Preparing Your Home

Home hardening involves addressing potential vulnerabilities to wildfires in order to make the house more fire resistant. Due to differences in type, construction date, and location, it is difficult to generalize higher risks to residential buildings. It is therefore crucial to identify the vulnerabilities of each building component so you can prioritize what needs to be done for your home. The diagram below illustrates which building components are most likely to ignite a fire.

In addition to building with appropriate materials, and maintaining your house regularly, you need to be aware of seemingly small details that can expose your home to embers.

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Vulnerabilities and recommendations at a glance

Below is a table summarizing the vulnerabilities and recommendations of each building component. For more information, click on each component.

Component

Vulnerability

Recommendations

Roof

 

Due to its large surface area, your roof is the part of your home most susceptible to embers. Complicated roofs, such as those that meet vertical walls or include dormers, present additional vulnerabilities since they could accumulate debris and embers.

Keep your roof clean by removing debris and vegetation regularly. Roof edges should be protected with metal flashing. Fill in gaps between the roof covering and the sheathing. Keep your roof in good condition and repair it when necessary.

Vents

 

Traditional vents are vulnerable to embers and flame impingement. Embers passing through foundation, roof, and attic vents could ignite flammable materials inside the house.

Replace 1/4” mesh vents with 1/8” metal mesh or install vents that meet new ember and flame resistance requirements. Regularly check vents for blockages. Keep combustible items away from vents both inside and outside your home.

Gutters

 

Leaves and needles can accumulate in the gutters, and ignite with embers. This could directly expose the roof edges and the under-eave to flame contact. Regularly check the gutters and keep them clean. Installing screens for the gutters might still require you to regularly clean the area since the leaves could accumulate along the fascia of the roof.

Eave

Depending on design, the eave overhang can allow embers to enter through under-eave attic vents. With open-eave construction, gaps between the rafter tails and the blocking are vulnerable to ember entry. With open-eave construction inspect eaves for gaps around rafter roof tails and blocking. Plug or caulk gaps. If possible, create a soffit where an open-eave design exists. Remove vegetation and combustible materials below eaves.

Deck

 

Materials under and on top of a deck's surface can ignite from embers or flame contact. Leaves and needles can accumulate in gaps between deck boards, creating ignition targets for embers. If a deck burns, other parts of the house will be exposed to flames for a long period of time.

 

Keep your deck clean by removing debris in between deck board gaps and on the deck. Ensure that no combustible materials are stored under or on top of the deck. Possibly use fire-resistant materials or coatings for the siding.

 

Windows

 

Flame contact and radiant heat could shatter the glass. Larger windows are more vulnerable than smaller windows. Vinyl windows could deform with radiant heat and create gaps in the window. Install or upgrade to multi-pane tempered glass windows. Remove vegetation immediately outside of the windows. For vinyl windows confirm there is a vertical or horizontal reinforcement bar.

Fence

 

Debris or vegetation in contact with the fence could ignite it. If made of combustible materials, fences in contact with the house walls could expose the building to flame impingement.

If possible, use fire-resistant materials for your fence. Clean vegetation and combustible materials in contact with the fence.

Garage

Chemicals and flammable materials are often stored in a garage. Often garages are not insulated and could have air leaks or gaps where embers could land.

Check your garage exterior walls and doors for air leakages. Consider installing fire-resistant vents, and remove combustible materials next to them.

Siding

 

Siding is vulnerable when exposed to flames or radiant heat for extended periods. Gaps and joints in siding can create places where flame penetration can occur. Poorly maintained or degraded siding is also vulnerable to flame penetration.

Along with the 5’ noncombustible horizontal zone, maintain a 6” noncombustible vertical zone between the ground (and other horizontal surfaces) and the start of the siding.

Inspect all siding and plug or caulk gaps and joints.