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What is Fire Retardant Carpet?

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  • Written By: J. Beam
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2016
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Due to synthetic materials and furnishings, new homes burn about five times faster than those built 30 years ago.  more...

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Fire retardant carpet is carpet that has been treated with a fire retardant chemical. Treatment of carpet can occur at the manufacturer, upon installation, or the treatment can be applied to the carpet by a homeowner after the carpet has been installed. This type of carpet is typically treated with the same fire retardant chemical used to treat mattresses. Boric acid and boric anhydride are chemicals considered to be the cheapest and most widely used, though there is controversy regarding their toxicity to humans.

People of a safety conscious mind may want fire retardant carpet in their homes to minimize destruction in the event of a fire. While there is some evidence that treated carpet, as well as other treated upholstery, can slow the spread of fire, there is no evidence it is a safety precaution of such magnitude as to save money on your homeowner’s insurance the way fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, and deadbolt locks can.

On the other hand, many people prefer to avoid the addition of chemicals into their home if they are believed to be toxic. Though the toxicity debate over the safety of fire retardant chemicals centers around mattresses more so than carpet -- largely because people spend so many hours in close proximity to their mattresses -- the same concerns could apply to fire retardant carpet. There are a handful of non-toxic chemical treatments available for carpet and upholstery, but their effectiveness is unclear.

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Fire retardant carpet is probably more common in large buildings, such as hotels or office buildings, where destruction could be greater and result in higher total monetary loss. However, unlike mattresses and other specific products, there are no fire retardant standards mandated for carpet.

If you think you would like fire retardant carpet in your home, you can ask a carpet dealer about available manufacturing and installation options or you can opt to treat your carpet yourself. If you have newer carpet, especially if it has a warranty for stains or wear and tear, you should check with the manufacturer before applying any chemical treatment as the application could void the warranty.

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