• 9/11 and Why Adhesion Matters with Fire Retardant Paint

    delamination of paint  coating

    The delamination on this example shows that poor application can cause failure of adhesion just as an explosion can.

    Utilizing fire retardant paint for your fireproofing needs is more than just adhering to building guidelines — it can mean life or death. The tragedy of 9/11 made the case for that point forever.

    “If the steel in the World Trade Center could have been adequately protected for just a little longer, it might not have fallen,” says Tony Scott, Contego executive vice president.

    As flames engulfed the Twin Towers, the steel was exposed to temperatures of more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, hotter than a normal cellulosic fire because of the jet fuel.

    However, an even bigger problem was the total failure in adhesion. The impact completely stripped the substrates of their protective coating.

    When heated to 1,000°F, steel loses half its strength: For instance, a beam supporting 2,000 tons could only support half that weight at 1,000°F, putting the entire structure at risk. “The World Trade Center collapsed because it could no longer support itself,” says Scott, “The weight of the floors above the failure acted like a pile driver collapsing the floor below. The increasing momentum guaranteed the total destruction of the Towers.”

    Contego thin film acrylic copolymer latex protects against fire

    By making sure you’ve used an intumescent product with excellent adhesion, you’ll keep structural steel (or any underlying substrate) cool and intact during a fire.

    Fire retardant paint keeps steel from reaching dangerous temperatures by insulating the substrate, even in extreme conditions. As flames heat the steel, the substrate loses shape. But fire retardant paint with strong adhesion allows the coating to continue to stick to the steel without flaking off.

    While the fire might be burning at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, the coating keeps the steel at a safe temperature for as long as possible.

    Fire-resistant coatings can’t withstand heat indefinitely, but the aim is to protect the steel long enough so the fire burns out or help arrives.

    Furnace fire tests and control burns show that Contego protects steel “extremely well for up to three hours restrained,” says Scott.

    For more on the best way to test the adhesion of fire retardant paint and how to pick the perfect fire-resistant coat for your project, download our eBook.

    Click here to get the ebook on Adhesion and Intumescent Paint

    • Adhesion of intumescent coatings is vitally important
    • Your intumescent coating will peel if the adhesion isn
    • cover of ebook "Adhesion and Intumescent Paint: Why it Matters"

    What’s the Best Way to Test Intumescent Coating Adhesion?

    Adhesion of intumescent coatings is vitally important

    A paramount part of building design and planning, fireproofing improves building safety and longevity. Applied like paint, fire retardant intumescent coatings offer a relatively new option to protect your project. These materials shield steel and other substrates from dangerous flames, while standing up to other elements like weather.


    But how can you tell which intumescent coating offers the best protection? A critical, but commonly overlooked measurement of an intumescent coating’s fire protection is its adhesion — or how well it sticks to a substrate — and its cohesion — or strength of the coating itself.

    There are two ways to evaluate the adhesion and cohesion of paint: the tape test and pull-off adhesion test.

    For the tape test, (ASTM D3359) cross or ribbon cuts are made into a coated surface, and a special tape is used to pull off the paint.

    Your intumescent coating will peel if the adhesion isn't good

    See what can happen when your coating has poor adhesion? Click the peeling paint to get our free ebook with more information on adhesion and intumescent paint.

    During the pull-off adhesion test, (ASTM D4541) which is the industry’s more definitive test, this is what occurs:

    • A steel plug, called a dolly, is placed on the coated surface.

    • A large amount of pressure is then applied to pull up the plug and the coating.

    • Testers then determine if the failure was adhesive or cohesive.

    • The amount of pull, measured in pounds per square inch, is increased until the bond eventually fails.

    • The higher the number, be better the bond.

    “Ideally what you want to see is an adhesive failure because that means you’re getting the maximum strength out of the intumescent coating, and the failure is not within the coating, but rather at the substrate,” explains Tony Scott, Contego International executive vice president.  In both tests, Contego received a perfect score — zero loss or 100 percent adhesion on both the cross cut and ribbon cut variants of ASTM-D3359. “You can’t get better than that,” says Scott. On the ASTM D4541, Contego showed 631 psi of bond strength. The closest competitor demonstrated half the adhesion Contego has, while most had one-third to one-fifteenth of Contego’s strength.

    Contego Intumescent Coating Adheres tightly to concrete core sample

    Contego adhered tightly to cut concrete core sample.

    Fred Stack, president of Boss Construction Group, recently joined Lindsay Construction to test Contego products on a 6-inch concrete core sample. “It was amazing how Contego still adhered to all surfaces, even after the concrete was cut out,” says Stack. The core sample “looked like it was just sprayed,” adding that officials at Lindsay Construction “were very impressed.”

     In a fire, the superior adhesion in Contego’s intumescent acrylic copolymer latex paint keeps steel and other substrates from reaching failure or flashover temperatures.


    Click here to get the ebook on Adhesion and Intumescent Paint


  • White is the New Green for Fire Retardant Paint

    Use Contego fire resistant paint is "green"Are you in tune with the global initiative to build and maintain a better, safer environment?  Big changes in intumescent technology have made a “green” fire retardant paint possible.
    White is the new “green” with Contego fire retardant paint.
    The recently made GREEN gains by Contego have changed fireproofing from the LEED nightmare associated with most fire protection products to a valuable LEED points generator.
    Historically, “environmentally friendly fireproofing” was an oxymoron. From day one, most fire retardant paint formulas have been toxic, carcinogenic, and laced with high concentrations of VOCs. Products have been poisonous in the can and on the surface.  This would translate to very toxic in burn conditions. Pressure treated fire resistant lumber (PTFR) was among the worst. According to USDA studies, the PTFR process was destructive to the lignins in the wood and would dissolve attachments, like screws and nails, unless they were stainless steel.
    Clumpy, toxic cementatious coating

