You don’t have to experience a wildfire in your area to want to safeguard your home from danger. Some homeowners may believe they’ve properly fireproofed their homes only to be rudely awoken when a fire does occur. How do you fireproof your home the right way?
Here are the top tips for safeguarding your home from fire:
- Rebuild your fence and deck
- Upgrade home address numbers
- Keep your gutters clean
- Trim your trees
- Bulk up your insurance
- Get rid of mulch
- Remove kindling from property
- Use metal screen for chimney
- Add metal window frames
Are some of these home changes and additions the cheapest thing ever? The answer is no, which you’d recall if you read our post on how much it costs to fireproof your home. That said, each of these changes is worth it. Keep reading to learn more about why that is so you can begin game-planning for fireproofing your own home!
Table of Contents
1. Rebuild Your Fence and Deck
Wooden fences are always trendy for residential properties because they’re inexpensive and easy to install. However, wood is also very flammable.
Even if a fire didn’t start on your property, a wooden fence could quickly become engulfed and spread the fire nearer to your home. If you had another fence material, the risk wouldn’t be so great.
Wooden decks aren’t different. Wood may be the standard when building decks, but it’s susceptible to warping, rotting, and, yes, easily catching alight.
It’s not going to be a low-cost endeavor to rip out your fencing and deck and start afresh. You might feel downtrodden to do so, especially if your deck and/or fence are new or otherwise still in good condition.
Unless these home additions are built using flame-resistant materials, then you can never rest easy at night knowing your home is as fireproof as it can be. That makes the replacements worth their weight in gold!
2. Upgrade Your Home’s Address Numbers
This might seem like a small, almost meaningless thing to do, but you’d be surprised!
If you call the fire department to report a fire on 23 Cherry Lane, then when the fire trucks drive down Cherry Lane, they need to be able to find you fast, as every second counts in a fire.
Faded numbers will make it nearly impossible for the firefighters to discern between 22 and 23, which wastes precious time.
To determine if your home address numbers need an upgrade, walk out into the middle of your street (when it’s safe to do so, of course), and look at your home. Can you read the numbers clearly, or are you having a hard time?
If you’re struggling to see your address numbers, then you can trust that anyone else is going to struggle too. Buy a fresh set of numbers.
You might also consider affixing a lamp or light source over the numbers and turning on the light at night. This way, if a fire occurs after dark, the firefighters will still be able to easily find your property.
3. Keep Your Gutters Clean
Cleaning your gutters is admittedly an unenviable task, so it’s one that homeowners put off until the last second.
It’s not only for the proper functioning of your gutters that it’s worthwhile to clean the gutters. It’s also to fireproof your home!
How so, we’re sure you’re wondering? Well, the leaves that get jammed into your gutters will begin breaking down between autumn and winter. By the time spring arrives, the small particles that were once leaves will dry out further.
Those small, dry particles are very flammable. It wouldn’t take much at all for the entire gutter to go up in smoke.
The proximity of the gutters to the rest of your home should have you going outside and cleaning your gutters immediately if you haven’t recently. Make sure you stay on top of this task, cleaning them at least twice a year.
4. Trim Your Trees
Trees are lovely to look at, as they add gorgeous greenery to your property and lend you more privacy. At the end of the day, trees are also fire hazards, so you should tread carefully if you have trees on your property.
What happens if the tree closest to your home gets struck by lightning? How damaging would that be? If you keep your trees neat, then the answer is not very.
First of all, you don’t want any branches of your tree lingering over your gutters. The leaves will deposit into the gutters, and you already know that’s a fire risk.
You should also trim any branches over the roof or power lines. If the branches get ensnarled by power lines, or if the power lines receive a sudden jolt like during a storm, the whole tree could begin burning.
Branches that hover over your home’s roof could cause a roof collapse if the tree gives way and your roof is old. That’s not a fire risk but a general house risk.
As for all the other branches on the tree, they should be three times taller than shrubs on your property and six feet from ground level.
If you’re not comfortable trimming trees yourself, you can always call a professional service and let them take care of it.
5. Bulk Up Your Insurance Plan
Although insurance won’t do anything to fireproof your home, per se, it’s always a nice feeling to know that your insurance will kick in and pay for significant fire damage if it were to occur.
Review your current homeowner’s insurance plan. Does it include any kind of fire protection? If not, contact your insurance provider and ask if you can add a fire protection plan to your existing policy.
Otherwise, now is a great time to switch insurance providers so your plan amply protects your property from fire damage.
Some insurance protections you might add include personal liability insurance, additional living expenses, extended replacement costs, personal property, and dwelling protection.
