Waterborne Formulas and Spray Booth Fire Codes

Whether or not you need fire-suppression gear, fire-safe lights, et cetera, in a spray booth when you only apply waterbornes is a fine point that should be discussed with your local authorities.May 26, 2011

I am looking to start doing my own finish work, but have been turned off by the codes required for a booth in my shop. If you spray all waterborne, does that eliminate the need to follow all those strict codes and fire laws? I understand that you still need the required CFM draw to evacuate overspray and fumes out of the booth, but would I still have to have all the clearances, suppression systems, class 1 lights, and explosion proof fans?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor J:
It doesn't seem to me that you would need fire suppression and such, as waterborne is non-flammable. However, if you want the most useful and accurate answer, you'll want to talk with your local officials. What works for someone somewhere else won't mean a hill of beans to you, especially if you get shut down for violating codes.

From contributor D:
Every location may have different rules, but I just met with the Fire Marshall at a shop I am buying that is too old to comply with current code for the existing booth. The cost to bring it up to code would be too high for me to justify right now. The FM said if I only spray waterbornes, the booth is fine as is. If you spray 1% of solvent stuff though, you would still have to comply with all codes. Each area will vary though.

From contributor M:
The answer is… it depends. The most frequently enforced standard for spray booths is NFPA 33 Standard for Spray Application Using Flammable or Combustible Materials. This document is referenced in the International Fire Code and was the basis of the OSHA rules for spray finishing. Chapter 1 of NFPA 33 covers the scope, purpose and application of the standard. Section 1.1.3 states that this “standard shall also apply to spray application of water-borne, water-based, and water-reducible materials that contain flammable or combustible liquids or that produce combustible deposits or residues.”

You can check with the manufacturer or the MSDS sheets for the materials you are spraying to see if the material is flammable or combustible in either the liquid (as sprayed) or dried state (deposits and residues). There are paints that contain no solvent, but the dried overspray can still present a fire hazard.

I couldn’t agree more with contributor J - it is always best to meet with your local authority (fire marshal, building inspector, insurance carrier, etc.) to determine the requirements for the installation and operation of a paint spray booth.