Are Acoustic Panels a Fire Retardant?


If you’re involved in a construction project, you’re probably concerned with insurance coverage during fire incidents. Many building regulations mandate that you use fire-resistant materials.  Multi-purpose acoustic panels that absorb external sounds and prevent fires are an excellent way to hit two birds with one stone. But can acoustic panels effectively stop the flames? 

Acoustic panels can be fire retardant depending on the material they contain, like fiberglass or mineral wool. You can also apply special sprays to enhance their fire-resistance properties. Other factors, including humidity, color, or thickness, may also affect their ability to withstand fires. 

In the rest of this article, we’ll talk about acoustic panels and their fire-resistant properties. We’ll also tell you about the factors that weaken these properties and give you a few tips. 

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What Are Acoustic Panels?

Acoustic panels are sound-absorbing boards you place on the walls and ceilings to eliminate extra sounds and echoing. They’re the same panels you may use in home studios to prevent comb filtering or sound delay. 

Whether you’re installing acoustic panels in a restaurant, your house, or your office, they should follow the building codes to avoid fire hazards and financial damage.

On average, the fire temperature in the buildings reaches 1,000°F and 2,000°F (537.78°C and 1,093.33°C). These panels come with thermal insulation materials that withstand high temperatures and block the flames from spreading. 

When buying acoustic panels, don’t just consider appearance. You also need to pay attention to the materials if you want to avoid fire incidents. Thankfully, there are acoustic panels with fire retardant properties on the market. 

Here are some fire retardant materials acoustic panels can contain:

Fiberglass

As the name suggests, fiberglass contains glass spun into thin fibers. The material is so durable that it’s used in trucks, boats, and aircraft. It blocks fire from spreading and resists temperatures exceeding 1000°F (537°C). However, it starts to melt if the heat goes above 2000°F (1093°C). 

Mineral Wool

Mineral wool has a fiber structure that includes basalt rock. It’s ideal to use inside and outside the panel since it can resist above 1800°F (982.22°C). Plus, it outperforms other insulation materials like fiberglass or neoprene. 

Mineral wool or rock wool panels produce less toxic gases and flaming wastes. These wastes are flaming droplets that can spread to other areas and cause more damage to your property.

Magnesium

Some panels are multi-purpose and offer simultaneous moisture and heat resistance. What makes these panels stand out is their magnesium oxide content, which is insoluble in water and rarely reacts to ambient moisture. These magnesium-based panels are also non-combustible, and heat exposure turns them into magnesium oxide and water.

Other Materials 

Besides fiberglass, mineral wool, and magnesium, manufacturers can use other materials to make their panels fire-resistant: 

  • Neoprene: Neoprene is a type of rubber that withstands high temperatures and doesn’t burn until it reaches 500°F (260°C). 
  • Soundmesh: Sound mesh won’t burn or melt by fire exposure. So, it won’t add flame to fire. There’s also no dripping, which means the fire won’t spread to other parts or floors of the building. Overall, acoustic panels covered with this material have a higher fire rating. 
  • Plain Polyester: Polyester isn’t an excellent choice to use in acoustic panels since it quickly ignites and starts to drip.

Do Fire Retardant Panels Work?

Most fire retardant panels consist of multiple layers. The outer layers are usually meant to block the fire while the inner layers absorb noise. 

These panels have two primary advantages: 

  • They don’t drip, so the fire won’t spread. 
  • They don’t ignite, so the panel itself won’t burn and intensify the fire. 

If you install non-combustible panels, they can stop the fire from spreading. During fire incidents, you’ll have enough time to evacuate the building, call the local fire department, and save expensive items.

Acoustic panels can also reduce thermal transmission, which is critical during a fire. And it reduces your energy bills.

What Interferes With Acoustic Panels Heat Resistance?

Humidity 

Humidity is the most important factor that damages the panel’s structure. Before deciding on the type of panel to buy and install, you should first check if the building has high humidity levels. Otherwise, you may soon have to deal with a huge mold problem. 

Fortunately, some heat-resistant fabrics like neoprene and sound mesh have waterproof properties that can protect your boards and prevent mold from growing. 

Colors 

The surface color affects the absorption and reflection of heat. Light colors (e.g., grey and white) reflect less heat, and they’re less likely to catch on fire. Black panels absorb more heat and transfer it to their surroundings. Therefore, darker panels have a higher risk of spreading the fire. 

Things To Keep in Mind About Fire Retardant Panels

Check the Energy Release Rate 

When you purchase acoustic panels, make sure their materials have minor energy release. Material combustions produce energy, which shows their calorific value. The more heat the materials emit, the more calorific value gets, and the faster the fire spreads. 

For instance, some acoustic panels, including magnesium-based ones, add less energy and heat to the building fire by turning into magnesium oxide and water. 

Leave an Air Gap Behind Your Panel

When installing your panels, leave a slight gap (about half an inch) between your acoustic panel and the wall. This gap can increase your panels’ sound-absorbing properties and prevent heat transfer, which means lowering the risk of fire spreading. 

Is It Possible to Fireproof Panels With Spray?

You can spray water-based materials on acoustic panels to create fire resistance. These products delay or prevent fire events, so if you want to fireproof a non-resistant panel, they can help. Keep in mind that high humidity levels can degrade these products and reduce their effectiveness.

Acoustic Panels vs. Acoustic Foam 

Acoustic panels and acoustic foams may look similar, but acoustic panels have some extra benefits that make them superior. Here’s a guide to a better understanding of the two types:

Acoustic Panels

These panels cover more wall space, and they’re more aesthetically pleasing for restaurants, halls, and houses. If they have suitable materials and cover more wall space, they can block the fire. Plus, their smooth surface blocks fire better than the porous surfaces. 

Fire-retardant panels are available in fixed sizes and colors. You can use them for a wide range of uses, such as wall linings, partitions, and false ceilings.

Acoustic Foam

These foams can absorb sound, and you may use them in studios. They’re available in different sizes, and you can even cut them to the proper size. 

Despite their flexibility, they’re not a good option for controlling the look of space. That’s because foam panels are limited to black jagged-edged squares. Although acoustic foams are easier to install, fire can penetrate their empty spaces, spread and burn other areas. Besides, they’re highly flammable and emit toxic smoke.

For more information, check out this article about key places to put acoustic panels in a home studio.

Conclusion 

Acoustic panels have various uses in restaurants, halls, or even your house. Some of them have a high fire rate, which means they mitigate the flame spread and buy more time for you to evacuate the building and contact the fire department. The higher their fire rate, the more fire retardant they become. 

If you need fire-resistant panels, you can choose those containing neoprene, fiberglass, or sound mesh while purchasing. Some magnesium-based boards are also helpful in controlling the humidity.

Check out to see if acoustic foam is worth buying.

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Vinnie

I'm Vinnie, and I'm here to support you to create your own studio at home, whether it’s for photography, recording audio, podcasts, or videos!

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