors in your walls you can simply ignore these. This will give a good estimate of required roll numbers.

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