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Fire-retardant paint is latest tool against bushfire 

A new fire-retardant paint that expands and creates a protective insulating layer during fire events is now on sale at Bunnings for around $39 a litre. 

Formulated by engineers at UNSW Sydney, the paint passed the Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) 40 standard which is used to assess resistance of materials to fire.  

The FSA FIRECOAT brand paint was developed in partnership with Flame Security International, and partially funded by an Australian government grant. UNSW Professor Guan Yeoh led a team that spent nearly five years perfecting the formula.  

The resulting intumescent paint is designed to expand as a result of heat exposure. Chemicals in the water-based pale grey undercoat paint also produce a thick layer of char which offers an insulating barrier to deflect the heat from the fire.    

“The char is what helps the substrate, that is your house or your building, stay protected from the fire,” says Mr Yeoh said. “At the end you can just wipe it away and the wood underneath has virtually no damage.”   

Insurers contacted by said they don’t currently ask underwriting questions related to fireproof paint but welcomed the measure and said it could potentially have a favourable impact on premiums.  

“Although RACQ is not aware of the new fire-retardant paint we will explore any new product that may reduce risk for our policyholders,” an RACQ Insurance spokesperson said. “Pricing risk at a property level has progressed significantly over the past decade and the industry continues to get better at this. 

“RACQ is committed to identifying how efforts made by members to mitigate risk might be reflected in their insurance premium pricing. Where we view the risk is lower, we seek to reflect this in lower premiums.”  

A Suncorp spokesperson said the insurer “welcomes any initiatives that may help increase the resilience of Australian homes to natural disasters”. 

"We look forward to learning more about the Firecoat product,” the spokesperson said. 

To pass the BAL-40 test, an external windowed building facade was treated with the paint and exposed to the flame attack of a BAL-40 furnace for 10 minutes. The facade consisted of radiata pine weatherboard. FSA FIRECOAT paint was applied as a primer and undercoat paint, before a standard commercial Dulux topcoat was added.    

During the flame attack the facade was monitored using thermocouples to test the internal and rear temperatures. The paint passed all six criteria, the first time any paint has achieved the BAL-40 rating.