Fire Prevention And Your Roof
A fire in your home could prove costly or, even worse, deadly. Fire is among the most terrifying and unpredictable of disasters that could happen to your home. There is no way to fully protect your home from fire, but there are some ways to keep it a little safer. The first line of defense against fire is a high-performance roof in good working condition. Here’s what you need to know about fire prevention for your roof.
How Homes Ignite
Homes ignite in one of three ways: embers/firebrands, radiant heat exposure, or direct flame contact. An example of an ember ignition is when wind-blown embers accumulate on combustible materials such as a wood shake roof. An untreated wood shake or shingle roof covering is the greatest threat to a home.
Take these steps to protect your roof and home from fire damage:
Leaves, branches, and twigs can accumulate on your roof with time. As the heat of summer progresses, these materials can dry out, which creates a serious potential fire hazard. Be sure to clean your roof of any dry materials that have collected periodically. Keeping an area clear of debris is one of the more important steps of fire prevention.
Keep your property clear of clutter.
Don’t store dry wood or other debris close to your home. Dry wood can act as fuel in the event of a fire, causing fire to spread quickly throughout your home.
Repair damaged shingles right away.
Not only is it good to maintain the structure of your roof, repairing damaged shingles is a great way to prevent fire from spreading quickly on your roof. Damaged areas are vulnerable points, so any time your roof is damaged, it is important to have it inspected and repaired as soon as possible.
Install a fire-resistant roof.
One of the most important things you can do to protect your home is to invest in fire-resistant roofing materials. Fortunately, you don’t have to invest in clay tiles or a metal roof to get a fire-resistant roof thanks to the innovations of modern roof manufacturing. Your roof replacement professional can walk you through the options and discuss fire resistance when installing a new roof.
Fire Resistant Roofing Materials
This natural stone tile is beautiful, durable, and non-combustible. However, slate is also an extremely heavy material, so you have to make sure your roof can support the weight. Slate tile is expensive and requires specialized knowledge for proper installation.
Clay tile is another non-combustible option. It’s a popular choice for Southwestern, mission, or Spanish-style architecture. However, for optimal fire protection, it requires a bit of upkeep, particularly the barrel-shaped tiles. This is because there can be gaps between the underlayment and the tile sheathing. If these gaps aren’t plugged, embers can get blown in, bypassing the Class A protection of the tiles, and spread to the structural support beams.
Concrete tiles, like clay, are noncombustible. They can be a superb choice in terms of durability, fire resistance, and cost-effectiveness. Today’s concrete tiles come in many colors, finishes, and shapes for an attractive look to your roof. Like clay tiles, they must install correctly a concrete tile roof. Like clay, regular inspection by your roofer for misplaced tiles or other problems will help it keep its maximum fire resistance.
Fiberglass-based asphalt shingles provide excellent fire protection when they’re installed with a fire-resistant underlayment. They’re relatively inexpensive, but also require more upkeep than other options.
Roof covering fire ratings are Class A, B, C, or unrated. Class A provides the best performance for fire prevention. Common Class A roof coverings include asphalt fiberglass shingles, concrete, and flat tiles. Some materials have a “by assembly” Class A fire rating so they must use additional materials between the roof covering and sheathing to attain that rating. Examples of roof coverings with a “by assembly” fire rating include aluminum, recycled plastic and rubber, and some fire-retardant wood shake products.
If your home is in a wildfire-prone area and your roof is unrated or old, we recommend you install a Class A fire-rated roof.
Skylights Can Be An Entry Point
Skylights typically cover a small portion of the roof, but they can still provide an entry point for wildfire. Flat skylights contain tempered glass. Domed skylights have a plastic outer shell, usually with an inner layer of flat glass. In domed skylights that can be opened, they sometimes use screening instead of the flat glass layer.
If you have an operable skylight, make sure it is closed during a wildfire in order to avoid the entry of burning embers. None of these configurations could pass a standard Class A fire exposure test used to evaluate roofing materials.
To understand the potential vulnerability of your skylights, consider the slope of the roof, the location of nearby combustible materials, and the location of accumulated debris on and around the skylights. If your roof has a steep pitch, the skylight would receive more radiant heat from nearby burning vegetation or buildings, and glass may break or plastic deform.
As always, it is better to keep debris cleared away from the skylight. Debris can also accumulate at the edge of skylights. If that debris were to ignite, then the materials and connections at the roof-to-skylight intersection would be vulnerable, so it is important to clear debris regularly. Vegetation management should also be part of your solution. Overhanging tree branches should be removed since a broken branch could fall and break the skylight.
Rain Gutters Are Also Vulnerable
Burning debris in the gutter will provide a flame contact exposure to the edge of the roof. The most important thing you can do for the gutter is to keep it clear of debris. Embers can readily ignite this debris during a wildfire.
The material that they make the gutter from is less important. A metal gutter will stay in place while the debris burns and the resulting flames will impinge on the edge of your roof.
The vulnerability of the roof edge will depend on materials used and how well the flashing if used, protects the edge. On the other hand, a vinyl gutter will quickly melt, detach, and fall to the ground. The burning debris will fall with it and continue to burn on the ground. Once on the ground, the roof edge is no longer exposed to flames, but combustible siding may be, particularly if the ground cover can easily ignite.
The problem with gutters is that debris can accumulate in them. Keep debris out of them, and the problem goes away. Again, this is the most important step for fire prevention. Inspection and removal of debris in gutters should be done before fire season and as necessary thereafter. Since debris can be blown in from surrounding areas, a good vegetation management plan around your property can reduce the accumulation of debris in gutters.
A pre-evacuation task that would ease the problem of some debris accumulation in a gutter would be to plug the downspouts and fill the gutter with water.
Gutter Cover Devices
Given the potential problems with gutters, why not just do away with them? Well, properly installed and maintained gutters and downspouts play an important moisture-management role for a building by collecting and moving water to where it will not have a negative impact on the foundation and crawl space.
Several gutter cover devices are commercially available. These products are intended to limit the accumulation of debris in the gutter and allow for the free flow of water into and out of them. These devices either cover the gutter with a solid material or screen or fill the gutter with a foam material.
There is variability in the cover devices, including those that: 1. incorporate a screen that completely covers the gutter, 2. incorporate a solid, thin metal sheet that covers the gutter but has an opening at the outside edge to allow water to enter, or 3. use a hybrid metal cover design. The solid, thin metal cover relies on the surface tension of water, releasing from the rounded metal edge of the cover to drop into the gutter. The porous foam devices allow water to enter and flow through the gutter while excluding debris larger than the pores.
If you are looking for the best fire protection you can get on your roof, call us at 636-699-0449 and we will get you started today.