Challenge: As an interior designer, what is my responsibility and required knowledge to specify flame resistant materials?
Solution: As the designer, it is your responsibility to know or to find out the legal requirements and what is expected in interior materials for residential and, especially, public spaces. These requirements likely will cover issues that go beyond flame resistance and address areas such as indoor air quality, too. For simplicity, let’s stick with flame resistance in public buildings.
The first avenue of pursuit is to find out from the county in which you are working on a particular project just what are the requirements. For example, in the state of California, where I live and teach, there are different requirements of use dependent upon the county of origin. Due to the history of fires and nature’s design, certain areas are more prone to fire making the fire hazards higher there. So in public buildings the flame resistant material use laws will vary among counties. Each building inspector requires a certificate of verification as to the flame resistant labeling for use.
Questions that you would be required to answer would include:
• What is the type of flame retardant used?
• What is the fiber content?
• If welting or trim is used on the window treatments, has it also been treated for flame resistance?
• If lining is used, has it been treated for flame resistance?
Fire codes in each county will vary and it is up to the interior designer, architect and contractor specifying the project to secure a certificate for each window treatment project. The same information will apply to any upholstered furniture within the project.
You should know and understand the differences in these often used terms:
• Flame-retardant fabric–a manufactured fabric that has its content officially accepted by the governing body in the county of origin, usually based on a fabric’s resistance to ignition and if it will self-extinguish if ignited.
• Flammable fabric –a fabric made of fiber that is easily set on fire.
• Fireproof fabric—a fabric that is impervious to burning.
• Flammability test—a test conducted to determine the fabric’s resistance to its burning capabilities.
Good luck with the project!
Editor’s note: This is a continuing series of articles written by Sharon L. Anderson that will answer some of the many questions we receive at Draperies & Window Coverings as well as questions Anderson has encountered in her own business. If you have a question you would like Anderson to address, please send it to:
c/o Draperies & Window Coverings
1724 E. Grand Ave.
Lindenhurst, IL 60046
Fax: (847) 356-9013
Sharon L. Anderson has more than 20 years experience in the residential and commercial areas of interior design. She is currently a faculty member at two Southern California colleges. Anderson has been featured in numerous books and publications.