Is Construction Adhesive Flammable?

This present article will enlighten you about the following question: “Is Construction Adhesive Flammable?”, as well as other information regarding construction, Chemistry, and fire hazards. 

Is Construction Adhesive Flammable?

The quick answer is: it depends but is possible. There are just too many kinds of adhesives that can be used in construction, it all depends on what it’s made of.

Construction Adhesive?

In the construction industry and services, adhesives are materials that can glue materials together. They can bind the surfaces of different or equal materials, allowing load stress to be distributed more equally in a joint. 

The adhesive must have some flexibility but also high cohesive strength, allowing the materials to have some stress absorption but also strong bonded. This is the main reason why polymers are used to this end.

Adhesive bonding effects

When assembling materials together, two things that require attention are stress distribution and load leveling. Adhesives are capable of binding a larger area when compared to other assembly techniques, which facilitates a more evenly distribution of weight.

As another consequence, the amount of stress concentrated in an area can be reduced, which can tender the fatigue effects.

For the same reasons, applying adhesives could lead to superior resistance to mechanical shocks, when compared to physical junctions like screws and nails.

The unique and wide possibilities of applying adhesives from several different chemical properties also allow to bond surfaces from different materials, which is a very important asset in construction.

What is a polymer?

Anything in the universe that could stay still in a table balance and be weighted is made of atoms. When at least two atoms are bonded together they can be labeled as molecules.

A very important set of molecules is called hydrocarbons. They are basically made of one part of Carbon and two of Hydrogen, more or less (in atom quantity, not mass). They can have endless arrangements and compose nearly all that we call life.

Other specific kinds of organic compounds are called polymers. They are macromolecules that consist of smaller structures that repeat themselves, like a centipede. Such chemical species can often have a neutral to high flammability. 

Types

With the constant development of new polymers and mixes of materials, the types of adhesives that could be used in construction are not even finite. A few more common types and characteristics can be found below:

  • Epoxy adhesives: are known for their dimensional and thermal stability, as well as chemical resistance.
  • Pressure adhesives: are glued by simply applying pressure. Weak intermolecular forces arise from the interaction between the polymer structure and the surface that’s been bonded, resulting in a glue effect.
  • Electric conductive adhesives: are used in electronic applications, when electrical conductivity is required to pass between surfaces.
  • Solvent-based adhesives: these normally use flammable solvents in their constitution. It’s used because the solvent quickly evaporates, allowing strong bonds to form.
  • Water-based adhesives: can use natural or synthetic polymers.
  • Acrylic adhesives: these are resin-based acrylics or methacrylic polymers. It’s known for making hard and multiple bonds, making it a good match for outdoor use.
  • Anaerobic adhesives: they cure only in the absence of oxygen. They’re considered to be less toxic and non-corrosive for metals.
  • Hot melt adhesives (HMA): is a plastic polymer that’s moldable when at a high temperature, then solidifies after cools down.

Some history of Adhesives

The first adhesive ever used was actually invented 3.000.000.000 (3 billion!) years ago. Primordial cells had found a way to bind themselves, allowing them to form colonies.

More recently, 200.000 years ago, Neanderthals developed “tar”, an adhesive that allowed them to waterproof and strengthen sinew, skin, and plant fibers that were attached to bones, stone tools, and weapons.

Fun fact: Even though “Neanderthal” is still a synonym for ignorance, archaic and antique thinking, they had a big brain, social complexity, and skills. For comparison, both Homo Neanderthals and Sapiens (our specie) had ruled the earth for about the same time.

Both species existed at the same time, but we extinguished them 28.000 years ago. Even so, interbreeding occurred at some point. Today, 2% of the DNA from Europeans, Asians, and Oceanians is Neanderthal, so we can say that they still live somehow.

From 6.000 years ago until now, the use of glue has been constant in practically any society, but only in the 1930’s adhesives made of plastic began to flourish.

The probable oldest reference to an adhesive is The Bible. In the book of Genesis, the Tower of Babel builders used bitumen as mortar.

During World War II, a woman named Vesta Stoudt offered a solution for an important war problem: the sealing of ammunition boxes. 

She was working closing these boxes, and then soon realized how moisture could be a problem, and how hard could be to handle it in the middle of the war. She tested herself by adding a tearable cloth to a tape and ended up inventing what we call today duct tape.

Later on, The Military put a Johnson & Johnson company in the charge of producing it, and soon large producing scale began. Vesta Stoudt gained her place in history as the woman who wide-scaled the production of duct tape.

Today, adhesives control multi-billion dollar industries. All modern build structures require some sort of adhesion on their parts, and construction adhesives are capable of holding our floors, walls, and roofs together.

But what means adhesion?

Only in the last 100 years people had started formalizing how two things can be glued together. No single explanation can successfully explain how so different things can be attached together. 

Many physical and chemical explanations had been developed ever since. We’d like to point out six of them: Mechanical Interlocking, Adsorption, Chemical, Diffusion, Electrostatic, and Weak boundary layers.

Construction adhesives have just too many types of adhesion, making it impossible to discuss all of them. 

The flammability problem on construction adhesives

As stated before, it’s really difficult to determine if “construction adhesives” are flammable because there are too many of them. The easiest way would probably be to examine the specific material safety of the product of interest. 

It’s normally easy to find official flammability information in search engine tools. But assuming you couldn’t find it, the next step is to look at the adhesive ingredients and then search about them. If it has (but is not limited to) organic solvents on, it’s very flammable. 

For example, this Polyurethane contact adhesive is highly flammable, and so is this solvent-based and this All Purpose Construction Adhesive. This Gorilla Construction and this silicone-based adhesive, although, are not.

Conclusion

Not all construction adhesives are flammable but many are. Specific research is required if you believe this might be an issue for you. Overall, the more the ingredients of an adhesive are hydrocarbon-alike, the more easily they could be set on fire.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS): Is Construction Adhesive Flammable?

It’s safer to assume that it is than the opposite. Construction adhesives have too many different formulations so it’s really hard to determine generally.

Is “All Purpose Construction Adhesive” flammable?

If it’s organic solvent-based, yes. When in doubt, it’s safer to assume that it is than the opposite. 

Is “Liquid Nails” adhesive flammable?

According to the official company’s website, no. Once the solvents had dissipated and the product has cured, it is not flammable anymore. But the vapors are flammable and toxic;

Citations

Burchardt, B. (2010). Advances in polyurethane structural adhesives. Advances in Structural Adhesive Bonding, 35–65. doi:10.1533/9781845698058.1.35 

Allen, K. W. (2003). Adhesion and Adhesives. Encyclopedia of Physical Science and Technology, 237–250. doi:10.1016/b0-12-227410-5/00012-0

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_evolution
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https://www.feica.eu/application/files/8015/3987/4986/HisrtoryOfBonding.pdf
https://www.gulfindustrialgroup.com/saaf/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/POLYURETHANE-ADHESIVE-40-1000-MSDS.pdf
https://www.gorillatough.com/wp-content/uploads/Gorilla-Construction-Adhesive.pdf
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https://www.farnell.com/datasheets/1799211.pdf

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