Do you need a Fire Curtain or Fire-retardant curtains?

Active Fire Curtain suppliers are frequently asked, “What is the difference between a Fire Curtain and Fire-Retardant curtains?”

Despite remarkably similar names, fire-retardant curtains and a Fire Curtain have very different applications, safety benefits, and costs, and therefore should not be confused by consumers.

What are Fire-retardant curtains?

Fire- Retardant Curtains are window dressings used to keep out the light, that has a coating applied to the fabric that allows them to withstand ignition for a period of time.

These curtains, or blinds, are split into two categories, those

  • fabrics that have been treated,

  • and inherently flame-retardant fabrics.

Fabrics that are not inherently flame retardant are given flame retardant (FR) treatment, which ‘should improve a fabric’s resistance to ignition, and reduce the rate at which a flame spreads if the fabric is ignited.’[1] FR fabrics experience a lessening in their flame retardant properties if they are exposed to frequent cleaning, so many establishments prefer to use naturally fire-retardant fabrics. This treatment of the fabric improves the fabric’s resistance to ignition and reduces the rate of flame spread if ignited.

Fabrics that are inherently flame-retardant, however, have flame resistance ‘built into their chemical structures, so they’re intrinsically non-combustible,’[2] and their flame retardancy is not lessened by washing or pressing the fabrics. These are preferred by settings that are required to use fire-retardant curtains, for example in type B settings, such as hotels, public buildings, and offices, or type C locations, such as hospitals and other healthcare environments.

Both types of fabrics must be adequately able to pass fire testing to achieve BS 5867 regulations.

Requirements for BS 5867

The BS 5867 regulations were updated and republished in 2008. The Standard sets requirements for different ignition levels of fabrics and fabric combinations for use as curtains, drapes and window blinds – and even includes combinations of curtains and linings.[3]

What is a Fire Curtain?

Fire Curtains are an example of a discreet but specific Active fire protection solution to many problems within an open layout building.

The unobtrusive installation process means curtains can be designed around existing features and can be fitted sympathetically, so they do not interrupt the style and flow of the space. They negate the need for non-loadbearing plasterboard walls, or fire-resistant glazing, and can be fitted inside a false ceiling so that the fire protection element is only visible once it is deployed in event of a fire.

A stainless steel and glass fire exit door with a Fire Curtain installed above

Once deployed in an emergency, the Fire Curtain acts in several ways to ensure compartmentation principles are strengthened within the building, and therefore provides protection by:

  • forming protected routes of egress.

  • Creating flexible compartmentation options.

  • Providing safe access for emergency services.

  • Covering glazing and providing boundary protection to cease fire and smoke spread, particularly over lift atria and lift shafts.

  • Protecting atria, or areas such as service hatches in walls.[4]

Technical diagram of a Vertical Fire Curtain

Active Fire Curtains are manufactured bespoke by specialist manufacturers and require measuring and installation by qualified engineers to each site location. They cannot be purchased off-the-shelf in standardised sizes and added to a space the same day.

So now we know.

Although both products are kept within the boundary of Fire Protection products, the differences, and applications of each product are vast and varied and will provide consumers with benefits vastly different, depending on the product they need.

Do you need a Fire Curtain or Fire-resistant curtains in your project? Tell us below!


[1-3] Bridge Contract, ‘BS5867 Regulations and How To Comply With Them,' <>18.01.2022

[4] Diagram from Adexon Technical Brochure 2021.

Cover image from, courtesy of Pixabay

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