We understand that fires are one of the most unpredictable hazards that can happen in a home. We also understand that no one can prepare for everything that could come at them in life, but we like to think that these few tips on how to help prevent roof fires and fire damage could potentially save some sanity. These are not foolproof techniques that guarantee that no fire will happen in your home, but they are necessary steps that help decrease your risk for a roof fire and should be taken into consideration when inspecting or installing your roof.
Many may think that their roof is only the finishing touches that they need for their home, however, that’s not true. Your roof protects you, your family and everything that you own and is an essential piece to your home. If your roof becomes damaged, however, then it is not going to be able to provide that much-needed protection. As a homeowner, you should remember that roof fires can seriously damage homes and is an extreme threat to you. Fires often start without warning, as most attics do not come with a smoke detector installed. Let’s talk about how you as a homeowner can take the proper steps necessary to protect yourself, and your home from fire and the damage that comes with it. Here are the most important tips for preventing roof fires and limiting the potential damage caused by a roof fire:
Keeping Your Chimney Clean
If your home has a fireplace, then perhaps one of the most important steps you can take towards preventing roof fires is to clean your chimney regularly. Over time, a combustible layer of material known as creosote will start to form inside the chimney, which can easily catch fire if ignited by a spark. Creosote is simply a dark brown or black flammable tar which is deposited from wood smoke on the walls of your chimney. During the wintertime, your fireplace is used quite often, therefore, this material can build up quite frequently and leave open the possibility for a fire. It is highly recommended that your chimney is cleaned at least once a year before the start of winter so you can avoid any future fire damage.
Inspect Electrical Wiring / Leaky Roof
Electrical wiring is the leading cause of attic and roof fires. Usually, the number of cases of these fires is higher in the months where there is an increased use of light and heating appliances. It’s highly recommended having your electrical wiring inspected by a professional, especially if your home is an older home, or if you suspect that your home may have faulty wiring. We suggest that you keep a lookout for signs of flickering bulbs and light fixtures that unexpectedly fail to turn on. The reason is that these problems can be caused by burned wires in your attic and one wrong spark could be problematic.
Roof leak repairs should also be a major priority since water damage is a potential fire hazard. Roof leaks can lead to electrical malfunctions in the attic as well as leading to wire shorting issues. Many may expect the wires that are protected by junction boxes and insulation materials to be completely safe, however, that is definitely not the case. It is possible that water can seep around the hinges of a junction box or insulation clumps when left exposed to water. Be aware that if a live wire comes in contact with water, it can cause a spark and ignite the materials around it. So make sure you have any signs of water damage inspected by a certified roof inspector.
You may see ceiling insulation and might automatically think that having ceiling insulation is a fire hazard. Well, this isn’t necessarily the case, fire hazards in the ceiling are not caused by the insulation itself, however, it is caused by the way it was installed or the way an electrical cable was installed alongside the pre-existing insulation. When you’re getting your roof or ceiling inspected, investigators would look to see if your roofing material property is lacking sufficient insulation around the vent pipe for generators. Roof fires can be caused by a lack of sufficient insulation around the vent pipe and when that happens, the heat coming from the vent pipes deteriorates the roofing material over time. In return, in combination with high winds, an event like this would ignite a fire causing critical fire damage to your roof and home. A roofing contractor should ensure that your ceiling insulation is not fitted too close to a heat source, which will also ensure your home’s fire resistance.
Choose a Fire Resistant Roofing Material
Before choosing a fire resistant roofing material, you should understand what it means to have a fire resistant roof. Roofing materials are categorized to their relative fire resistance because it helps roofing contractors distinguish the safety level of the different fireproof materials. Depending on how flammable your roof is will determine how much fire damage a roof can withstand, therefore, the type of roofing material you choose is critical when thinking about the fire resistance of your roof and home. Roofing materials come in different fire resistant classes, with Class A being the most fire resistant.
