Definitive Guide to Building a Wildfire-Proof House

A lot of people start researching the topic of wildfires when creating defensible space around their homes. However, true natural disaster preparedness starts at the point when the house is being constructed.

The guide below contains detailed information for those who are looking for ways to build a wildfire-proof house, as well as useful advice for homeowners who wish to enhance the protection level of an existing building.

What Makes a House Wildfire-Proof?

House that remained safe in a wildfire

Wildfire-proof houses are constructed in a way that they don’t have to be reliant on the local fire department in the event of an emergency. The authorities don’t always have enough resources to support every household during the forest fire season, so your home should be built to survive on its own.

The main focal points when building disaster-resistant homes are as follows:

Location

While living in a picturesque area surrounded by trees and other vegetation may seem like an excellent idea, it’s vital to understand that it goes hand in hand with certain risks. For instance, building or buying a house in places with a wildfire history or in windy areas with a dry climate comes with the need of making the property disaster-proof as one of the top priorities.

Keep in mind that states like California, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, Idaho, and Montana have a long history of wildfires. Thus, if you are planning to reside there, take all the necessary precautions. Besides, if you or your family members are not as mobile, it’s worth considering choosing a location with a lower risk of fire danger.

Roof

A roof burnt during a house fire

One of the most critical parts of disaster-proof homes is the roof. Here are some important guidelines to follow during its construction:

  • Ensure your house has a non-combustible or “Class-A” roof.
  • Enclose the spaces between the roof decking and covering.
  • Screen the gutters and clean them regularly to prevent the accumulation of debris.
  • Cover all chimney and stovepipe outlets with a metal screen with openings no smaller than ⅜ -inch and no larger than ½ -inch or an approved spark arrestor cap.
  • Keep the roof cleared from debris at all times.
  • Avoid wood, shingle, and shake roofs, as they are highly flammable. Use composition, metal, or tile roof material instead.
  • Cover eaves using fiber cement board or ⅕ -inch, high-grade plywood. You can also fill the gaps under open eaves with caulk to prevent attic fires.

House Exterior

The general recommendations when it comes to constructing the exterior of disaster-resistant houses include:

  • Opting for fire-resistant decks instead of combustible wood and wood-plastic ones.
  • Keeping the decks and spaces underneath them clear of flammable materials like leaves, pine needles, and so on.
  • Choosing double-pane windows with tempered glass over single-pane ones.
  • Avoiding using wooden construction materials for shingles and panels. Use non-combustible materials, such as stucco, fiber cement, or treated wood from the foundation to the roof.
  • Covering all vents with ⅛ inch or smaller metal mesh or using ember-resistant vents.
  • Storing flammable materials far away from ignition sources like propane tanks.
  • Never stacking firewood closer than 100 feet from the house.
  • Avoiding connecting a wooden fence to the home’s exterior walls. The sections adjacent to the walls should be made of metal so that the fire would have an obstacle on the way to the building.

Driveway

Wildfire close to a private property

It’s essential for the driveway to provide proper access for the fire engine in the event of an emergency. Here’s how to ensure that it’s designed correctly:

  • Build the driveway in a way that it’s wide enough for a fire engine to turn around.
  • Keep the driveway clear of vehicles, debris, and any other obstacles.
  • Ensure that the gates along the driveway open inward and are not blocked by anything.
  • Trim the vegetation and overhanging trees within 10 feet on both sides of the driveway.
  • Use large, contrasting, reflective address signs with 6-inch numbers within 10 feet of the street, visible from both directions 24 hours a day.

Garage

If the house you are planning to buy or build will have a garage, make sure it fits the following guidelines:

  • It can close securely and has weatherstripping installed around the door.
  • Automatic garage door openers are disconnected so that the doors can be opened manually or ensure that there’s a garage door battery backup that would remain functional even during a power outage.

Water Supply 

When planning the construction of a disaster-proof house or upgrading an existing property, don’t forget to ensure that it has a sufficient water supply. Here’s what you can do:

  • Purchase garden hoses that are long enough to reach every corner of the property.
  • Get freeze-proof exterior water faucets on at least two sides of the house and other structures on the property.
  • Know the fire hydrants’ location in your neighborhood and ensure they are maintained properly.
  • Be aware of the nearest bodies of water like ponds, lakes, and so on.

Additional Measures to Stay Protected from Wildfires

A wooden house affected by a forest fire

Building or buying a wildfire-proof house in high-risk areas is extremely important, as it has the power to save lives in extreme situations. Apart from ensuring that the construction of the building aims to mitigate the hazards associated with wildfire, you should also perform the following actions:

Following the advice listed above when maintaining the property will enable you to create a protected environment and stay safe.