Which building material performs better in a fire – wood or steel?

Wood can take the heat

  • When exposed to fire, wood retains its strength longer than steel.
  • Average building fires reach temperatures of 700 to 1000°C.
  • Steel weakens dramatically as its temperature climbs above 230°C, retaining only 10 percent of its strength at 750°C.
  • Wood generally does not ignite until it reaches 250°C. Once it catches fire, wood develops a protective insulating char layer.
  • After 30 minutes a large wooden beam will have lost around 25 percent of its strength in a 750°C fire and retain structural integrity – a steel beam will have lost 90 percent strength and will have failed.
  • There is no such thing as a “fireproof” building. The contents of most buildings are combustible – and it is normally these rather than its structural components which pose the greatest fire hazard to life and property.