Concrete is a substance we often take for granted without considering its properties and worth. There are many good reasons why we use it in construction, even if it is quite ugly without any dyes or paint. One reason is that it is seen as one of the best fireproof materials in construction. So, is concrete flammable, how does it compare to other materials, and why is it so good in construction?
Generally, concrete is not flammable, the material composition of concrete and its structure when dry means that it is not flammable and cannot sustain a fire. It is also tough enough to stay intact at some incredibly high temperatures. This makes it a safe fireproof material for use in construction.
I want to use this guide to answer some of the most common questions about the flammable nature of concrete. I did notice that one of the most common queries asks about concrete flammability in Minecraft. That’s not my area of expertise so I’m going to guess the answer is no there.
But maybe the laws of physics and chemistry don’t apply the same way. Instead, I want to mostly talk about the properties that make concrete so safe and its use in construction.
Table of Contents
Is Concrete Fireproof?
Yes. We can say with confidence that not only is concrete not flammable, but it is also a fireproof material.
The lack of flammable materials, combined with the heatproof nature of dry concrete, and the structural integrity of concrete walls, ensure that concrete is fireproof.
As you will see below, it is a great construction material, even though it isn’t always commonly used.
Why Is Concrete Fireproof?
Concrete is a great fireproof material because it consists of no flammable elements. There is nothing within this material that will burn in contact with fire.
You have a lot of mineral materials like aggregate stone and mixing sand, as well as cement and water. This means that there is no risk of flammability when wet either.
When you compare this to other building materials, it is easy to see why concrete is preferable as a fireproof option.
Timber was the material of choice centuries ago and is still a beautiful choice for cabins and rural lodges.
But, this cellulose material burns with ease and won’t stand up to a fire. Many buildings will also use metal frameworks for strength.
But, these can eventually melt and bend under the pressures of high heat.
How Does Concrete Compare To Brick?
Because both of these products are a form of masonry, there are actually a lot of similarities between the two. Both have the same sort of non-combustible materials inside to make them fireproof.
Bricks are incredibly fireproof, and the masonry bricks for construction do offer a lot of protection. The difference is that a concrete wall tends to have one large surface area with no weak points.
Brickwork requires mortar to bond the bricks together. This could prove to be such a weak point depending on the materials used or any gaps in the structure.
Is Concrete Indestructible In A Fire?
Not exactly. While concrete won’t burn up or melt in a fire like those other materials, that doesn’t mean it is completely indestructible.
If a fire becomes incredibly intense and reaches a temperature of thousands of degrees Fahrenheit, there is a chance that the structure will begin to break down and get brittle.
With time, this could crumble into powder. However, this is so unlikely that you will rarely see it happen.
In fact, it is possible to return to structures that have been involved in fire to find the wood has burned to ash and the concrete and brickwork remain in place.
Can Concrete Walls Catch Fire?
Because of these risk factors in the flammability of the surface of concrete, there is also the risk that the surface of a concrete wall could also burn to some extent.
Again, there is the risk of dirt and grime, as well as living organisms like lichen, moss, and algae. Another factor is that you may have painted the concrete to make it look more attractive.
This could melt and peel in a fire.
However, once all these flammable materials are burned and have disintegrated, you are left with the concrete structure beneath. This should remain intact during the fire as if nothing happened.
Can A Concrete Driveway Catch Fire?
Another popular use of concrete on our properties is our driveways. While concrete can’t catch fire If concrete is fireproof and cannot burn, how can a concrete driveway catch fire?
Well, it all depends on what is on the surface of the concrete or if it has been treated in some way.
If you go outside and look at your concrete drive, unless it has been power washed recently, it won’t be completely clean. There is sure to be dirt and grime on there from regular use.
There may also be some fuel that has leaked onto the surface from vehicles.
Any flammable leftover substance can catch alight and spread across the drive if there is a big enough path. Your concrete drive may also have lichen and moss on it due to the water content.
These are a natural part of owning a concrete drive. But, if there was a fire, these organisms would burn quite easily.
What About Resin Driveways?
As we are talking about driveways for a moment, I want to mention that resin driveways aren’t any more of a fire risk than traditional concrete ones.
The hardened epoxy resin isn’t flammable and also shouldn’t allow for as many flammable lifeforms growing on it because it is less porous.
It is also quite resilient to heat.
Does Concrete Make A Home Completely Fireproof?
No. Concrete is a brilliant choice for building walls on new builds to offer plenty of fire protection. The flames from an external fire, such as a wildfire, aren’t going to penetrate the walls and cause structural damage.
However, there are plenty of other ways for a fire to get in. It can burn timber frames, get in through the roof, or smash through windows as the glass shatters in the heat.
This is why is common to see images of concrete shells of homes after fires where the yard and interior are destroyed, but the bones of the structure remain in place.
A plus side here is that you may have a starting point to rebuild rather than losing everything
With that said, there are lots of ways that builders and designers can use concrete to make a home more fireproof.
Concrete structures are great for large-scale residential blocks, especially somewhere that doesn’t have to look too pretty on the outside.
The thick walls can offer a lot of protection from external fires and save a lot of lives. In family homes, you can also make use of concrete floors.
There are so many polished concrete effects and fun designs that you can get a fireproof floor that looks great
Why Aren’t More Homes Made With Concrete?
Concrete is a great choice for building homes, especially in areas prone to wildfires, as there is that immediate protection and structural integrity.
These homes should hold up better than any with lots of timber.
But, concrete isn’t cheap and there are those issues with the aesthetics. This is one reason why there are calls for greater use of brick-built homes and locally sourced mud bricks instead.
You get the same protection, to a degree, with a more desirable form.
Can Concrete Dust Catch Fire?
Finally, I want to talk about some of the risks of using concrete in a more industrial setting. A big threat in warehouses, mining situations, and other industrial workplaces is the risk of dust explosions.
These occur when there is a lot of dust in the atmosphere.
A spark can ignite the fuel that is the dust and use the oxygen around it to create a large explosion. There have to be the right conditions for this to happen.
But, dust is highly flammable in many forms because of its high surface area and the number of particles.
Concrete dust isn’t seen as a fire risk because it doesn’t have the power to ignite in the same way as other organic forms of dust.
Most that work with concrete say that there are no concerns with this dust in its pure form. However, you still don’t want to breathe too much of this in.
Is Concrete Flammable?
To summarize, concrete is not flammable at all because of the mineral compounds and water used to make it. It also forms a really strong fireproof structure that can withstand a lot of heat and hold its shape in intense blazes.
Because of this, it is a great material for building homes. If you are looking at ways of fireproofing a new build property, a smooth concrete exterior, brick, and limited use of wood could be the way forward.