With wildfire becoming an increasingly common threat, it's only natural that many homeowners are investing in wildfire mitigation. That process is known as house hardening. Here, we discuss what house hardening is, how it works, and what you can do to protect your home from fire.
What is house hardening?
At its core, house hardening is a form of wildfire mitigation. It involves taking steps to reduce your home's fire risk and to increase your wildfire preparedness. It's essentially the act of taking steps toward fire prevention and also making sure that your home is as protected as possible if a wildfire does occur.
Depending on where your property is located, a wildland fire may or may not be at the top of your list of concerns. Still, everyone can benefit from making sure that their home is less of a fire hazard. With that said, homeowners and investors alike will be able to learn something from these fire protection techniques.
The three types of fire damage your home can sustain
Before we can get into sharing some practical techniques for how to harden your property against fire damage, it's important to understand the different types of damage a home can sustain:
- Direct flame: Direct flame is the type of fire that homeowners think about most often. However, it is actually fairly rare. In this case, the flames from the wildfire will come into direct contact with the property's systems and materials.
- Flying embers: What's more likely to cause damage to your home during a wildfire are flying embers. Here, burning embers get caught by the wind and travel to your home from the original source of the fire. After some time, ember penetration is what's likely to set your home ablaze.
- Radiant heat: Finally, radiant heat from a nearby structure that's on fire can also cause damage to your property.
Twelve ways to harden your home for fire prevention
In order to get a better idea of how you can build or renovate your property with fire prevention in mind, we've brought you some practical tips.
- Homes with wood or shingle roofs are at the highest risk for fire damage. Use materials like composite, metal, clay, or tile instead.
- Homeowners should also be sure to block any spaces between the roof decking and its covering to prevent ember penetration.
- Removing debris from the roof should also be one of your routine maintenance tasks.
Eaves and soffits
- Any eaves should be boxed in and protected with noncombustible material.
- Whenever possible, try to use fire-resistant vents.
- Cover your vent openings with metal mesh. Usually, 1/6- to 1/8-inch metal mesh will be sufficient.
- Choose dual-paned windows in order to reduce the chance of windows breaking from the heat of a fire and allowing burning embers inside.
- Install screens in all your windows to reduce your exposure to radiant heat.
- Consider limiting the number of windows by large trees or other vegetation.
- Choose materials such as stucco, fiber cement, or treated wood for your walls because they are more fire-resistant.
- In smaller spaces, consider replacing house siding with noncombustible materials.
Decks and patios
- If your deck is within 10 feet of your home, make sure it is built with noncombustible material.
- If you have a patio cover, that should be made out of ignition-resistant material as well.
- Choose rain gutters with a noncombustible metal drip edge and a noncombustible gutter cover for best results.
- Cover your fireplace openings and outlets with a nonflammable screen in order to prevent burning embers from entering your home. If possible, choose a screen with openings no bigger than half an inch.
- Be sure to close your chimney flue during fire season.
- Install a battery backup on your garage door opener so that it works in the event the power goes out.
- Put weather stripping along the perimeter of the garage door to prevent embers from penetrating the area.
- Carefully store any flammable liquids.
- Make sure that any fencing stays a decent distance away from your home.
- Consider choosing a noncombustible material for construction.
- Regularly maintain your landscaping to reduce the amount of vegetation that can catch fire.
- Consider investing in hoses that are long enough to reach all of the buildings on the property.
- Ensure that your address number can be easily read from the street.
- Make gates large enough for emergency vehicles to fit through.
The bottom line on house hardening
While no one likes to think about the possibility of their home catching on fire, it does happen, especially with the increasingly dangerous wildfires that keep spreading each season. Given that real estate is usually your biggest asset, it only makes sense that you would want to invest in fire prevention. To that end, use the tips listed above to help keep your property safe.