In 2013, the number of homes in areas prone to wildfires in the western United States increased 62% from the previous year. Even more astounding is that out of the 17 million homes built between 1990 and 2008, 10 million of them were built in areas that are considered higher wildfire-risk zones. If you own a home in an area that is prone to wildfires, you may want to consider protecting your home with several improvements. Here are several home improvement projects to consider.
Use Fire Resistant Materials to Protect Your Home from Falling Embers
During a wildfire, embers can travel in the wind and land on your home and the surrounding property. For this reason, it is crucial to cover your home with building materials that are resistant to heat and fire. Here are a few ideas.
Choose roofing materials that are fire-resistant, such as clay tiles, slate or stone-coated steel, or standing-seam metal roofing. One important thing to keep in mind when choosing a new roofing material is that some are very heavy and may be too heavy for your house to structurally support the weight. Before choosing a new roofing material, hire a structural engineer to determine whether or not your home's foundation and/or roofing structure will need to be bolstered with additional support to handle the additional weight. Also, use fire-resistant materials for the soffits, fascia, and eaves.
Cover the exterior of your home with a material that is resistant to fires, such as fiber cement siding. This type of siding can withstand heat from fires for 2-4 hours. Cement, sand, and wood fibers are the materials used to make fiber cement siding (or James Hardie siding). Sometimes, fly ash, a by-product of burnt coal, is used in place of cement because fly ash is lighter in weight. Regardless of the materials used, this type of siding is heavier than the traditional vinyl siding that most homes are covered with during construction. Therefore, fiber cement siding should be nailed into the wall studs of the exterior walls, which means you'll need to remove the existing siding before fiber cement siding can be installed. Of course, the trimming should also be made of fiber cement for the best protection.
Windows and doors
You should also consider replacing your windows and doors with ones that are resistant to fires. Regular glass can crack when exposed to extreme heat such as a wildfire near the home. Replace your windows with heat-reflective glass that is designed to withstand the extreme heat of nearby fires. Install steel doors that have steel framing and no embellishments or glass in the doors unless those materials are also fire and heat resistant. Surround the windows and doors with fiber cement trim to keep embers from finding their way into cracks.
Surround Your Home with a Firebreak
A firebreak is open space that doesn't contain materials that can catch on fire, which is very important when embers are floating through the air from a nearby wildfire. Don't have anything near the home that can catch on fire when embers fall, particularly vegetation, bushes and trees. Keep the grass cut short to reduce the risks of it catching on fire and spreading to your home.
If you have decking, obviously you want it to be made of material that is resistant to fire or, at the very least, covered with a paint or stain that is fire-resistant. However, if you cover a wooden deck with a fire-resistant coating, be sure to cover the entire deck, including the small space in between the deck and the siding as well as in between each slat of the decking.