Upholstery Fire Standards

Learn more about the Standard for the Flammability of Upholstered Furniture - 16 CFR 1640

(aka: those new fire regs we keep hearing about…)

By now, we've all heard about the Standard for the Flammability of Upholstered Furniture, but what does this law mean for our members who provide reupholstery services?

The National Upholstery Association (NUA) asked the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) for clarification about how the new regulation specifically applies to reupholstery. In March, we surveyed our members and submitted more than 20 questions to the CPSC for response. In April, we coordinated a call with four experts from the CPSC, to discuss the new regulation and collect the responses to those questions. And now, we are happy to share information with you!

Here are the highlights. For more detailed responses, check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

The new law does not apply if the upholstered furniture retains the same ownership after reupholstery.

Yes, that’s right. This new regulation only applies to reupholstered furniture if it changes ownership after reupholstery is complete - for example, if the furniture is sold, gifted, or traded. If the item does not change ownership following the reupholstery service, then that piece of upholstered furniture is not subject to this regulation.

This is true for commercial reupholstery too. For examples of situations where the regulation would and would not apply, check out our FAQs. If you are unsure whether your application applies to the law, we encourage you to reach out to the CPSC’s Small Business Ombudsman at SBO@cpsc.gov for direction. 

If your upholstered furniture is subject to 16 CFR 1640, then read on.

The regulation applies only to items that fit within its definition of “upholstered furniture.”

In-scope “upholstered furniture,” excluding specific exemptions in the Act, includes general-use and children’s seating furniture that meets the specifications below:

  • is intended for indoor use;

  • is movable or stationary;

  • is constructed with an upholstered seat, back, or arm;

  • is—(I) made or sold with a cushion or pillow, without regard to whether that cushion or pillow, as applicable, is attached or detached with respect to the article of furniture; or (II) stuffed or filled, or able to be stuffed or filled, in whole or in part, with any material, including a substance or material that is hidden or concealed by fabric or another covering, including a cushion or pillow belonging to, or forming a part of, the article of furniture; and

  • together with the structural units of the article of furniture, any filling material, and the container and covering with respect to those structural units and that filling material, can be used as a support for the body of an individual, or the limbs and feet of an individual, when the individual sits in an upright or reclining position.

Items that are NOT covered by this regulation include:

  • Bedding products

  • Mattresses / mattress pads

  • Mattress foundations

  • Outdoor furniture

  • Furniture used exclusively for physical fitness and exercise

  • Products obtained by a written prescription from a healthcare professional

Please note that while the upholstered furniture flammability standard (16 CFR part 1640) does not apply to these products, they may be held to different standards by federal, state, or municipal law.

Not all upholstered furniture is created equal. If you’re not sure if your upholstered piece is defined as upholstered furniture under the law, please contact the CPSC’s Small Business Ombudsman at SBO@cpsc.gov for clarification.

The Standard for the Flammability of Upholstered Furniture (16 CFR part 1640) references California Technical Bulletin 117-2013 (CA TB 117-2013) and it can be confusing.

Fear not! It’s not as complicated as it seems. 16 CFR part 1640 simply adopts flammability standard CA TB 117-2013 at the federal level and requires that the manufacturer (or in this case, the upholsterer) certify and label each product with the statement “Complies with U.S. CPSC requirements for upholstered flammability.” 

If you’re not already familiar with CA TB 117-2013, here are a few things you should know:

  • CA TB 117-2013 outlines certain requirements for the flammability testing of component materials

  • Component materials fall into one of four categories for the purpose of testing:

    1. Cover Fabric

    2. Barrier Material

    3. Resilient Filling

    4. Decking Material (if upholstered furniture has a detached cushion)

  • Tested component materials are rated on a Pass/Fail basis 

  • The overall upholstered piece can be in compliance with the flammability standard, even if not all component materials pass. The law outlines which combinations are acceptable.

Flammability Compliance Quick Reference GuideThe National Upholstery Association developed a printable Compliance Quick Reference Guide (shown left) to help our members identify which combinations of component materials are in compliance with the regulation. Please note that the chart is a non-exhaustive list for illustrative purposes only. Refer to 16 CFR part 1640 for more information.

After you’ve determined that your upholstered piece complies with the flammability standard, then you must certify and label it. The label is your certification, and must be affixed conspicuously and permanently to the upholstered piece. More information about labeling is below.

The easiest way to ensure compliance with the flammability standard is to install an approved barrier layer.

According to CA TB 117-2013, if the barrier component passes the flammability test, then the overall piece of furniture is in compliance even if all other component materials fail the test.

You can use this information to your advantage by simply installing an approved barrier layer between the cover fabric and the filling material on every upholstered piece that leaves your workroom. Then, it doesn’t matter if the other components pass or fail; a properly-installed, approved barrier layer will set you right!

For upholstered pieces with a detachable cushion or seat, the decking must also be in compliance.

When using a compliant barrier layer, the regulation instructs that it be installed on all sides of an upholstered piece. For furniture with an attached cushion, that means the top surface of the seat or back, plus the sides. 

For furniture with cushions or filling materials that are detachable or flippable, the barrier material must cover the entire area - top, sides, and the bottom as well.

In the case of a detached or flippable cushion, your decking must also be in compliance with the fire regulations - so it’s best to add a barrier layer under your decking material as well, just to be safe.

Your upholstery supplier should be able to tell you which products they sell are compliant with the flammability standard.

It is in your supplier’s best interest to ensure that they sell products that comply with the new regulation. Many suppliers will note compliance on their websites, catalogs, or product pages. Others may require a phone call or email to confirm.

When inquiring about compliant products, be sure to confirm that the upholstery material is compliant with CA TB 117-2013. Only products that have been tested to this standard (or the 2019 update to CA TB 117-2013) are acceptable under the federal law.

Your supplier should provide you with copies of the results from their testing or their reasonable testing program, along with a written copy of their reasonable testing program for your records. If they did not test the material, ask them to obtain a copy from their supplier. If their products are untested, encourage them to submit their materials to an approved lab for testing.

The National Upholstery Association wants to partner with vendors who sell compliant products. If you know a vendor that sells products that meets CA TB 117-2013 - particularly barrier and filling materials - send us an email at info@nationalupholsteryassociation.

All upholstered furniture subject to 16 CFR part 1640 requires a label beginning June 25, 2022.

Compliance with the labeling requirement must begin by June 25, 2022, and applies to upholstered furniture manufactured, imported, or reupholstered on or after that date.

If your state or municipality has its own labeling requirements, then be sure to follow them. 

If you are already including a label, for example a CA TB 117-2013 label, then you may either combine the 16 CFR part 1640 statement with that label, or affix a separate label.

If neither your state or municipality has their own labeling requirement, then you may use the “short” label with the 16 CFR part 1640 statement “Complies with U.S. CPSC requirements for upholstered furniture flammability." Labels must be conspicuous and permanently attached to the upholstered piece. An example of acceptable placement of a label is on the underside of a chair affixed to the dust cover.

Example of label:

See the CPSC’s FAQ for more details about labeling requirements.

For more information, check out the FAQs or contact the CPSC.

Additional information about 16 CFR part 1640 is available on the National Upholstery Association’s FAQ page specific to the upholstered furniture flammability standard.

The CPSC also has a comprehensive FAQ for this new regulation, so check there as well.

If you have a specific question not addressed in the FAQs, please reach out to the CPSC’s Small Business Ombudsman at SBO@cpsc.gov for answers.
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