This study explores whether nanoparticles incorporated in polymers always act as synergists of conventional flame-retardant additives. For this purpose, two different filler nanoparticles, namely organically modified layered-silicate clay minerals or nanoclays and multi-walled carbon nanotubes, were incorporated in poly(methyl methacrylate) filled with an organophosphorus flame-retardant that acts through intumescence. Effective dispersion techniques specific to each nanoparticle were utilized and prepared samples were thoroughly characterized for their nanocomposite morphologies. Nanoclays were shown to outperform carbon nanotubes in respect of improving the fire properties of intumescent formulations assessed by cone calorimeter analysis. An intriguing explanation for the observed behaviour was the restriction of intumescence by strong carbon nanotube networks formed on the flaming surfaces during combustion contrary to enhanced intumescent chars by nanoclays. Carbon nanotubes surpassed nanoclays considering the thermal stability of intumescent formulations in thermogravimetry whereas mechanical properties were significantly superior with nanoclays to those with carbon nanotubes. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.