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Floor Coverings

It used to be the case that to sell floorcoverings throughout the individual European countries that now make up the European Economic Area (EEA) required assessment of products against more than  20 different national test standards relating to fire resistance.

With the implementation of the Construction Products Directive (89/106/EEC) in the floorcoverings sector, the new ‘Euro-standard’ test and classification system is being put into practice across Europe, superseding national standards. This requires the product to be assessed against one or more of the test standards specified in EN 13501-1:2002 – 'Fire classification of construction products and building elements. Part 1: Classification using test data from reaction to fire tests'. This classification is then used to inform customers of the ‘reaction to fire’ performance. In the case of floorcoverings it is also used to CE mark products against the mandatory product specification requirements. 

However, it should be noted that although the classification is acceptable throughout Europe and will be recorded on the CE label, it does not mean that a product is suitable for the same applications in different countries. It is a harmonised classification system, not a harmonised fire safety standard. For example, in one country, a material for a hotel lobby may require a product which is at least Class Dfl, while in another, a product of at least Class Cfl may be demanded.

EN 13501-1:2002 consists of four European ‘reaction to fire’ test methods that can be applied to floorcoverings. One or more of the tests are used to obtain a classification from A1fl (no contribution to fire) down to Ffl (no performance determined). Table 1 shows the required tests in combination.

For manufacturers of textile, resilient, laminate and hardwood flooring products, EN ISO 11925-2 and EN ISO 9239-1 are the most important test methods called up for classification. Commercial and contract application floorcovering products will most probably be tested against the requirements which need to be met to obtain a class Bfl, Cfl or Dfl classification. For domestic products Class Efl is likely to be sufficient.

Main flammability tests 

EN ISO 9239-1:2002 – 'Reaction to fire tests for floorings. Part 1: Determination of the burning behaviour using a radiant heat source'.

EN ISO 9239-1:2002 describes a test procedure for assessing the burning behaviour (spread of flame and smoke development) of horizontally mounted floorcoverings firstly exposed to a radiant heat source and then ignited with a pilot flame. The applied radiant heat flux (kW/m2) simulates the thermal radiation levels likely to impinge on a floor whose upper surface is heated by flames or hot gases or both, from a fire in an adjacent room or compartment.

The test is applicable to all types of floorcovering including textile carpet, cork, wood, rubber, resilient, laminates and resins. It is used for classification against EN 13501-1 Classes A2fl, Bfl, Cfl or Dfl.

EN ISO 11925-2:2002 – 'Reaction to fire tests – Ignitability of building products subjected to direct impingement of flame. Part 2: Single flame source test'.

This test determines the ignitability of a vertically mounted test specimen when a small flame is directly applied to its surface and/or one of its edges. No other heat source is used. The test is used for classification against EN 13501-1 Classes Bfl, Cfl, Dfl or Efl.

Table 1: 
EN 13501-1 – 'Fire classification testing requirements for floorcoverings'
ClassTest method(s)
 A1fl EN ISO 1182 and EN ISO 1716
EN ISO 1182 or EN ISO 1716 and EN ISO 9239-1
 Bfl EN ISO 9239-1 and EN ISO 11925-2, Exposure = 15s
Cfl EN ISO 9239-1 and EN ISO 11925-2, Exposure = 15s
Dfl EN ISO 9239-1 and EN ISO 11925-2, Exposure = 15s
Efl      EN ISO 11925-2, Exposure = 15s
 Ffl No performance determined
Note: fl denotes classification for floorcovering applications only

EN ISO 1182:2002 – 'Reaction to fire tests for building products – Non-combustibility test'.

This test specifies a method of test for determining the non-combustibility performance (for example, resistance to burning), under specified conditions, of homogeneous building products and substantial components of non-homogeneous building products. 

A test specimen is subjected to a temperature of 750ºC in a furnace for a period of 30 minutes whilst observations are made of any flaming of the test specimen that occurs together with changes in the temperature of the test chamber created by the burning of the sample. On completion of the test, the test samples, including all pieces that have not burnt, are weighed and checked against the initial measurements.

EN ISO 1716:1998 – 'Reaction to fire tests for building products – Determination of the heat of combustion'.

This test specifies a method for the determination of the heat of combustion of floorcoverings when tested in a bomb calorimeter. The sample is sealed in a chamber and heated to a specified temperature until complete combustion has occurred. This provides a measurement of the gross heat of combustion.

In order to obtain an A1fl classification, EN ISO 1182 and EN ISO 1716 must be met.

In order to obtain an A2fl classification, EN ISO 9239 must be performed, together with EN ISO 1182 and/or EN ISO 1716. The combinations of EN ISO 1182 and EN ISO 1716 required to obtain a classification will normally be determined by the construction of the product – that is, whether it is homogeneous (a product consisting of a single material, having uniform density and composition throughout) or non-homogeneous – and the results obtained from individual tests.

Class Ffl is designated for a product that has no performance determined (that is, not tested).