7 Ways to Help Protect Your Home from Wildfires
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7 Ways to Help Protect Your Home from Wildfires

Jun 01, 2023

Keep in mind that the space between the ground and the house is an area likely to collect embers during a fire. If your existing home has combustible siding like cedar or vinyl, you’ll need at least a 6-inch portion from the ground up built with a product that won’t burn, such as concrete.

Roofs made of concrete or clay tile, fiberglass asphalt composition shingles or metal are the most fire resistant, according to the retrofit guide. A cedar shake roof gets the worst rating for fire. If you’re retrofitting an existing roof to try and fend off fire damage, Ruthroff says a roofer will need to determine whether your roof can handle the weight of concrete or other tiles. ​

Regardless of roof type, make sure to check for spaces (like between the roof and the eaves) where rodents or birds might have literally squirreled away debris — which can easily ignite. This material can compromise your roof’s fire rating. ​

Vents from attics, gables or under the eaves are a prime spot for embers to creep in. “Ninety percent of homes are ignited by embers. Most people have a big wall of fire in their heads when they imagine this, but embers can come from miles away,” Watt says. He recommends putting a screen with 1/8-inch openings over vents. “Take a golf tee, and if it goes through the screen’s hole, it’s too big,” he says. ​

Extreme heat from a wildfire will cause glass to break. Tempered glass windows, which are heat treated, will “shatter in place and shatter at a higher temperature when exposed to fire,” Ruthroff says.​

Besch was lucky — he had home insurance that helped him rebuild. But that’s not the case for many homeowners, Ruthroff says. Even if your insurance covers rebuilding post-fire, "make sure you have enough insurance money to rebuild a home at today’s value,” he says. ​

A standard homeowners policy should cover wildfire destruction and damage to your home and outbuildings, according to the Insurance Information Institute. The policy should also cover your belongings and reimburse you for living expenses while you’re displaced. Check your auto insurance in regard to any vehicle damage. ​

One thing to be aware of: Because wildfires have become so prevalent, many insurers are dropping coverage. This has sent consumers running to options such as the FAIR Plan, a pool of insurers that provides basic fire insurance for high-risk properties. Unfortunately, this option can be expensive and may provide only limited coverage. ​ ​​

Stacey Freed is a contributing writer who covers remodeling, construction, lifestyle issues, education and pets. Her work has appeared in USA Today, Real Simple and This Old House. ​​

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