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Combustion Reactions

Commonly called burning, a chemical reaction where a substance reacts quickly with oxygen.

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A House Built of Bricks

A House Built of Bricks


Credit: Illustration by L. Leslie Brooke, from The Golden Goose Book, Frederick Warne & Co., Ltd. 1905
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Three_little_pigs_-_third_pig_builds_a_house_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_15661.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

You probably know the nursery rhyme about the three little pigs. The big, bad wolf blew down the house made of straw and the house made of sticks. But no matter how much he huffed and puffed, he couldn’t blow down the house made of bricks. Of course, we don’t have to worry about a wolf blowing down our house. But we do have to worry about the risk of fire.

Why It Matters

  • In the U.S., home fires kill more than 2500 people each year.
  • Some materials burn more or less easily than others. The ability of a material to burn is called flammability. It is a chemical property of matter.
  • Burning is a chemical reaction, called a combustion reaction. A flammable material reacts with oxygen and releases carbon dioxide, water vapor, and energy in the form of heat and light.
  • License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    Firefighters put their life on the line when attempting to put out fires [Figure2]

  • Straw and sticks are more flammable than bricks, so you wouldn’t want to build a house out of them even if you weren’t worried about wolves. But building a fire-resistant house doesn’t stop with bricks.
  • New materials are being developed for all aspects of construction to reduce the flammability of homes. You can learn about one such material and see how well it works by watching this video: 


Show What You Know

Learn more about fire-resistant building materials at the link below. Then answer the questions that follow.

  1. What is blazeguard? Why is it fire resistant? What is its fire rating?
  2. In terms of fire protection, what is the value of dual-paned window glass?
  3. Which window frame material provides the best fire protection?
    1. steel
    2. wood
    3. aluminum
    4. vinyl
  4. Contrast concrete and steel in terms of fire resistance.
  5. What is stucco? What is its fire rating?
  6. What is the fire rating of a brick wall?
  7. What is the most commonly used fire-resistant material for interior walls?
  8. Besides fire resistance, what factors might influence a builder’s choice of construction materials?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Illustration by L. Leslie Brooke, from The Golden Goose Book, Frederick Warne & Co., Ltd. 1905; Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Three_little_pigs_-_third_pig_builds_a_house_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_15661.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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