A Metal Roof and More Can Help Prevent Fire Catastrophes

Installing a standing seam metal roof system on your home can help prevent fire catastrophes – especially if you live in a high risk fire prone area.

A lot of expensive real estate went up in smoke last month in Colorado as wildfires destroyed or damaged more than 1,000 homes in some of the state’s wealthiest neighborhoods.  Nearly every one of those properties was in Colorado’s most combustible woodlands—all of them clearly rated as high-fire danger red zones. Home with standard roof destroyed by wild fires.

More than 100,000 people have moved into these zones in the last decade. Today, one in four of the state’s homes are located in areas that for centuries have contained fire-prone forests.  And yet, people continue to build in them.


Why? Because when you look at the entire U.S. residential fire problem every year with 350,000 to 400,000 fire incidents, the loss of a 1,000 or more homes in combustible woodlands is not a big concern to the insurance companies that insure loss, the big banks that write mortgages and the realtors who rely on the insurance companies and banks to make deals.  So as long as the insurance companies will pay to replace structures and contents, homeowners will build and rebuild high end homes in these markets.House with an asphault roof destroyed by fire.

That leaves the architects and the owners themselves to plan and maintain dwellings that are resistant to fire.  Nearly every fire authority on earth agrees that the best defenses against wildfire are a fire resistant roof and the quality of the defensible space around the house.  Wildfires spread when airborne firebrands are carried by the wind and make contact with easily ignitable materials.  Experts know you can drop a flaming one by two foot piece of lumber on a roof and it will take a long time to ignite. But multiple firebrands carried by the wind that find ignitable material in a vulnerable part of the house can cause far more damage, far more quickly.

Homeowners can take care of removing most of these materials and architects can help by designing against these vulnerabilities. How you ask?
First you homeowners…. Get rid of wood and shake shingled roofs and replace them with a standing seam metal roof.   Make sure that ground fuel like dry grass, leaves, pine needles dead limbs and twigs within 30 feet of your house are removed along with flammable vegetation.  Get rid of dry mulch. Clean out your gutters frequently to remove potential fuel like leaves, twigs and pine needles. Better yet, switch out your existing gutters for a gutter or leaf protection system that diverts debris and only allows water into the gutter trough.

Architects can do a lot to reduce exposure as well.  How?  They can specify a Class “A” fire resistant roofing material during the design phase.  A standing seam metal roof assembly will get the Class “A” designation, and the modern PVDF Kynar coatings applied to the standing seam metal roofing material now meet  the ASTM E-84 Building Materials test with a zero Flame Spread Index and zero Smoke Developed Index.

Tile roofing material is often seen as a suitable fire resistant alternative but it is not as effective or as durable as a standing seam metal roof.  In fact, you need to be very careful when specifying terra cotta Spanish tiles because they are installed with gaps to provide ventilation. These gaps can become a repository for leaves and pine needles and right below them are the sub sheathing or open framing that might ignite.Home protected from fires by Englert metal roof.

There are a myriad of other structural areas not related to a metal roof that a good architect will address.  Decking, window boxes, dormers, shutters and the chimney are areas that can be redesigned to reduce the possibility of fire ignition. But remember, the installation of a metal roof system is a key factor when it comes to fire protection.

So, if you are planning to build a home in an area where wildfire historically has a presence, find an architect who will give you a great design that balances fire safe practices and aesthetics.

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