Panel decision for James Latham – talking innovation

  • 15 Sep 2021

The use of flame retardant panels in construction is far from a new idea, but the innovation in manufacture and performance in panels has been significant, if little understood. In fact, some very traditional FR panels have found themselves the perfect solution for a very modern problem! Stuart Devoil, Group Head of Marketing at James Latham brings some of that innovation to light.  

“James Latham was founded in 1757, when it first imported hardwoods into Liverpool, but much like construction panels, the company has progressively moved forward to remain at the cutting edge of panel materials technology.

In fact, Lathams has always been ahead of the panels game, being the first UK importer to set up a panels business in the early 1900’s, being the first stockist to take delivery of MEDITE MDF in the UK, and being the first importer to stock TRP plywood from Weyerhauser.

It’s safe to say that with a history like this, and the experience learned from these firsts, Lathams leads the way when it comes to panels. 

Starting with something a little familiar, Irish OSB manufacturer SMARTPLY has introduced a new structural product which offers outstanding fire performance in the form of SMARTPLY MAX FR B.

What makes this product unique is the manufacturing process. Individual flakes (or strands) of wood are treated with a water-based FR solution before the panel is manufactured, meaning the fire protection is maintained all the way through the panel allowing it to be cut or machined without losing any of the fire performance.

The boards are then produced using ContiRoll® technology, meaning panels of practically any length are achievable. Much like rolling out pastry, the OSB panel goes under rollers on a continuous conveyor, allowing the panels to be cut only when the desired panel length is achieved.

Panels up to 2.8 x 7.5m are achievable, making them ideal for Modern Methods of Construction. A structural, moisture resistant, flame retardant Euroclass B panel, up to 7.5m long!

What more could the sector ask for? 

Well maybe something that offers fire protection, but good looks too?

Valchromat is a High Density Fibreboard (HDF) that acts like a moisture resistant MDF. Available in eleven colours, the boards are ‘through coloured’, with the dye continuing right through the panel.

This means you can take advantage of all those machining benefits a high-density product brings: crisp edges, clean CNC cuts, dense core and uniform surface, but without exposing a different coloured centre.


Perfect for projects where you need that little extra design flair, but still require high performance and dependability. Whilst the standard Valchromat is suitable for kitchens, bathrooms, furniture and many other interior applications, the Euroclass B-s2,d0 Flame Retardant version is perfect for commercial fit outs, retail and hospitality environments, exhibitions, museums, and even schools. 

And while we’re talking education, one product in particular has undergone a very interesting evolution in recent months.

Sundeala must be one of the most recognised names in fibre panels.

First manufactured back in 1898, it’s used for noticeboards, pinboards and signage the world over. It’s 100% recycled, 100% recyclable, and comes in a wide range of colours. But the really interesting thing is about its FR performance.

Or more precisely, the performance of its FR version. Because firstly, Sundeala FR is the only UK manufactured Euroclass B pin board to meet building regulations for use in circulation areas and protected fire escape routes as laid out in Approved Document B2 and the BB100.

Moreover, in ISO 17025 compliant laboratory tests, it was found to be highly resistant to coronavirus and was 100% virus free just five minutes after infection. This means Sundeala now has a new lease of life as the perfect product to help in the fight against a global pandemic. From touch plates to social distancing screens, walkway partitions, screening and protective wall cladding, the applications are pretty much endless. 

So there we are, a trip through the world of panels which, possibly, has breathed a little life back into a subject that many may see as ‘commodity’.”

Like Lathams, the panel industry doesn’t stand still and has adapted very well to market demands. Products listed here are available throughout Lathams’ network of 12 depots in the UK & Ireland.

For more information, please visit or email [email protected] 

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