    Clumpy, toxic cementatious coating

    Then there are cellulosic and cementatious fireproofing materials. We’ve all seen them; they look like oatmeal when applied. The litigation list concerning these materials is lengthy and focused primarily on the constant deposition of tiny fibrils that get into the breathable air and are then inhaled straight into the lungs. Complaints in the majority of lawsuits have been centered on mesothelioma and other forms of cancer involving the respiratory system. In addition, when reading the MSDS of most intumescent coatings, the section

    Contego Fire Retardant Paint Green

     on health risks contain clear warnings of both acute and chronic brain damage and damage to the central nervous system.  Not exactly environmentally friendly.
    The reason for these unhealthy toxic problems is simple. The components that make various fireproofing technologies work— whether cellulosic spray-on materials, cementatious products, mastics or intumescents—are inherently unhealthy.
    This was one of the big drivers when Contego began designing cutting edge solutions for the green market niche. The challenge was to find alternatives that performed as well or, in most cases, better than what was already out there, without the risks from the past formulations. This research led to our current formulation of ZERO VOCs (ASTM D4017) and ZERO TOXINS (BSS 7239-88).
    GREEN isn’t the only advantage of Contego Fire Barrier Intumescent Latex. It applies at a fraction of the thickness (and weight) needed in the past and has a finish as smooth as paper, pure white in color and is formulated to accept any topcoat.
    That’s why we say… WHITE IS THE NEW GREEN!

  • Contego Intumescent Paint Lunch & Learn

    At Contego we are frequently asked to provide an educational service for architects, contractors and applicators so they can have a better understanding of why Contego is the preferred passive fire retardant coating throughout the world. Contego often provides this presentation in the form of a “Lunch and Learn Seminar”.  This popular presentation is designed to help those who specify and apply fire protection materials for steel, wood, foam, concrete and most other substrates.

    Contego developed a new generation of intumescent paint technology that has re-scripted the entire product category.  As a result, Contego has been inundated with requests for Lunch and Learn presentations.  Since Contego is a small, privately owned business, doesn’t advertise, doesn’t go to trade shows and has never sent out any unsolicited direct mail, nobody knew about us except for those that found us web surfing or had a direct word of mouth referral.  Eighty-five percent of our business is repeat business from those that have previously utilized our product, so demand for Lunch and Learn presentations used to be manageable.  While we have done many of the presentations over the years, recently requests outnumber what we have been able to do by perhaps 200 to 1, so we came up with a virtual Lunch and Learn.  All of the content from a typical Lunch and Learn on Contego intumescent is here in the video below, you are just missing the ability to ask questions (you can always call or email with those) and, of course, the sandwich.  

     However, what you WILL get from watching the video presentation is a lot of very interesting information about intumescent paint technology in general and Contego intumescent specifically.  Contego has a rich portfolio of advantages over other intumescents/passive fire barriers that will be important to almost every project you have now and into the future.  As you watch this, be prepared to forget almost everything you’ve learned about intumescent paint technology.  



  • The five most important reasons why Contego intumescent fire retardant is the best way to protect steel.

    Why should steel be protected from fire? After all, it is extremely strong, hard and non-flammable–These are true values of steel, but what is not commonly known is that steel loses 50% of its strength when it reaches 1100°F (600°C). At this temperature the steel goes “plastic” meaning it gives up its ability to support a structure. An image of steel failing due to heat is the horrible picture implanted in most adult minds of the World Trade Center collapsing due to the failure of the steel when exposed to the 2000°+F (1093°C) temperature caused by the jet fuel fire.

    Contego intumescent fire retardant is the best way to protect steel

    Contego intumescent fire retardant is the best way to protect steel.

    All steel structures should be protected from fire and heat to help maintain their strength and create adequate egress time for those inside the structure. Protecting the building itself is important, but saving lives is more important.

    There are several ways to protect steel, none of which are as thorough and acceptable as an intumescent fire retardant latex coating like CONTEGO.

    Alternate spray protectors, such as cementatious coatings, are less expensive but are dirty to apply, have an ugly finish and are easily fractured away from the treated substrate. Covering steel with drywall is an effective but costly and time-consuming method of protection, in addition to taking up considerably more space.

    Here are the 5 most important benefits of using Contego Fire Barrier Latex Intumescent to protect steel:

    1. Contego is applied like regular paint. Unlike some other intumescents or cement-based materials that require high-pressure sprayers and certified applicators, Contego works with a standard paint sprayer, brush or roller—lowering the applied cost considerably.

    2. Contego is non-toxic. It makes no sense to protect a substrate from fire while poisoning the atmosphere around it. Contego may be the only VOC-free intumescent product that generates non-toxic smoke during a fire.

    3. Contego has an incredibly smooth finish.  Standard application results in a beautifully smooth Level 3 Architectural Finish. Contego can be top-coated with any quality acrylic enamel for surface protection and decorative purposes. Unlike many intumescents, top-coating Contego actually increases its fire resistance by 20% or more.

    4. Contego is tested and re-tested by certified labs around the world. When Contego states it will provide a certain protection time (1, 2, 3 hour) by using a specified thickness, those claims are supported and confirmed by independent laboratory tests. You can view these tests on our structural steel page by clicking here.

    5. Contego is thin-film. This means most projects treated with Contego (versus competitors) will require less product, thereby reducing the overall cost.

    These are just a few of the remarkable benefits of using Contego intumescent fire retardant on steel. You can review some of the projects that have chosen Contego to protect their expensive structures (some of which are located in the harshest environments in the world) on our Gallery page.  You can also request an information kit of Contego intumescent fire retardant by clicking here.