There are many factors to consider when designing your home, but if you are building a home in an area prone to wildfires, you have some added decisions to make. These decisions are very important since they could mean the difference between your home remaining safe during a wildfire, or burning down. Building your home with fire-resistant materials in an ideal location can greatly affect how safe your home will be.
Placement of Home
The placement of your home is the key in protecting your home from a wildfire. Certain areas are prone to wildfire, which means if you live in one of these areas, there’s a safe bet you’ll need to defend your home against a wildfire at some point. Since you know this ahead of time, you can work with your architect on placing your home in the best location possible. This usually means your home is not located in the immediate vicinity of a forest and there is a buffer zone between your home and any neighbors. If there is a water source located on your property, your home could easily be placed close to this area since water is a natural deterrent to fire.
After choosing the optimal placement of your home to deter against wildfires, you’ll have to design your landscaping to include a defensible space. This includes two areas around your home, zone one within 30 feet of your home and zone two within 100 feet from your home. Zone one needs to be clear of all types of combustibles, including vegetations and overgrown trees. Any trees or shrubs located in this area should be properly maintained and watered so that they are less likely to catch and spread fire. Zone two should also be properly maintained and spaced so that even if one plant were to catch fire, it wouldn’t spread to surrounding vegetation.
The materials used to build your home can also play a part in keeping your home safe from a wildfire. Since many homes catch on fire from windblown embers rather than direct contact with the wildfire, the roof is the first defense against combustion. Certain roofing materials are combustible, meaning they can catch fire, easily. Other roofing materials have been treated or designed out of materials that are fire-resistant or non-combustible. Some fire-resistant roofing materials include recycled rubber, metal, clay or slate roofing tiles. An architect can work with you to find the best roofing material that will protect your home and give it the look you desire.
Other building materials you should consider using when designing your home include fire-resistant siding and tempered glass windows. Your windows are an entry point for fires, and many windows and frames are not designed to withstand extreme heat. Windows built with tempered glass and fire-resistant frames are more likely to stand strong, despite immense heat, defending your home against wildfires. The exterior of your home should also be constructed with fire-resistant materials such as concrete, metal, brick, stone or stucco. Wood exteriors can also be treated so that the wood is more fire-resistant.
Maintaining your home after construction can help all of your planning work a little better. Keep your yard and the area surrounding your house free from debris such as dead plants and dried leaves. Trim and water your lawn often, so that the grass is less likely to spread the fire. Regularly clear any debris from your roof or gutters, including any nests a bird has built. If you have a deck, build it out of fire-resistant materials and make sure any objects or furniture stored on the deck are not easily combustible. Debris can also accumulate under your deck, so clear that area regularly, especially during wildfire season.
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Patrick Hubbell, AIA is the Founding Principal and owner at Summit Studio Architects. He founded Summit Studio in 1993 on the premise that Summit Studio would create truly innovative mountain homes meeting the unique needs of his clients. Pat has demonstrated an adept ability to express mountain architecture. Although continuing to be inspired by mountain architecture, he has also successfully expanded his practice and design vocabulary to meet the many needs of the surrounding regions in Colorado.