Wildfire Defense

Once again it is wildfire season in Colorado. Years of beetle kill have left an area, roughly the size of Rhode Island, of dead standing lodgepole pine in Colorado.

Property owners are ultimately responsibility to protect themselves and their property from the threat of wildfire. The two best methods of protecting your property is to build a defensible perimeter around your structures and build your structures with fire resistant building materials.

According to Colorado State University, your first defense against wildfire is to create and maintain a defensible space around your home. This does not mean your landscape must be barren. Defensible space is an area around a structure where fuels and vegetation are treated, cleared or reduced to slow the spread of wildfire toward or from the home and allow firefighters area to do their job.

No building materials are completely “fire proof”. However there are building materials that are highly fire resistant. A home’s roof is especially susceptible to wildfire since it typically is the largest exposed surface area of the home. Building materials are rated from Class C, the least fire resistant, to Class A, the most fire resistant.

Mineral reinforced asphalt shingles have a Class C fire resistance rating per International Building Code. The only benefit to mineral reinforced asphalt shingles is they are inexpensive. However, when asphalt shingle life-cycle costs are considered, including longevity among other factors, shingles are not the least expensive to own.

Metal roofing is lighter than asphalt shingle roofing, is sturdy and noncombustible. Additionally, it has a lower life cycle cost compared to all other roofing materials per analysis conducted by and presented by Ducker. Metal roofing is Class A per building code, however, not all metal roofing is equal.

Controlled tests were conducted per fire code rating methodology to compare fire resistance amongst roofing materials. The results of the test show a wide difference in fire resistance with 30 gauge steel shingles being the least fire resistant and 24 gauge steel being the most fire resistant by a factor of three. Common 30 gauge roofing includes exposed fastener systems such as corrugated and agricultural panels.

Standing seam metal roofing is made from steel, copper, zinc, aluminum and other metals. The standing seam metal roof panels are manufactured in continuous lengths, cut to span the distance between the ridge and eave without transverse seams. Standing seam metal roofs are considered maintenance free, unlike exposed fastener metal roofs that require maintenance.

Metal roofing is popular on mountain homes because of its aesthetics and durability. The system is typically manufactured from 24 gauge steel. The continuous lengths of SSMR panels and the gauge of the metal make it a wise and economical choice for topping a home in fire prone areas.