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When it comes to fire protection, the ASTM E-119 standards are some of the most important documents out there. But despite their importance, they can be difficult to understand for someone who doesn’t want to slog through all the complex terminologies.
That’s why we wrote this article – to simplify and explain the ASTM E-119 standards in a way that everyone can understand. So whether you’re a firefighter looking to protect your community or an in-house engineer who wants to know more about these important standards, read on!
What is ASTM E-119?
The ASTM E-119 standards are a set of requirements that allow for a product to be recognized as “fire-resistant” (note that fire-resistant is different than fire retardant). They’re important for both commercial and industrial paint products. The standards ensure that a finished product will be able to withstand high levels of heat without igniting.
Certain commercial paints, like FlameOFF Fire Barrier Paint offer up to 2 hours of fire protection and are 100% tested and compliant with ASTM E-119. This offers facility managers and engineers the ability to acquire an E-119 fire rating for steel, wood, gypsum, and other materials without needing to go through testing via the E-119 standards.
The standards are characterized by test methods “intended to evaluate the duration for which [certain structures] contain a fire, retain their structural integrity, or exhibit both properties“, according to the ASTM.
ASTM E-119 testing measures the duration and temperature a substrate can withstand consistent exposure to flame.
When is the ASTM E-119 test required?
Overall, the ASTM E-119 standards are quite vague when it comes to defining when the tests are actually necessary. To better understand when they are, let’s take a look at the requirements based on specific scenarios and types of structures.
The ASTM E-119 test is important for ensuring that building materials don’t collapse or lose integrity under intense heat. It’s essential for protecting both the structure itself and the people inside it during a fire.
There are two specific scenarios referenced in the ASTM E-119 Standards where the tests should be administered:
- Construction of a public building
- Construction of buildings of “like character and use in a community”
Structures, on the other hand, have slightly different standards when it comes to E-119.
The tests are performed on a variety of structures including:
- Composite slab and beam assemblies for floors and roofs
- Wall assemblies
In general, think about any structure that is critical to the structure integrity of a building, and that can likely have the E-119 test administered to it.
The E-119 standards simply that the tests are a methodology for evaluating the ability of a structure to contain a fire and/or retain its structural integrity.
Either way, it is safe to say that a testing material with an E-119 fire rating is more structurally sound than one that lacks a rating.
How does ASTM E-119 work and what’s the scope?
There are two tests that makeup ASTM E-119: the Fire Endurance Test and the Hose Stream Test. To begin understanding how the ASTM E-119 works, let’s first discuss what the tests are.
The Fire Endurance Test
The Fire Endurance Test exposes a structure or material of a standard fire controlled to achieve a specific set of temperatures over a specific time period following the time-temperature curve, discussed further below.
The test is used to ascertain four end-point criteria as defined by the ASTM:
- The transmission of heat through the structure
- The ability of the structure to not ignite under stress from flames or gasses
- The ability of the structure to maintain structural integrity during the fire test
- Temperatures of the steel (under some conditions)
When testing a load-bearing structure, an applied load will be placed upon the test specimen. The test is typically run until failure occurs, or “until the specimen has withstood the test conditions for a period equal to… the conditions of acceptance”.
After the Fire Endurance Test is completed, depending on the type of construction being tested, the Hose Stream Test occurs.
The Hose Stream Test
The Hose Stream Test consists of subjecting the specimen to the cooling, erosion, and impact effects of a hose stream. It is conducted on an identical specimen that has been exposed to the Fire Endurance Test for exactly one-half of the fire endurance period of the original.
In cases where a load-bearing structure is being tested, there may be a requirement for a weight load to be placed on the assembly while the Hose Stream Test occurs.
The stream is delivered through a National Standard Playpipe from a distance of 20 feet; when the test occurs, the hose is first aimed at the middle and then at all other areas of the exposed assembly, with changes in direction made slowly.
Depending on how long the structure maintained integrity during the Fire Endurance Test, the Hose Stream Test can range anywhere from 1 to 6 minutes, with water pressure maxing out at 45 psi.
After these tests have been conducted, an ASTM E-119 fire rating is assigned to the test material.
ASTM E-119 fire ratings
The E-119 fire ratings are a measure of how long the tested structure or material can withstand fire exposure. These ratings stem from the time-temperature curve as defined in the ASTM E-119 Standard Test Methods.
Giving a structure a fire rating is quite simple: in the case that a material maintains structural integrity for 30 minutes, it will have a fire rating of 30 minutes; or, if the structure lasts for 1 hour, it will have a rating of 1 hour.
The time-temperature curve simply allows engineers to understand the heat capacity for materials over some time, but the specific temperatures are not included as part of the fire rating. In general, structures and materials that last over 1 hour are viewed as being quite reliable.
In cases where a structure cannot achieve an E-119 fire rating of any time value, applying an intumescent fire-resistant paint like FlameOFF can be a lifesaver. With third-party testing E-119 under UL 263 standards, FlameOFF can be applied to numerous building materials such as:
- Structural steel
- Sheet metal
- Composite panels
- Interior woods
What companies do ASTM E-119 testing?
There are three ASTM E-119 companies we recommend:
Of course, there are other options out there, but these providers are some of the most well-known and accredited ASTM E-119 testers out there.
Similarly, there are quite a few labs that handle ASTM E-84 accreditation, a fire-test-response standard for the comparative burning behavior of building materials. A few of these companies include:
Where can you get a copy of ASTM E-119?
There are currently two locations on the web to access a copy of ASTM E-119: Standard Test Methods for Fire Tests of Building Construction and Materials.
The free version is a bit outdated, being published in October 2000, but it still contains quite a bit of relevant information to the modern day.
There is also a paid version available from S&P Global that was published on September 1, 2022; while the information and formatting are updated here, the caveat is that a PDF version costs $82.
Regardless, we hope that through reading this article, you’ve been able to get a bit more insight into what E-119 testing actually is, what it means when a structure has an E-119 fire rating, and where you can go to get a material tested.