Home Upgrades to Further Protect Against Wildfire
After addressing the critical home prep, this group of exterior home improvements will add an additional level of protection against flame exposure during a wildfire. These home hardening actions are more cost-effective to complete during new construction but can be retrofitted during renovations.
Wildfire Ready Home Prep Guide
Know what steps will significantly improve the likelihood of your home’s survival.
1) Enclose underside of eaves
Because of their geometry, radiant heat can build up in an open eave and ignite exposed materials. Flames from nearby fuels such as a shed or vegetation can also ignite eaves.
- Enclose eaves on the underside by installing noncombustible or ignition-resistant soffits (e.g., a noncombustible siding material) or 2-inch or thicker lumber.
- Remember, eave vents should be ember resistant or include no larger than 1/8-inch or finer metal wire mesh.
2) Cover gutters
Tree debris can collect in gutters providing fuel for embers to land on and ignite. When ignited, this debris could expose the fascia, roof, and attic to flames. While regularly cleaning gutters can also address this vulnerability, adding gutter covers reduces maintenance.
- Install noncombustible gutter guards.
- Ensure gutter guards are clear of tree debris. Depending on the type of cover that was installed, some require little to no maintenance.
3) Move structures farther away from your home
Burning sheds, pergolas, playsets, and other structures increase the risk to a home because of the additional radiant heat, flames, and embers produced. Moving these accessory structures farther away better protects the home.
- Move structures like sheds, pergolas, playsets, and other outbuildings at least 30 feet away from your home.
4) Upgrade windows and doors
During a wildfire, windows and doors are susceptible to flames. Upgrading windows and doors can help keep flames from entering and igniting materials inside the home.
- Replace all exterior windows with tempered, multipaned glass or fire-resistant glass blocks.
- Upgrade to solid exterior doors that have a metal threshold and are constructed with a noncombustible or ignition-resistant material such as metal, fiberglass or solid hardwood.
- If you choose a door that includes glass, make sure it is made with tempered, multipaned glass.
- Alternatively, install a noncombustible storm door as the outermost door.
5) Install noncombustible siding
Radiant heat, embers, and flames can ignite combustible siding. While the 6-inch vertical noncombustible zone protects against embers, replacing all combustible siding provides greater protection against flames and radiant heat. Flames can spread across combustible siding to reach other vulnerable areas—like windows and eaves—and can begin a cascade of damage.
- Replace combustible siding including wood, wood-fiber, or vinyl siding with a noncombustible material like concrete-fiber board, stucco, brick, or stone veneer.
6) Enclose under bay windows
The geometry of ground-level bay windows traps heat which can ignite the home. Embers can also collect under ground-level bay windows and ignite tree debris.
- Enclose the area underneath a ground floor bay window with an exterior wall and noncombustible siding.
7) Build a fire-resistant deck
Attached decks made from combustible material are vulnerable to ignition and can be a pathway to carry fire to your home. Eliminating the combustible material reduces this risk.
- When building a new deck, use metal joists and a fire-resistant walking surface like a lightweight concrete, aluminum, or fire-rated composite deck material.
- When retrofitting an existing deck, use noncombustible materials like metal (aluminum or steel), stone veneer, or a lightweight concrete to:
- Ensure the bottom 6 inches of posts are noncombustible.
- Select noncombustible hand railings especially in the first 5 feet attached to the home.
- Choose a solid (no gap), noncombustible walking surface, including the stairs.
8) Remove back-to-back fencing
Back-to-back fences can trap debris between them, creating a susceptible fuel bed for embers to ignite both fences. The two fences together provide greater fuel for a more intense fire.
- If you and your neighbor(s) have separate, parallel fences that are less than 5 feet apart, work with your neighbor to remove any sections of back-to-back fencing.
9) Improve fire-fighting capabilities
When there is an emergency you will want to make sure emergency services personnel can quickly locate your home to render services.
Provide proper address identification
- Choose numbers that are 4 inches on a contrasting background and/or reflective or illuminated.
- Place address numbers so that they are visible from the street and from both directions of travel.
- Create a driveway clearance of at least 12 feet wide and 13.5 feet tall.
- If the property is gated, gates should open inward and be placed at least 30 feet from the roadway.
10) Work with your neighbors and community
Communities are growing and homes in suburban neighborhoods are built in close proximity. This makes working with neighbors vital. No matter how well-prepared your home may be, it is not immune to fire if your neighbor’s house catches fire. What your neighbor has on their property will likely affect what will happen to yours.
- Talk to your neighbors about wildfire, what you’ve proactively done and how they can make improvements.
- Work with community-organized fire safe councils to help spread the message and prepare for wildfire at scale.
Wildfire Prepared Home
If you reside in California and have completed all critical home prep, you can apply for a designation to receive a certificate to show your insurer.