Construction, Design & Materials

Your house may be vulnerable to a wildfire because of its design, construction and/or location. When preparing to build, buy or remodel, the following tips can reduce the chance of your home catching fire or help it resist further damage if it does catch fire.

Location

  • Choose a site away from heavily vegetated areas.
  • Build on the most level portion of the property.
  • Avoid ridge tops, canyons and areas between high points on a ridge.
  • Construct your structure a minimum of 30 feet back from ridges or cliffs; increase the distance if your home will be more than one story.

Building Materials

  • Use Class A or B roofing materials such as asphalt shingles, slate or clay tile, or metal; wooden shake-shingle roofing.
  • Fire-resistive or noncombustible construction materials are essential for siding and walls. Use a minimum of Class III flame/spread-rated siding material; stone, brick and stucco are best.
  • Limit the length of roof eaves so that they do not extend beyond exterior walls. If the eaves are longer, enclose them with fire-resistive materials.
  • Foundations may come in contact with a spreading wildfire before other areas of the structure. Enclose foundations with concrete block, cement walls or other fire-resistive materials.
  • Minimize the size and number of windows on the downhill side of the house or the side most likely to be exposed to wildfire. Both size and materials used are crucial in windows and sliding-glass doors. Multi-paned glass or tempered glass is recommended.
  • Cover exterior attic, soffit and under-floor vents with metal wire mesh (openings no larger than one-eighth of an inch) to prevent sparks from entering structures through vents. Install eave and soffit vents closer to the roof line than to the walls.
  • Do not locate decks at the top of a hill; fires generally spread uphill. Enclose the undersides of balconies and decks with fire-resistive materials so that burning embers cannot accumulate.
  • Cover chimneys and stove pipes with a nonflammable screen (mesh openings no larger than one-half inch).

For a comprehensive guide to FireWise construction, location and materials, download: FireWise Construction: Site Design & Building Materials - 2012 (1.3 MB PDF)

Or, for specific construction topics, please see: