What are the Industry Standards for Fire Retardant Plastic?

What are the Industry Standards for Fire Retardant Plastic?

During commercial construction, building sites frequently require the use of fire retardant plastic sheeting to comply with government regulations. This is especially the case in healthcare and other public facilities. For this reason, fire retardant certifications are needed. Industry standards for fire retardant plastic sheeting can be complicated, but it’s a process that is necessary to understand. These building regulations are of the utmost importance when it comes to ensuring safety on the work site.

How is Fire Retardant Plastic Sheeting Created? 

Polyethylene alone can become a highly combustible polymer, therefore the need to make this plastic fire-resistant is of the utmost importance.  Fire retardant plastic sheeting is made with an additive that is put into the resin during manufacturing.

NFPA 701 Industry Standards for Fire Retardant Plastic Sheeting

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) “creates and maintains private, copyrighted, standards and codes for usage and adoption by local governments”.  These standard codes are annually compiled and adopted by local jurisdictions. NFPA 701 is the most standard method of fire tests for flame propagation of textiles and films.  This test has two test methods based on fabric density.

NFPA 701 test method 1 is a small-scale test that addresses materials with an areal density less than or equal to 21 oz/yd2.  Some example materials are single-layer fabrics, multilayer curtains and drapery fastened together by sewing or other means, in addition to table skirts, table linens, display booth separators and textile wall hangings.  Test method 1 uses 10 samples.

NFPA 701 test method 2 is a large-scale test that addresses fabrics with an areal density weighing more than 21 oz/yd2. This test is for permanent enclosures for buildings under construction. They are tested with a much larger sample than test method 1 because of how hard it is to predict how a heavier fabric will react when exposed to fire.

NFPA 701 testing measures the ignition resistance of a fabric after it is exposed to a flame for 12 seconds. The flame, char length, and flaming residue are recorded.

The fabric will pass the test if all samples meet the following criteria:

  • An after flame of less than 2.0 seconds
  • A char length of less than 6.5”
  • The specimen does not continue to flame after reaching the floor of the test chamber

Fabric certified as flame retardant is certified to have been tested and passed the NFPA 701 test.

ASTM E-84 Industry Standards for Fire Retardant Plastic Sheeting

The American Society for Testing Materials, or ASTM, also has created a set of standardized tests to determine a product’s flammability. Though the ASTM has no role in requiring or enforcing compliance with its standards, they may become mandatory when referenced by an external contract, corporation, or government.

The performance criteria for this test are surface flame spread and the amount of smoke developed or emitted from the material when exposed to a flame source. The rate and distance the flame spreads between two reference points is based on a flame spread index. The amount of smoke developed is also based on an arbitrary index or scale. Unlike NFPA 701, this is not a pass/fail test. Performance is based on a class rating.


Classification Smoke  Flame Spread Index Development Class
Class A 0-25 0-450
Class B 26-75 0-450
Class C 76-200 0-450



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