Planning to import or manufacture furniture in the United States? In this guide, we explain what you must know about both federal and state-level furniture flammability safety standards, certification requirements, third-party lab testing, compliance risks, and more.
- Upholstered chairs
- Upholstered bed bases
- Box springs
CPSC Furniture Flammability Safety Standards
The CPSC set rules and standards for furniture products marketed in the US, concerning the flammability, toxicity, construction, installation, and other aspects, over the course of several decades.
The CPSC also cooperates with federal or independent institutions and agencies to develop safety standards for furniture products. The following standards are overseen by CPSC to regulate the flammability of furniture.
16 CFR Part 1640 – Standard for the Flammability of Upholstered Furniture
Title XXI – COVID-19 Regulatory Relief and Work from Home Safety Act incorporated California Technical Bulletin 117-2013 as the federal upholstered furniture safety standard to be adopted in the United States.
The standard is administered by the CSPC and is called 16 CFR Part 1640 – Standard for the Flammability of Upholstered Furniture.
You can learn more on the CPSC website.
16 CFR 1640.3 defines “upholstered furniture” as general-use and children’s seating furniture that meet the following criteria:
- Upholstered products used use indoors
- Movable or stationary upholstered products
- Items that contain upholstered seat, back, or arms
- Includes stuffed or filled materials and articles that are sold along with the furniture
Certification Label Requirements
16 CFR 1640.4 requires that upholstered products that are covered by the standard must bear a permanent certification label contained with the following statement to demonstrate compliance:
“Complies with U.S. CPSC requirements for upholstered furniture flammability.”
The certification label should have the following characteristics:
- Be written in plain English language
- Have a height of at least 1/8-inch
- Have font size no smaller than other text on the label
- TBe written in black text on a white background and surrounded by a black border
This standard adopts the testing methods provided by TB 117-2013 for upholstered furniture. The testing approaches are designed to determine the flammability and fire-retardant performance of the cover fabric, filling material, decking, and barrier in the condition of a smoldering fire.
16 CFR Part 1630 – Standard for the Surface Flammability of Carpets and Rugs
16 CFR Part 1630 contains testing methods to determine the surface flammability of carpets and rugs when exposed to a standard small source of ignition, such as cigarette flame or fireplace flame. The standard applies to a majority of carpets and rugs for domestic use, with the exception of antique or hides carpet
According to the definition, any carpets with one dimension greater than 1.83 m. (6 ft.) and a surface area greater than 2.23 m.2 (24 sq. ft.) is under the scope of 16 CFR Part 1630.
Resilient floor coverings such as linoleum, asphalt tile, and vinyl tile are not under the scope of the standard.
16 CFR Part 1630 includes testing methods to assess the flame resistance of carpets and rugs when ignited with a standard small fire, such as cigarette flame or fireplace flame. The test method applies to a majority of household carpets and rugs, excluding antique or hides carpets.
16 CFR Part 1631 – Standard for the Surface Flammability of Small Carpets and Rugs
16 CFR Part 1631 regulates carpets and rugs in the same way as 16 CFR Part 1630. However, Part 1631 regulates carpets and rugs that are greater than 1.83 m. (6 ft.) and an area not greater than 2.23 m.2 (24 sq. ft.).
The test methods of 16 CFR Part 1631 are the same as Part 1630, as the testing subjects and testing purposes are the same, excluding the dimension.
CPSC Flammability Safety Standards Lab Testing
Importers and manufacturers should conduct the required lab tests for their products by contracting a CPSC-approved testing agency, such as Intertek, SGS, TÜV SÜD, or UL.
Here are some examples of flammability tests:
- Cigarette flame test
- Open flame test
- Smoldering fire test
General Certificate of Conformity (GCC)
The GCC is a self-issued document by either the importer or the manufacturer, demonstrating the product’s conformity to applicable CPSC’s safety requirements and relevant safety standards. The GCC is used for non-children’s products, including some type of furniture, such as carpets and rugs.
However, importers and manufacturers of upholstered furniture covered by 16 CFR Part 1640 are not required to issue a GCC.
Instead, such products should comply with the Certification Label Requirements outlined in the previous section of this article, as explained in Part VII. Certification of the standard:
“The COVID-19 Act provides that for purposes of testing and certification, fabric, related material, or product to which the California standard applies shall not be subject to section 14(a) of the CPSA (15 U.S.C. 2063(a)) with respect to that standard. Accordingly, section 14(a) of the CPSA does not apply to this standard for the flammability of upholstered furniture. However, the COVID-19 Act requires each manufacturer of a product that is subject to the California standard to include the statement “Complies with U.S. CPSC requirements for upholstered furniture flammability” on a permanent label located on the product, which shall be considered to be a certification that the product complies with this standard.”
ASTM Furniture Flammability Safety Standards
The ASTM, which releases standards and test methods for a large array of products, has a specific committee for fire standards.
ASTM Committee E05 on Fire Standards
The ASTM Committee E05 on Fire Standards was formed in 1904. Committee E05’s main responsibility is to develop, inspect, and revise fire standards for furniture products and building materials on a regular basis to ensure the safety of the applicable products to humans and the environment.
