We report the relationships between the degradation behaviors (i.e. the degradation kinetics, degradation activation energy, weight loss conversion, and char formation) and the structure features in three modified novolac resins bearing different curable functional groups and aromatic units i.e. Carbonyl phenyl azo novolac resin (CPAN), 4-(4-hydroxyphenyl azo) benzyl ester novolac resin (HPDEN) and Carbonyl phenyl 4-(4-hydroxyphenyl azo) benzyl ester novolac resin (CHABN). These modifications enhanced the thermal stability of the cured novolac resins by delaying the decomposition temperature up to 30-100 degrees C and produced prominent residue char yield up to 68% (CPAN), 56% (HPDEN) and 64% (CHABN), respectively. The two heavily cross-linked samples, CPAN and CHABN displayed even higher Ea than HPDEN. All modified novolacs displayed much higher decomposition activation energy (over 237 KJ/mol*K) compared with the generic phenolic (PN). (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.