Depending on your roofing material, it will determine how flammable your roof is and how much fire damage it can withstand. Roofing materials come in different fire retardant classes, with unrated or C being the lowest class, and Class A being the most fire resistant. If your roof is getting up there in years and it’s almost time for a replacement, then make sure that your new roof is installed with Class A roofing materials. If you live in an area that is prone to wildfires, then you should also consider a fire resistant underlayment. Your local roofing contractor will be able to let you know what your options are and what material will be best for your roof and safety.
Now you may be wondering what are the most fire resistant roofing materials. The resistance to fire for roofing materials is rated based on a series of test that is defined by a fire rating. A reliable roofer will be able to find the right option to match your style and budget while maintaining your safety. There are a few different materials on the market that are effective in withstanding fire damage.
Before getting into the different fire resistant roofing materials, we should understand how the fire ratings work first. Knowing what the fire rating for roofs is about will help you better understand when choosing the right fire resistant material for your roof. As mentioned before fire ratings for roofing materials are classified as either Class A, Class B, Class C or are unrated if a roofing material cannot meet the requirements for any of the classifications. Class A is the highest fire rating, offering the highest fire resistance, and unrated being the worst. Examples of Class A roof coverings include concrete or clay roof tiles, fiberglass asphalt composition shingles, slate, and metal roofs. An example of an unrated roof covering is an untreated wood shake roof. If wood shakes and shingles are saturated with fire retardant chemicals, they meet the requirements for a Class B fire rating and can meet a Class A rating if additional materials are included in the roof’s assembly.
A standard fire test is used to determine the fire rating of a roof covering material. This test evaluates the following performances:
- Flame penetration through the roof covering into the attic space
- Flame spread over the surface of the roof covering
- And the propensity for the roof covering to become dislodged and generate embers.
Metal roofing is made of a material that does not ignite when on fire with a fire resistant barrier with a Class A protection. Most metal roofs are made of steel, zinc, copper, and alloys that are best for a dry environment. The benefit of metal tiles is that they are non-corrosive and sit strong on houses with a steep slope. If you have the budget, metal sheets can be designed to look like cedar shake or other materials while maintaining its fire resistant properties. Metal roofing is one of the few roofing materials that are truly fire resistant.
Concrete / Clay Roof Tiles
Clay is inherently fire resistant and can easily disperse heat. When the material is installed properly it achieves a Class A fire safety rating. Many homeowners usually don’t go with clay tiles because it’s a tad more expensive compared to shingles, however, clay tiles are still affordable. They are also extremely durable and have a good lifespan. Clay roof tiles are also known to withstand extreme weather conditions including high winds. The curved shape of the clay tiles allows for ventilation. Therefore, hot air isn’t trapped by clay tiles during hot temperature events, and their heavy thermal mass helps insulate your home during colder temperatures. Concrete roof tiles share most of these properties as they are also heavy, durable and fireproof.
Fiberglass-Based Asphalt Shingles
Asphalt shingles are a commonly used roofing material. What you should know is that the shingles you typically find on your roof are normal asphalt shingles, which are fire resistant on their own. Now, when it’s combined with fiberglass underlayment the structure becomes even more fire resistant making it a Class A fire rating. Plus, asphalt shingles require little maintenance and are quite durable. Though it requires less maintenance, it is important to take care of this type of roofing because of the fact that heavy winds can blow off the shingles which in the end would leave exposures in your roof that can make the roof vulnerable to water and fire damage. Keep in mind that although asphalt shingles are fire resistant, they are still flammable. They will withstand an external fire very well, however, if the fire happens to start on the inside of the home the fire is very likely to reach the roof and the shingles may burn.
Slate, although it is a heavy and thick roofing material, it’s naturally resistant to fire. The thickness of the material is part of what helps it achieve Class A rating because it’s not easily chipped where fire can penetrate through. Slate is a lot more expensive than asphalt or metal, but slate will last you a very long time and maintain your home’s protection throughout its life.