Class A, Class C, and Smooth, Oh, My!!

Jan 5th 2021

How To Tell Which Class of FRP Panel is Right For Your Project

Starting a new project can be confusing because there are so many kinds of building materials available to you. With them come various classifications and ratings, but rarely do the people selling them to you manage to stop and explain what those ratings mean.

Projects come in all shapes and sizes, and with that comes varying supply needs. When purchasing your FRP panels, what do you need to buy? Here at Waterloo Paneling we offer FRP panels in both Pebbled Class A, Class C, and Smooth.

That information is not readily available on the internet. A quick Google search will tell you that these types exist, but rarely what they mean! Fortunately, we would like to break it down for you, and help you understand how each type of FRP panel could fit into your ongoing projects.

So, what, exactly, does this Class A and Class C business mean? What is smooth FRP and when should it be used? Stick with us throughout the rest of the article, and you will find out the answer.

Class C FRP Panels

Let us start with Class C.

Class C is the most common type of FRP. It is going to be the most cost effective, and you will find it in the most kinds of structures. It is often used in everything from restrooms, restaurants, medical facilities to marijuana grow rooms (link to the grow room article I wrote) and breweries (link to the brewery article I wrote) and many other kinds of structures. It is safe to say that for most projects that require FRP panels, Class C FRP will suit your project just fine.

The difference between Class A FRP and Class C is flame spread. Class C FRP has a flame spread of around 200, which is standard for building materials. If it catches flame, the flames will spread at a relatively common rate, and it does not offer any extra fire protection.

What it does offer is affordability and versatility. You can use it in almost any project, and the cost of it will not break the bank. For most projects, you won’t find you require high flame-retardant materials, so you can be confident that Class C FRP panels will do the trick. They still offer all the best qualities of FRP: moisture and mold resistance, easy installation, quick and easy cleaning, and most important of all, USDA approval.

If you are looking for the highest quality at the lowest price, then you will want to select Class C FRP for your project. You simply will not be able to find a different moisture-resistant and cost-effective material that is also this easily installed.

So, if you’re confused on what to pick, and don’t know if you really need class A materials, it’s safest to say that Class C is what you’ll probably need.

Class A FRP Panels

If you are looking for more fire protection, Class A is the type of panel you’re looking for. While Class C FRP panels have a flame spread rating of 200, Class A has a flame spread rating of just 25, meaning that if ignited, the flames will spread much, much slowly, and if the source of ignition is removed, the material has a chance of self-extinguishing entirely.

How do we know this? Class A materials are required to go through a rigorous testing process. To qualify for the Class A rating, the material must be able to demonstrate that it has certain burning characteristics. How fast fire spreads and how far it travels is measured during the test.

How does this work? Testers hang a sample of the building material that is 20 inches in height by 25 feet in length in a test area. When the test sample is secure, they apply gas flames to the end of the material to test the flame spread rate. The lower the score, the longer it takes the fire to reach the top of the test material.

Because of the increased amount of resin and flame-retardant material used to make this composite, it can cost up to double the amount of Class C composite, but with Class A you are looking at a much higher level of safety. Use this material whenever you believe you’ll be working in high heat situations, or if you simply want extra protection in your space.

When is Class A material appropriate? This is mostly down to discretion, but if you’re building in an area that, for example, is prone to rampant wildfires (think California), and you want to ensure the structure is protected in case of a fire, that might be a good use of your time. Other places that house work that comes into frequent contact with fire, such as restaurants, certain labs and medical facilities, and high heat industrial production spaces could also benefit from the use of Class A FRP panels.

An important note: if installing your panels in a restaurant, make sure that you do not install FRP panels - even Class A panels - behind the cook surface. There is a high chance that these materials will catch flame, and even with the flame-retardant properties of Class A, you will be looking at a significant risk to your investment and to the people who work in the space. Instead of using FRP panels, use stainless steel instead, to ensure your safety and the safety of others.

Smooth FRP Panels

If you have been shopping around for FRP for any amount of time, you’ll notice that most of it comes in a pebbled texture, but here at Waterloo Paneling we also offer our Class C paneling in this smooth texture to make sure you have all of the aesthetic choice you need.

If you are in search of a more modern look instead of the vintage look of pebbled FRP, then we’ve got you covered. Our smooth FRP has all the same moisture-resistant superpowers of the regular, pebbled version, but with a new, clean twist.

Smooth FRP is perfect for those who are making a minimalist or future-forward design choice. It is also perfect for medical facilities that would like to keep their moisture-resistant aesthetic selections as sleek and as simple as possible. You might also find it in restaurants, and it comes in a variety of colors to suit any color pallet.

If you’ve decided that all you really need for your project is the baseline Class C FRP, then your next choice is smooth or pebbled. Consult with your designer, if you have one, or just look at some of our sample material and see which one suits you the best.

So now that we have learned about how the different classes of FRP panels are rated due to flame spread, how are you feeling about your project?

Do you have an idea of what kind of panels your project might call for? Are you working in an industrial kitchen or other high heat facility that might call for more serious heat protection? If so, keep in mind your various needs. While Class A FRP panels have a higher safety rating, you may not need to incur the extra expense if your space does not require high levels of heat or exist in a place where there is a higher chance of wildfire.

Still not sure what you should choose? Whatever your needs are, here at Waterloo Paneling, we aim to serve them. If you have any questions at all, please feel free to contact us at [your email here] or leave a comment below and we will try to get back to you as soon as possible!