If you live in an area that’s at high wildfire risk, it’s important to be well-versed in the topic of home hardening. This term refers to a set of specific actions you can take to prevent your home from catching and being damaged or destroyed in the event of a fire.
If you’re building a new home in a place like California, you’re required by state building codes to use fire-safe construction materials and ventilation solutions. But if you’re buying or already own a house in such an area, home hardening is an emergency-preparedness tactic you should take on yourself to protect your living space.
Thanks to the increasingly apparent effects of climate change, wildfires will only become more common. That’s why it’s wise to look into home hardening now, so you can be ready.
Who should invest in home hardening?
Again, anyone who lives in a wildfire-prone area should take action to harden their home. The WUI, or wildland-urban interface, is the primary region where home hardening is common practice.
The WUI refers to an area where the wildland, or wilderness, meets an urban, residential setting. The states with the highest number of houses in the WUI are California, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.
That’s the reason for the implementation of the California Building Code Chapter 7A, which requires new construction in the state to consist of fire-safe building materials. It’s in the best interest of homeowners and other residents of the area, and it’s generally required in order to be covered by insurance.
What are some recommended home-hardening measures?
Fortunately, plenty of research has been done in the field of home hardening. The California Fire Safe Council, the Forest Service, CAL FIRE, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) program Firewise, and other authorities offer a wealth of information for those in fire-prone areas.
Here are a few common home-hardening tactics you can employ to protect your home now.
Establish Defensible Space
Defensible space refers to a buffer zone that you can create around your home to minimize the risk of a traveling wildfire causing home ignition. If your yard is full of flammable materials like dry pine needles, for example, it’s likely to ignite in the event of a wildfire and bring the flames right to your doorstep. It’s crucial to take steps to try and prevent this from happening.
First, get rid of any dead vegetation and keep up with this task to prevent it from accumulating again. If you’re considering adding trees or shrubbery to your yard’s landscaping, follow recommendations for types and spacing.
Do use mulch to help your yard plants retain water, but keep it at a safe distance from your house. If you have a woodpile, give it at least 10 feet of dirt clearance in all directions—don’t stack it against the side of your home as many do. The aim of all of these practices is to prevent the existence of a fire ladder, which is a chain of combustible materials that aid in wildfire travel.
Creating defensible space on your property helps protect not just your home, but your neighbors’ homes too.
Take Proper Care of Your Gutters
Fire marshals also recommend adequate gutter care. First of all, it’s best to have all-metal gutters and gutter guards on your home. Vinyl or plastic gutters can easily melt and fall off if exposed to radiant heat or direct flame; metal gutters will not.
Even more important than the type of gutters, however, is what’s allowed to accumulate in them. Cleaning out your gutters regularly is key. If not, pine needles, twigs, dead leaves, and other combustible materials can build up there. In a wildfire situation, those materials are liable to ignite which can cause your home to catch quickly as well.
Whether you install new gutters or stick with your current ones, proper maintenance is the most important thing.
Get Fire-Safe Vents Installed
Most homes that catch fire during a wildfire were ignited by a flying ember. In other words, embers that travel in the wind are one of the biggest risks to the safety of your home in a wildfire situation, even if the flames are still miles away.
To account for this risk, installing fire-safe vents is your best defense. Vents like the ones we offer at Vulcan Vents—which passed the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) E 2886 for fire resistance—are specifically designed to protect your home from dangerous embers.
Here’s how our patented technology works. Let’s say an ember travels in the wind to your home. With regular vents, it would be able to enter there and potentially ignite your house. With fire-resistant vents like Vulcan’s, however, this dangerous possibility will be prevented. Vulcan Vents are made with a layer of ember-blocking metal mesh, and an inner layer of honeycomb matrix and intumescent coating that is designed to swell up and close when it detects dangerous temperatures.
During non-fire times, air will be able to flow freely through the vents to keep your home well-ventilated. But as soon as dangerous temperatures are registered by the vents, they’ll close up immediately to prevent any embers from getting in.
Getting a professional to retrofit your home with these types of vents is one of the best investments you can make for home survival in the event of a wildfire.
Home Hardening in California and Other Fire-Prone Areas
If you’re ready to take action to protect your home from wildfire risk, start with Vulcan Vents. Learn a bit more about how our vents work, then find an installation expert in your area who can get them added to your home now.
Take the first step toward a hardened home today.