Personal liability coverage will chip in for property damage and/or bodily injury if you’re liable for the fire. Additional living expenses coverage will help you rebuild if your home was badly damaged by fire and is now uninhabitable.
An extended replacement cost policy adds coverage at a rate of up to 150 percent of the policy limit for your home after a loss like a fire. A personal property plan safeguards your possessions while dwelling protection helps with paying for the house damages.
6. Keep Access Roads and Driveways Available
Many homeowners get caught up in protecting their homes, which is great, but have you thought about how the fire department would access your home?
Fire trucks are burly vehicles, but they have no greater tires than any other commercial vehicle on the road. That means driving up your lawn to get to your home is not something the fire department will do unless they have absolutely no other option.
Ideally, the fire department wants to arrive via access roads and your driveway. If neither is accessible, then the fire department now has a harder job to do.
They must find water hookups and hope they have a long enough hose to reach the blaze from where they have to park.
As often as you can, keep these parts of your property clear so that the fire department can easily access your home. They’ll be able to do their job more expediently.
7. Get Rid of Mulch on Your Property
Mulch is a convenient landscaping solution but could also be a fire risk. Organic mulch materials such as pine needles and wood chips will easily catch fire, giving the fire a path to spread to your home.
If you must use these flammable landscaping materials, at least make sure those areas of the mulch are further back than five feet from your property.
To be on the safe side, you’re better off replacing all mulch with materials such as bricks, rocks, and pavers, which are non-combustible.
8. Remove Kindling
Keeping your yard clean will also behoove you as part of your fireproofing plan. All debris has got to go, including dying or dead vegetation, branches, and kindling.
Put this stuff in trash bags and compost it or recycle it if you want, but don’t keep it on your property. It’s all highly flammable!
9. Use Metal Chimney Screens
Homeowners with chimneys need to take extra precautions; that also applies to properties with stovepipe outlets.
These openings need a non-flammable screen affixed to the top. The best material for the screen is metal.
The size of the metal screen openings matters, so shop carefully. If the openings are bigger than half an inch, then embers from the chimney or stovepipe can jump out and begin a fire on your property.
If the openings are smaller than 3/8 inches, the embers can get trapped, making your chimney or stovepipe a literal hotbed for fire.
10. Install Metal Window Frames
New windows aren’t cheap, but yours likely warrant a replacement as you go about fireproofing the house.
Single-pane windows are especially dangerous in a wildfire. The windows aren’t as strong as dual-pane windows. Between the heat and the fire, single-pane windows can crack and/or melt as the fire rages.
Double-pane windows will better safeguard your property so you can enjoy greater peace of mind. You’ll also appreciate the increased sound-insulating properties of double-pane windows.
The framing of your new windows should be metal, never plastic or wood. As we established, plastic can easily melt, and wood is highly flammable.
Although metal window frames aren’t as appealing as the alternatives (at least not to most homeowners), they’re the safest.
11. Replace the Walls and Roof with Fire-Resistant Materials
Do you know what materials were used to construct your home? If not, then it’s time to go back to the original blueprints and learn.
Let’s start with the wall siding, as it’s usually built from flammable materials such as wood boards or panels. Your shingles may also be wood, and when these parts of your home ignite, you and your family are in a very perilous situation.
Wooden roof panels are just as bad and can wreak as much havoc.
No one wants to undergo major home reconstruction like these jobs require, but these are arguably the most significant changes you can make if you want a fireproof home.
Fire-retardant wood, fiber cement, and stucco are all excellent replacement materials, as each is exceptionally ignition-resistant.
At least once you have a new roof, you won’t have to worry about replacing it for another 30 years or so. Your siding might even be good for life depending on the material you select!
12. Protect Soffits and Eaves
While taking care of the upper part of your home, don’t forget the eaves and soffits. Both must be protected from fires using metal boxes or another ignition-resistant material.
Once you take care of those tasks, you can rest assured that your roof and surrounding structures are in the best shape they can be.
13. Cover Vent Openings
Last but certainly not least are your home vents.
Vents are excellent for providing airflow throughout your home, but during a fire, embers can easily enter and exit through the vents, creating the potential for a fire to spread.
Flame-resistant vent covers made of metal mesh will protect your home. Again, the mesh opening size is important, with a recommended size between 1/16 and 1/8 inches.
Fireproofing your home the right way is not cheap, nor is it fast and easy. It’s efficient though, and that’s what matters. Making these changes will give you the greatest peace of mind that you and your family are truly safe from fire.
You don’t have to roll out all these home improvements right away unless you want to but do plan a timeline for the work to be done. You never know when a fire can occur, after all!