The Committee established analysis and testing methods and requirements to assess the flammability and fireproofing capability of the materials and assemblies used in the products.
Currently, Committee E05 has nine technical subcommittees that develop, regulate, and maintain various flammability safety standards, including:
- E05.11 Fire Resistance
- E05.14 External Fire Exposures
- E05.21 Smoke and Combustion Products
- E05.22 Surface Burning
- E05.23 Combustibility
The ASTM has established a series of flammability test standards and requirements for the composites and materials used in upholstered furniture, under the circumstances of open flame, smoldering, burning, or combustion.
The following are several ASTM Standards concerning this subject:
a. E1352-16 Standard Test Method for Cigarette Ignition Resistance of Mock-Up Upholstered Furniture Assemblies
b. E1353-16 Standard Test Methods for Cigarette Ignition Resistance of Components of Upholstered Furniture
c. E1537-16 Standard Test Method for Fire Testing of Upholstered Furniture
d. E1822-17 Standard Test Method for Fire Testing of Stacked Chairs
e. E2187-20a Standard Test Method for Measuring the Ignition Strength of Cigarettes
f. E2280-17 Standard Guide for Fire Hazard Assessment of the Effect of Upholstered Seating Furniture Within Patient Rooms of Health Care Facilities
As you can see, each standard focuses on a different aspect. For instance, E1352-16 is designed to assess the flammability of upholstered furniture material under the circumstances of exposure to smoldering cigarettes.
Materials used in upholstered furniture like covers, fillings, cushioning materials, welts are under the testing scope of this standard. Furniture’s application sites include hospitals, nursing homes, and residential mansions.
ASTM Flammability Safety Standards Lab Testing
Before importing furniture products to the US, importers should make sure their products are compliant with applicable federal or jurisdictional standards. Third-party lab testing agencies like Intertek, UL, SGS can assist importers in product assurance and certification.
NFPA Furniture Flammability Safety Standards
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) was founded in 1896 as a nonprofit organization aiming at raising public awareness on fire protection caused by electrical, material open flame, cigarette, or other hazards. The NFPA develops flammability safety voluntary codes and standards for materials, furniture, constructions, and electric appliances.
Here we list some standards relevant for upholstered furniture:
a. NFPA 260 Standard Methods of Tests and Classification System for Cigarette Ignition Resistance of Components of Upholstered Furniture
b. NFPA 261 Standard Method of Test for Determining Resistance of Mock-Up Upholstered Furniture Material Assemblies to Ignition by Smoldering Cigarettes
c. NFPA 266 Standard Method of Test for Fire Characteristics of Upholstered Furniture Exposed to Flaming Ignition Source
d. NFPA 272 Standard Method of Test for Heat and Visible Smoke Release Rates for Upholstered Furniture Components or Composites and Mattresses Using an Oxygen Consumption Calorimeter
NFPA Flammability Safety Standards Lab Testing
As said, the NFPA provides voluntary flammability safety standards for furniture, and importers may contact a lab testing company such as SGS or Intertek to test their furniture products against these standards.
State Furniture Flammability Safety Regulations
There are some states in the United States that have established their own standards regarding the flammability safety of furniture products. We will introduce several state standards in the following sections.
California Technical Bulletin 117-2013
Technical Bulletin 117-2013 sets flammability performance requirements and testing standards for furniture cover, filling materials, and decking sold in the jurisdiction area of California.
TB 117-2013 Lab Testing
Before importing furniture to the state of California, importers should ensure the safety and compliance of the products by having their products tested by a third-party accreditation agency, such as Intertek, Applied Lab, Berkley Analytical, and other companies that testing services for furniture.
California Technical Bulletin 116
California Technical Bulletin 116 measures the cigarette ignition resistance of upholstered furniture placed in the market of California.
This standard also requires the furniture product to have a permanently attached label, of which the minimum size shall be 2 x 3 inches, with the description be written in capital letters.
Boston BFD IX
BFD IX-1 is a test method used to classify the flammability of partition furnishing products such as curtains, drapes, cubicle curtains, fabric coverings on walls, and space dividing panels.
BFD IX-10 is a regional standard applied in the jurisdiction area of Boston, regulates the flammability resistance performances of upholstered and reupholstered seating products.
BFD IX-10’s testing methods and requirements are largely based on ASTM E1537 and California Technical Bulletin 133, even if the latter one has been repealed in 2019.
BFD IX-10 mainly evaluates the performance of the upholstered furniture products based on the following test parameters: rate of heat release, total heat release, total mass loss, carbon monoxide, and smoke opacity.
BFD IX-11 is a full-scale fire test procedure to evaluate the flammability performance of upholstered products like box springs, and bedding intended for use in health care facilities, hotels, and dormitories.
Furniture covers and filling materials are not compliant with US flammability safety standards by default. There is plenty of furniture manufactured for other countries and markets, which therefore are not using compliant materials. It’s therefore critical that importers buying finished furniture, or materials for domestic furniture manufacturing, verify compliance before shipment to the United States.