The Most Fire-Resistant Decking: Composites vs. Ipe
What happens to deck boards when they're exposed to fire?
On this episode of TimberTips, we have four different types of decking that we're going to put through a trial by fire and see how they did. The four different types are Cedar (a softwood), Ipe (a Brazilian Hardwood), TimberTech (a Capped Composite), and AZEK which is 100% PVC Decking. All of these products are great and we proudly sell them all at TimberTown, but let's see how they did.
To perform these tests, I called buddy of mine, Matt Risinger, who hosts a popular YouTube channel called The BUILD Show. We went out and found a fire pit then performed 4 different types of tests.
1: The Open Flame Test
The first test was the open flame test. For this test, we placed each of the boards facedown on the fire pit and then we stoked the fire as hot as we could get it, well above 650 degrees Fahrenheit! We kept the boards on the fire pit for 15-20 seconds and then took them out to see if they had caught of fire.
First was the Cedar board. The Cedar had definitely charred and it was catching on fire, no surprise there. Next was the Ipe, the Ipe board had some charring on the surface but it didn't get much further than that. The structure was still intact, but you could see that edges of the board had slightly caught on fire. The TimberTech board did really well until the fire broke through the PVC cap and hit the wood fibers in the center of the board you could see it was definitely catching on fire. The AZEK, although it looks worse, was the only product that didn't actually catch on fire. So, if you're looking for a product that is not going to catch fire AZEK would probably be the one you would choose.
2: The Heat Retention Test
The next test was the heat retention test. For this test, we took a 2 inch piece of each board and put them in the fire pit for a couple of minutes then took them out and let them sit a few minutes to see how long it took for the boards to cool off. The interesting takeaway from this test was the TimberTech was much hotter than all of the other boards, even several minutes we had taken the board out of the open flame. In fact, it was so hot we couldn't touch it with our bare hands, which wasn't the case with the other three products.
3: The Consistent Flame Test
The third test was the consistent flame test. For this test, Matt took a regular Bic lighter and held it under each of the four boards for exactly one minute. The goal was to see whether or not the heat would transfer from the bottom of the board to the top of the board. On this test, Cedar and TimberTech transferred the heat the fastest; you could tell the difference in temperature on the IR Gun from the bottom to the top almost immediately. The AZEK board took about 30 seconds before you could see an increase in temperature. The temperature change on Ipe was virtually non-existent, there was no heat transfer due to the density of Ipe.
4: The Kindling Test
The last test was the kindling test. For this test, we took a small piece from each of the deck boards and put it in the fire pit for 10 minutes to see what would happen. What was the result? Well, they all burned up!
So, what did we learn?
Even Ipe, if given enough time and heat, is going to burn up. But, you can choose a deck board that's going to stay structurally sounds longer and buy you and your family more time to leave the home in the event of a fire. For instance, AZEK is the only product that has a Class A Fire Rating, that means that although the board may burn it's not going to cause the flame to spread to your house. Ipe, although it's not Class A Fire-Rated, does operate similar to a Class A Fire Rating because it won't easily catch on fire and the density will allow it to stay structurally sound longer in case you need to walk on the deck to get away from the fire. Ipe also won't transfer heat from the bottom of the board to the top like the other decking products.
So, if fire resistance is important to you (although fireproof PROOF decking doesn't exist), AZEK or Ipe are going to perform the best under those conditions.
For more information on these fire tests: go to Matt Risinger's YouTube BUILD Show episode here: https://youtu.be/nPSswx-OQJo
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