How to Effectively Flame Retard Your Haunted House

Haunted house characters

By Kathy Verdi (VP Customer Service)

I am bombarded on a daily basis with questions about fire code compliance issues, such as "what fire retardant should I use", "will it work on fabric", "will it work on wood", from haunt owners that are upset with code inspectors. While it is understandable that fire safety is an extra expense that they did not count on, they must also consider how much would be lost if there was a fire during the operation of the haunt, not only in dollar figures but people injured or lives lost if the unthinkable happened.

While I am not a haunt owner, I think that it is important for all current and potential haunt owners to understand and hopefully follow some of the suggested applications and procedures as outlined further down in this article for the proper way to apply flame retardants to various substrates.

I cannot speak for other flame retardant manufacturers products, but I am familiar with UL listed Inspecta-Shield fire retardant manufactured by International Fire Shield, Inc. I am one of the people that do my best to try and answer your questions about which product would best suit your needs. I hope that I can answer and alleviate some of the issues that you may have to deal with on a daily basis.

Not all of the props, walls, decorative hangings and building materials will be flame retarded when purchased. I will do my best to address some of the items that may need to be treated to meet code.

Treat and test samples

It is strongly recommended that you treat and test samples of the items that need to be flame retarded prior to beginning any applications to ensure that the flame retardant will work effectively on the items needing treatment.

Treat samples using the manufacturers recommended coverage rates and application recommendations. If a sample still carries a flame after treatment, try the immersion method if possible or contact the manufacturer for further information or suggestions on application methods or products that would achieve the desired results.

Check your coverage rates

Materials must be absorbent in order for penetrating fire retardants to be effective. Application rates will vary by manufacturer and substrates being treated. UL listed Inspecta-Shield fire retardant can be applied to unpainted lumber using the spray method (please refer to manufacturers suggested coverage rates and application instructions for further information). Fabric coverage rates will vary dependent upon fiber composition. Inspecta- Shield fire retardant will effectively treat most natural and synthetic fibers by using the spray or dip application method. Light weight cottons and fabrics of similar composition can be treated with Inspecta-Shield at a coverage rate of 400 - 600 square feet per gallon dependent upon fabric weight and density using the same application process as mentioned above.

Applying flame retardants

The spray method application requires the applicator to hold the spray nozzle 10" - 12" away from the worked upon surface. Move the sprayer back and forth, overlapping each stroke until complete. Please refer to manufacturers recommended coverage rates and application methods for each item that you wish to treat.

Many fabrics currently available today have sizing or stain, soil and or water proofing added during the finishing process at the fabric mill. These fabrics as well as many synthetic fibers and tightly woven fabrics should be flame retarded using the immersion (or dip) method. This can be accomplished by totally immersing the item in a tub or drum of flame retardant to ensure its total penetration into the fabric fibers. Items treated using the immersion (or dip) method should be laid flat to dry completely.

After the fabric has dried completely a test should be performed to confirm that the flame retardant has penetrated completely into the fabric fibers. In some circumstances it may be necessary to pre-treat these fabrics with a surfactant prior to the treatment with flame retardant. Please contact your flame retardant manufacturer for their recommendations concerning the treatment of fabrics that have water or soil protection coatings applied.

Flame retardant paints and varnishes

For items that will not absorb, need to be painted, or are to be used outside will require the use of a flame retardant paint, flame retardant varnish or flame retardant coating specifically designed for this type of this application. Just as with penetrating fire retardants, flame retardant paints and varnishes have specific coverage rates and application methods to ensure that the product will render the substrate flame retardant.

Ready-to-use flame retardant paints and varnishes are readily available from most flame retardant manufacturers. A quick call to your supplier should lead you in the right direction. Application rates will vary depending on the codes that must be met. Flame retardant paint and varnish products that I am familiar with have coverage rates starting at 150 square feet per gallon ranging to 800 square feet per gallon, again depending on which product is chosen.

Fire retardant paints and varnishes can be applied using standard safe painting practices. Most fire retardant paints can be applied using the roll on, paint or spray on methods. Varnishes generally call for the application method to be via brush or spray to avoid the bubbling effect of the roller.

Flame retardant paints are available in a full range of pastel shades as well as black and white. Flame retardant paints can be custom tinted as well as field tinted to your specifications.

Inspect annually

Upon completion of flame retarding your haunted house I would recommend a thorough initial and annual inspection and testing of all treated items within your haunt to ensure flame resistance for compliance with Federal, State and Local fire codes prior to public use.

The most important piece of advice that I can give, is to always follow the recommendations, coverage rates and application procedures of the flame retardant manufacturer. Any manufacturer of flame-retardants should be able to help you with advice or suggestions concerning the use of their products.

As always, please contact us at 800-513-5134 with any questions. We are here to help!