Wildfire home hardening has been in the news lately. Proposed legislation will help you protect your homes, comply with safety standards, and retain homeowner’s insurance, no matter their location.
Wildfire safety is often a concern for California residents, especially as residential areas spread into previously unoccupied wildland areas. Fortunately, there are home hardening measures that your builder can – and should – take to protect your new construction and home additions against the danger of wildfires. Both you and your builder should check local and state codes to determine materials and methods for your construction project.
Are You in a Wildfire Zone?
Awareness is key. Not only is it important to know if you are located within a wildfire zone for safety reasons, but certain safety measures are required by the law for new construction, accessory dwelling units (ADU’s), and additions.
Know your area. Check this map to find out if your home is in a Fire Hazard Severity Zone (FHSZ). California Fire designates three different FHSZ’s: Very High, High, and Moderate. The zone will determine requirements when designing for code compliance. Many counties have their own fire codes and requirements, so look into your county’s Local Responsibility Area (LRA) requirements, as well.
Wildfire Home Hardening Materials
You and your home are not defenseless against the threat of a wildfire. Wildfire home hardening materials are available to protect your home from a wildfire if you are located within a Wildlife Urban Interface.
Know the Code
Codes may vary according to the area, and the danger level. It’s important for you to find the specific guidelines for your location. Check here to get more information about specific code issues.
Ignition Resistant Materials
A Wildlife Urban Interface (WUI) is the transition zone between unoccupied land and human development. Fire resistant construction materials are required in the WUI where construction is located within a FHSZ. CalFire has an extensive list of WUI approved products on their website. If you live in or near any wooded area you need to check this map and if you are in a WUI zone, work closely with your architect to comply.
Roofing material is probably the most important determining element for wildfire home safety. Wood or shingle roofs are a fire risk. Homes in a Very High FHSZ are required to have Class ‘A’ non-combustible roofing materials, such as composite materials, clay, metal, or tile.
Roof materials like clay or concrete will leave a gap between the roofing ply, and the roofing material. This gap needs to be covered with a code-compliant mineral surface cap sheet.
Construction in a High or Moderate FHSZ may be constructed with Class ‘B’ roofing materials, such as treated shingles or wood shake. However, it is recommended that any home in any FHSZ use Class ‘A’ roofing materials for optimal wildfire protection.
Decks, porches, balconies, and attached stairs should be constructed from fire resistant materials.
Vents and eaves present an opening where sparks and embers could enter the home. Wire mesh across the vents creates a barrier for embers and sparks, while still allowing airflow. For unvented eaves, the California State Fire Marshal recommends blocking the eaves with fire-resistant materials.
Walls and Siding
Exterior walls within a FHSZ should be covered with a non-combustible, fire-resistant material. If a fire-resistant exterior wall material is not used, DensGlass sheathing can be used underneath the siding. DensGlass is a fiberglass gypsum sheathing with fire-resistant properties.
Windows and Doors
Fire is an unwelcome guest in your home. Don’t let it in the door. Exterior doors, including the garage doors, should be made of a noncombustible, fire-resistant, solid core material. Enhance windows’ fire resistant properties by adding at least one tempered pane per window.
Wildfire Hardening Disclosure for Real Estate Transactions
Information about wildfire home hardening is not only pertinent to homeowners and builders, but also to anyone who is buying or selling a home in the WUI. Real estate agents, buyers, and sellers should operate with integrity and disclose anything that presents a wildfire risk to the home.
Home sellers in California must disclose if the home is in a high fire zone. During the home inspection, the inspector will note anything that could be considered high risk.
Drafting Cafe Architects can help you navigate the fire codes to ensure that your home is safe and code compliant. Our professional team is knowledgeable and prepared for every contingency. Contact us today to start your home building project with peace of mind.