An increasing number of homeowners are moving further away from cities and into more pastoral areas. Easier access to outdoor beauty and extra privacy make this kind of living highly appealing, but also exposes homes more to natural elements and weather conditions.
But homeowners everywhere need exterior designs that enhance their lives and protect their investment from the elements, especially from more severe events like wildfires.
An increase in U.S. home construction and a changing climate have provided ample conditions for the spread of wildfires in recent years. And according to Chief of U.S. Forest Service Vicki Christianson, wildfires aren’t just seasonal anymore.
There are government initiatives in place to protect homes and conserve natural resources in areas that are prone to wildfires, but it’s projected that the Forest Service could spend upward of $2.5 billion just fighting fires this year alone.
Developers are building more homes than ever in these more remote areas, where living is often more affordable and homeowners can take advantage of outdoor recreational activities.
But these same areas are what the National Fire Protection Agency refers to as a Wildland-Urban Interface, or WUI, where homes are exposed to high-risk flammable conditions, including fire-prone vegetation and severe weather patterns.
Embers (any airborne vegetation and wood that is still burning) pose the biggest threat to homes in these areas, according to the NFPA. “Embers are burning pieces of airborne wood and/or vegetation that can be carried more than a mile through the wind can cause spot fires and ignite homes, debris and other objects.”
The structure of a home and condition of the building materials used are both important components for a home’s fire protection strategy, and there are national programs to support homeowners that want to ensure their home can stand up to wildfire events and fire damage.
Some fire departments around the U.S. are addressing this crisis through preparation and community involvement. Many departments are wildfire-ready, with the right training to control wildfire incidents in their communities.
But many fire department officials interviewed recently by the NFPA see the need for additional safety programs and community education. “Nearly all of our interviewees spoke to the positive effect that community risk reduction efforts can have on mitigating the risks of major wildfire events and preventing the loss of homes and property should a fire occur.”
NFPA's Firewise USA® program was developed as a result, to teach homeowners how they can adapt to living in a high-risk environment for wildfires. The program encourages established Firewise sites to work together and “take action now” to prevent future damage from wildfire events.
Homeowners can take action and form their own Firewise community by working with their local fire department or state forestry agency to get a wildfire risk assessment. The assessment (which is updated every five years) provides homeowners and communities with an audit of areas of improvement for wildfire risk reduction. These Firewise sites develop an action plan, with risk reduction projects and homeowner education programs to support efforts for more resilient communities.
Homeowners can adopt these standards for fire safety, even if their home isn’t on a Firewise site, by hardening their home.
“Home Hardening” is a term jointly used by insurance carriers, Firewise and NFPA organizations and most state insurance commissioners. It is a rightfully dramatic name to the steps you take to protect your home against dangerous flying embers, which can ignite homes up to a mile ahead of a wildfire.
There are often insurance benefits to making this time and cost investment, but the best benefit is knowing you’ve steeled your home and family for the possible (and likely) risks ahead.
The process of home hardening for wildfires includes:
Not only does home hardening protect your house against wildfires, but it can also ensure your homeowner insurance doesn’t get dropped or you don’t experience an increase in premiums due to your home’s location.
Building materials should meet local guidelines and building codes around fire protection, and this includes fire-resistant siding to support the home’s exterior protection. There are a variety of materials for exterior home design, but fiber cement siding is an attractive and resilient option for many homeowners, for a few reasons.
Fiber cement is known for its fire-resistance and overall resilience, making it one of the most common exterior siding materials used in residential construction. And it has the added benefit of being highly versatile when it comes to design since some companies, such as Nichiha, create siding to complement any home’s aesthetic.
In Southwestern states like California, dry, hot conditions and thermal expansion can reduce the longevity of many building materials. But Nichiha fiber cement board cladding has helped homeowners everywhere protect their homes from wildfires and other extreme elements.
Nichiha also uses processes that come with a green classification and manufactures products that help to prevent landfill waste by using fly ash. To further cut down on their carbon footprint, 90% of materials are sourced within 200 miles of Nichiha facilities.
Nichiha fiber cement products are available in fire-resistant planks like Savannah Smooth and Sierra Shake and modern architectural wall panel systems like VintageWood and ArchitecturalBlock, and they can be processed into a variety of sizes, thicknesses and textures for a custom look. Homeowners everywhere can benefit from using fire-resistant siding like Nichiha, resulting in a home design they not only love but can enjoy for decades to come.
High-performance home fire protection is possible when homeowners choose fiber cement, and this popular exterior solution complements just about any home design. If you’re looking to build or remodel with safer materials and enhance the look of your home, check out a few of our most elegant designs here.