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Published on 23rd October, 2015
by Testing Department

​Performance of furniture finishes and surfaces

The performance of furniture finishes and surfaces is defined in FIRA Standard 6250, which has its origins in British Standard 6250: 1991 Part 3. BSI formally withdrew this standard in 1999. The withdrawal of this standard came about as result of a review of test procedures and a move toward harmonisation of standards throughout Europe. Whilst common agreement was established for the test procedures the goal of a commonly agreed performance specification across Europe has yet to be established

Introduction

The performance of furniture finishes and surfaces is defined in FIRA Standard 6250, which has its origins in British Standard 6250: 1991 Part 3. BSI formerly withdrew this standard in 1999. The withdrawal of this standard came about as result of a review of test procedures and a move toward harmonisation of standards throughout Europe. Whilst common agreement was established for the test procedures the goal of a commonly agreed performance specification across Europe has yet to be established.

With the withdrawal of BS 6250, at that time, FIRA realised the UK furniture industry would be left without a vitally important performance standard and therefore published FIRA Standard 6250 1999 to fill the gap. This FIRA standard, based on the old BS 6250, adopted the new European test procedures and made certain other appropriate changes. However six years have passed since its publication and an upgrade of standard was overdue.

The new standard FIRA Standard 6250: 2005 Specification: Furniture materials (interior applications) has been revised and now also incorporates a more extensive range of performance specifications for furniture. At the core of this standard remains the comprehensive finish performance specification and this article details the tests and performance requirements within this new standard

Test procedures

Test procedures to assess the durability of finishes are divided into three main groups,

  1. Resistance to mechanical damage
  2. Resistance to dry and wet heat
  3. Resistance to cold liquids, oils and fats

These tests are generally applicable to all types of furniture finishes including liquid based finishes, plastics laminate, melamine faced chipboard, paper foils, and PVC bonded to wood based substrates as well any other type of surface finish/substrate combination. Normally the surface finish is tested on the substrate on which it will be used, as the substrate can affect the results of some tests.

Performance requirements for the assessment of furniture finishes are specified in FIRA Standard 6250. The test methods referred to in this standard are, BS 3962 Part 6 1980, BS EN 12720, 12721 and 12722. Plastics laminates used for kitchen worktops are also required to comply with the relevant requirements of BSEN 438 (plastics laminate standard).

Assessment of surface resistance to mechanical damage (BS 3962 part 6: 1980)

Crosscut test

A template is used to guide knife cuts, to a depth of 0.3 mm, in a grid pattern into the surface finish of the sample. The test area is then brushed and examined with a hand lens. The appearance of the cuts and the degree of finish removed are then assessed on a scale ranging from rating 1-5.

Impact test

This test gives an indication of the impact resistance of a surface finish to cracking. A steel ball (19.1mm diameter mass 28g) is dropped on to the test panel from a height of two metres ensuring the ball is caught to prevent multiple impacts. The test area is then examined with a hand lens. The degree of cracking of the finish is assessed on a scale ranging from rating 1-5.

Scrape test

A scraper blade is traversed, approximately 200mm, over the surface of the panel at a constant speed of 20 mm/sec, with a vertical force on the blade increasing from less than 1.5N to more than 14N. The scrape line is examined with a hand lens to determine the initial point at which the surface coating is penetrated and a second point where the blade penetrates into the substrate. The first visible signs of surface marking may also be recorded if required. The scrape force, in Newtons, is read from a calibration graph and the result converted into a rating ranging from 1 to 5.

Assessment of surface resistance to wet heat (BS EN 12721:1997)

This test represents the conditions of hot liquid, trapped for example between a hot cup and tablecloth, in contact with a surface finish.

A wetted nylon cloth is placed on the surface of the test panel following which a standard aluminium alloy block, heated to a specified temperature, is then placed on the cloth for a period 20 minutes.

After test the area is wiped dry and left undisturbed for at least 16 hours. The test area is then examined in diffuse and direct light for signs of change in appearance. Damage to the surface is then assessed on a scale ranging from rating 1 to 5.

Assessment of surface resistance to dry heat (BS EN 12722:1997)

This test is intended to represent hot ovenware being placed directly onto a surface finish. The dry heat test is similar to the wet heat test, described above, except the wetted cloth is omitted.

This test is intended to simulate spillage of common household liquids onto a surface finish. A 25mm diameter absorbent paper disc is soaked in the test liquid and placed onto the surface of the test panel and then covered with a glass dish for a period of 1 hour. In the case of ‘cold oil and fats’ (e.g. butter) these are placed directly on the surface finish for a period of 24hr. Absorbent paper is then used to soak up any remaining test liquid and the test area left undisturbed for period of at least a further 16 hours. Finally the test surface is cleaned with a standard cleaning solution and water, allowed to dry and then examined in diffuse and direct light for change in appearance. Damage top the surface is assessed on a scale ranging from rating 1 to 5.

The test liquids specified in FIRA Standard 6250 1999 are Acetone, Ethanol (96%), Ethanol (48%), Tea, Coffee, Disinfectant (Phenol), Disinfectant (Chloro) , Paraffin Oil, Blackcurrant Juice, Ammonia Solution (10%), Acetic Acid (4.4%), Olive Oil, Cold Oils (margarine) and Cold Fats (butter).

For further information on applicable performance requirements for different end uses please contact us.

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