How to Design a Fire-Resistant House?

For most people, building a home is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It demands a huge investment and therefore they want to get it absolutely right. People take all possible measures to protect their houses and install equipment like fire alarms, burglar alarms or more safety equipment, buy insurance and make sure that the best possible construction material is used to protect their houses against natural and man-made disasters.

If you are planning on building your dream house, it’s important you hire the right contractors for the job, the kind who have truckloads of experience in not only building great homes but also fireproofing them. It’s not very difficult to search for contractors with fireproofing expertise. If you are looking for such contractors in Alaska, a simple Google search of the term “Fireproofing Contractors Alaska” will give you a whole list of companies that are experts in fireproofing homes.

But, as a home owner you must also be aware of what goes in the making of a fireproof home. This knowledge is important because it allows you to make sure the contractor has covered all bases and made sure your house and its structure are well-protected in case of a major fire.

One important aspect you must consider is that fireproofing just makes the structures resistant to fire and doesn’t actually guarantee complete protection. In case of fire, the damage will be minimal and the structure will withstand high temperatures.

The starting point for designing a fire resistant home can be the guidelines provided by National Institute of Standards and Technology, US Department of Commerce which can be found here.

Moreover, there are a few techniques which can be used for different sections of the house that will harden your house against fire:

Roof – The roof is vulnerable to wildfires; if it is made up of wood or any substance which is prone to catching fire quickly, it should be re-roofed with materials such as composites, metal or tile.


Ideally, roofs should be made of fire resistant materials. You don’t want flying embers from wildfires to trigger an internal/external fire in your home; this is why you need to stop them from catching by blocking any free space (however minuscule) between the roof decking.

Vents – Home vents create openings for flying embers. It’s very important to cover all vent openings with metal mesh. The use of fiberglass or plastic mesh should be avoided because they have a propensity to melt and burn. Also, the vents in eaves or cornices should be protected with baffles to block embers.

Eaves and Soffits – The materials used for protection of eaves and soffits should be ignition-resistant and non-combustible.

Windows – Burning embers enter the house very easily through windows, particularly single panel and large windows which are more vulnerable. The wildfire can cause windows to break even before the home ignites and as such, installing dual-pane windows with one pane of tempered glass will reduce the chance of breakage in a fire.

Home Window

Another method to avoid fire spreading through windows can be to keep a check on the size and number of windows facing large areas of vegetation.

Here is an example of what can be considered unsafe window design as per fireproofing standards.

Walls – Wood products are the most combustible and fire prone materials. Boards, panels and shingles are common siding materials in the house. It’s therefore important that the walls of your house are made of ignition resistant building materials like stucco, fiber cement, fire retardants, treated wood or other approved materials.

Decks – It is a good practice to make sure that the decks do not have any combustible items under them and any surface built around the building is made with sufficient ignition resistant and fire proofing material approved by relevant authorities.

Rain Gutters – Regular screening or enclosing rain gutters to prevent accumulation of plant debris will prevent chances of fire too.

Patio Cover – Ignition resistant materials can also be used for patio coverings to safeguard them against fire.

Chimney – Covering chimneys and stovepipe outlets with a non-combustible screen and using metal screen material with openings can help prevent embers from escaping and igniting a fire.

Garage – Having tools like a fire extinguisher handy in the garage will be good preparation for dealing with a fire outbreak, if any. A weather stripping installation around and under the garage door will also prevent embers from blowing in. Proper storage of all combustible and flammable liquids away from ignition sources is a good and safe option to practice.

Fences – Using a non-ignition and noncombustible material to build a fence will further enhance safety against fires.

Driveways and Access Roads – Driveways should be built and maintained to allow fire and emergency vehicles to reach your home and in accordance with state and local codes. Maintaining access roads and trimming trees and shrubs overhanging the road to allow emergency vehicles to pass, is also an important criterion of practicing safety options.

Water Supply – Ensure you have multiple garden hoses which can reach the whole house; or a pump, in case the house has a pool or a well.

These are the precautions, which can help avoid the loss caused by fire to property and human lives. It starts from the overall choice of fire resistant materials used in construction of houses and extends to covering other materials with special paints/chemicals.

Fireproofing the house by making sure the design is altered to include as much safety features as possible will help protect your house even in case of serious fire breakout . Also, it is really important to maintain the house in accordance with updated fire safety norms and check regularly if there are any materials which need to be replaced.

To summarize, designing every possible aspect of your house with fire safety in mind, regular checkup, adherence to fire safety norms and maintaining a particular standard of fire safety would all form a part of the fireproofing process.

(Image credit: 1 & 2)

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