Plastic materials are increasingly attractive for use in environments requiring high levels of fire performance. Mitten vinyl cladding has excellent performance characteristics in fire situations. Due to its chlorine base, vinyl cladding's chemical makeup ensures that it does not ignite quickly and is inherently flame retardant.
All organic materials will ignite. But the higher the temperature a material has to reach before it flames, the safer it is. Cladding materials are composed mainly of polyvinyl chloride, more commonly known as vinyl or PVC. PVC will not ignite, even from another flame, until it reaches about 378°C, and will not self ignite until about 454°C.
These ignition temperatures are significantly higher than common framing timber, which ignites from flame at 260°C and self ignites at 410°C. Also, ASTM D2863 tests show that rigid PVC's high Limiting Oxygen Index means that it needs unusually high amounts of oxygen to burn and stay burning. Rigid PVC (vinyl cladding) will not independently sustain combustion in air with a normal concentration of oxygen, so it extinguishes more easily. See Specifications for fire related properties.
Vinyl cladding materials are slow to ignite, flame spread is slow, and they self extinguish once the heat source is removed . The strong fire-safe characteristics of vinyl have been recognised for decades by the electrical industry through its approved use as a residential wiring insulator.
Results of the Standard Test Method for Surface Flammability of Materials Using a Radiant Heat Energy Source, show PVC as one of the cladding materials with the lowest radiant panel index – meaning it does not release a large amount of energy when it burns and will not readily spread flames on its own. The low rate of heat release is a significant factor in reducing injury in fire situations.
In the tragic Victorian fires of January 2009, a vinyl clad house survived remarkably unscathed.
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