Last edited 13 Apr 2018

Sacrificial timber

The term ‘sacrificial timber’ is used to refer to timber in a structural assembly that is oversized purposely as a means of enhancing its fire resistance. Because timber burns at a regular and measurable rate, exposed timber sections can be designed with an additional sacrificial timber – with an increased width and/or depth – that will char slowly and protect the inner timber from fire damage.

The outer surface of a timber element will char, and usually temperatures at the surface in excess of 350°C will be necessary for flaming to occur. The charred portion of the timber acts as an insulator and, although some will be irreparably damaged (or ‘sacrificed’), the main timber retains its stability and structural integrity.

Sacrificial timber can often be a design solution if a solid timber member is to be exposed – either fully or partly – or if full fire resistance cannot be provided by plasterboard insulating materials.

The density, and therefore the charring rate, of the timber element will determine the required quantity of sacrificial timber.

BS EN 1995-1-2:2004 provides charring rates for different timber materials for the purposes of informing initial design.

Notional charring rates (the charring rates apply to each face exposed to fire):

MATERIAL CHARRING RATE ßn (mm/min)
Softwood timber 0.8
Softwood glulam and laminated veneer lumber (LVL) 0.7
Hardwood timber and hardwood glulam 0.55

For example, if a softwood element was exposed on all four of its sides to 20 minutes of fire:

2 x 20 x 0.8 = 32 mm

The width and depth of the element would require 32 mm of sacrificial timber.

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