Every 88 seconds, emergency services receive a report of a house fire. With an average home fire costing more than $23,000 in property damage, it’s understandable that homeowners would want to safeguard their homes. Installing fire-resistant roofing can protect your home and your neighborhood from fire damage. Fire-resistant roofing materials are especially prevalent in wildfire-prone areas.
Not all roofing materials perform the same when they’re exposed to burning embers. In this article, we rank the best options for fire-resistant roofing so that you can feel confident about your investment.
Why Choose Fire-Resistant Roofing?
Whether you’re building or renovating a home, you’re likely making important decisions about the roof. This is a major investment, and one of the costliest parts of the home to maintain. In addition to protecting you, your family and your possessions from the elements, the roof is a key architectural feature that affects curb appeal.
But choosing a roof involves more than selecting an appealing color and style. Homeowners must also consider how well the materials can protect them from the weather in their area. For example, you’d look for hurricane-resistant roofing if you lived on the East Coast. In areas that are prone to wildfires, homeowners should consider the fire resistance of their roofing materials.
Wildfires devastate land and communities across the U.S. every year, burning about 8 million acres. Texas ranks second to California as the most wildfire-prone state, making it essential to look into fire-resistant roofing materials if you live in the area.
Wind-blown embers can spark blazes in residential areas during a wildfire. What’s more, burning buildings fuel the wildfire, making it harder to control. As homes catch fire, the embers can spread to surrounding properties, traveling as far as half a mile. If a highly combustible roof is ignited and caves in, it will keep burning, causing additional damage.
A fire-resistant roof is resistant to ignition. In other words, it won’t go up in flames if it’s exposed to embers from a nearby blaze. Some products won’t burn at all. Others combust slowly, giving you extra time to put out the fire before it burns through the material.
You can protect your home, the neighborhood and the surrounding land by installing a fire-resistant roof. It helps prevent your home from burning to the ground if it’s exposed to open fire. It also reduces the source of fuel that a wildfire needs to proliferate. Therefore, homes with fire-resistant roofing can help to slow the spread of wildfire.
In some locations, homeowners are required to participate in a wildfire mitigation plan. This involves following building and land use regulations,
House Fire Protection
Even if you don’t live in an area that’s vulnerable to wildfire, a fire-resistant roof gives you peace of mind. Accidents happen, and it only takes one ember to destroy a roof. Electrical issues and lightning strikes also contribute to house fires.
Fire-resistant roofing materials are more durable than other products. They last longer and safeguard the rest of your home against potential damage. Therefore, investing in this type of roof may reduce your homeowners insurance premiums.
Ranking Fire-Resistant Roofing Materials
The roofing industry uses a rating system to classify the fire resistance of the materials that are used to sheath your home. It’s based on tests that evaluate the ability of a fire to penetrate the roof and enter the interior of the home, spread across the roof and generate embers from the material.
The three fire ratings are as follows:
- Class A – Non-combustible; required in wildfire-prone areas
- Class B – Combustible materials that are treated with fire retardant
- Class C – Highly combustible, untreated materials
The following materials have class A ratings. Even though they’re all considered fire resistant, some offer more protection than others.
Asphalt shingles are one of the most common roofing materials across the country. They’re affordable and versatile, and any roofer can install them.
While asphalt shingles aren’t completely fireproof, class A shingles withstand flames for two hours before igniting. Most asphalt shingles are made from a composition of fiberglass and asphalt, which don’t burn easily. However, to maintain the class A rating, shingles must be installed over a fire-resistant underlayment.
Metal roofing also has a class A rating. But it performs better than asphalt in a blaze because the material isn’t combustible at all. Still, the sheathing and sublayers of the roof can ignite if exposed to flames for a long time.
Therefore, a metal roof is not completely fireproof. Still, it’s one of the safest options for fire-resistant roofing. Because it’s light in weight, it is less likely than slate or tile to collapse. Plus, it’s available in many styles, colors and designs and requires minimal maintenance.
Like metal, slate is inherently non-combustible. However, it’s much heavier than metal. Therefore, it poses a hazard if the walls of a home catch fire. As the structure beneath the roof weakens, a heavy roof has a higher chance of caving in.
Clay and Concrete Tile
Clay tile is noncombustible. But it’s important to install tile roofing properly and use a flame-resistant underlayment. Gaps between the tiles allow embers to penetrate the roof and ignite those materials. It’s also important to use adequate structural support when installing tile roofs to prevent collapse.
This stone-coated metal tile offers a class A roof assembly that also meets Title 24 energy requirements in California. It’s lightweight but incredibly durable in wildfires and extreme weather events.
Newer synthetic materials that are hitting the market are manufactured with fire resistance in mind. Polyurethane-based roofing materials are completely non-combustible regardless of the underlayment. They’re also lightweight, reducing the risk of collapse in a fire. Moreover, they can mimic the look of more combustible roofing materials while maximizing your safety.
What Is the Least Fire-Resistant Roofing Material?
It probably comes as no surprise that wood is the most vulnerable roofing material to fire. We throw wood logs in the fireplace to stay cozy in the winter and produce roaring bonfires using wood as the primary fuel.
Although wood is naturally flammable, manufacturers often treat it with fire retardants. These chemical treatments increase the wood’s ignition time and temperature. Roofers can combine treated wood with other fire-resistant materials to ensure that the entire structure has class A rating.
However, post-installation inspections can’t usually determine the effectiveness of the fire-retardant treatments. It’s also impossible to tell if the treatments lose strength over time. Therefore, wood roofs are prohibited in certain municipalities that are at a high risk of wildfire.
What Other Parts of the Roof are Vulnerable to Fire?
The outer layer is only one of the elements that influences your roof’s fire resistance. These other features can increase fire damage:
- Skylights – Keep operable skylights closed to minimize the spread of fire. Still, skylights are prone to breakage from extreme heat and flying objects. Clear away debris regularly to prevent flames from concentrating around those openings.
- Gutters – Debris that collects in gutters can ignite quickly. The flames spread easily to exposed fascia and sheathing, and vinyl gutters may fall to the ground as they melt, burning your siding and landscaping. Clear your gutters regularly.
- Roof edges – Roof edges are vulnerable to ignition. Protect them with metal flashing and proper gutter installation.
A complex roof is more vulnerable to damage from fire than a simple one. Junctions between vertical and horizontal planes gather debris, which ignites easily. Keep your roof clean with regular maintenance, and have it inspected at least once a year.