Each year since 2000, an average of over 70,000 wildfires have led to the destruction of about 6.9 million acres, a number more than double the average annual acreage burned in the 1990s. With damage from wildfires increasing as of late builders can consider incorporating preventative measures, especially in wildland-urban interface (WUI) areas, to ensure their builds are resilient in fire-prone environments.
Many might assume engineered wood products wouldn’t be a good choice for wildfire-prone regions, but they can be part of a WUI-compliant solution. With LP® SmartSide® Trim & Siding, one of the most durable siding solutions available, you can provide homeowners with a strong exterior look for their home. And by combining it with LP® FlameBlock® Fire-Rated Sheathing, your clients can be assured their home has a durable exterior siding and walls that are compliant with requirements for ignition-resistant construction in WUI areas.
Wildland-urban interface (WUI) areas are zones of transition in which human-made infrastructure—such as schools, cell towers, homes and other buildings—is located nearby areas of unoccupied land. As such, these areas are often prone to wildfires. In the mid-2000s California began implementing requirements for ignition-resistant construction in WUI areas, which led to many manufacturers developing products to comply with those codes. WUI areas have also expanded rapidly, growing by 41% from 1990 to 2010 for homes in WUI areas and 33% in land type.
“To a certain degree, wildfires tend to be worse than urban fires because the capacity of responders reaches its limit much more quickly,” says Josef Chen, Associate Segment Marketing Manager at LP Building Solutions.
Protecting homes from wildfire requires a comprehensive approach because there are many factors that contribute to effective fire resistance (including code-compliant wall assemblies). Selecting roofing materials with fire-resistive capabilities can also contribute to this comprehensive approach. “Builders and homeowners should also consider defensible space around a home,” Chen adds. “They must make sure the area around the house is clear of combustible materials, like leaves or bushes.”
Durable siding provides one of the first lines of defense for a home. When it comes to fire, one of the responsibilities of the building envelope is to keep embers from getting into the home or sticking to the house. With proper maintenance siding can help complete a tight building envelope, along with other products that help seal the build.
However, it’s rare that a single layer of siding can provide the necessary protection for homes in a wildfire situation. “Many homeowners might think that because siding is the outermost layer of the home, they’re safe if that part of the home is fire resistant,” Chen says.
As a builder, you can help educate your clients about a comprehensive, integrated approach to fire resistance. Wall assemblies that combine LP SmartSide siding with LP FlameBlock sheathing, for example, take this approach.
An integrated approach to home wildfire mitigation in WUI areas depends on combining durable siding with a reliable fire-rated sheathing or 1/2˝ standard gypsum board. LP FlameBlock Fire-Rated Sheathing can be used in applications evaluated by ICC-ES for fire-rated sheathing that combines flame-spread and burn-through resistance to meet code requirements for ignition-resistant construction. As of now five applications of LP products, such as LP FlameBlock panels and LP SmartSide siding, are approved by the California Office of the State Fire Marshal (CAL FIRE). LP has worked to offer building solutions for professionals working in California, one of the most wildfire-prone areas of the country.
Because LP FlameBlock Fire-Rated Sheathing features a proprietary non-combustible, fiberglass-reinforced Pyrotite® coating on APA Rated Sheathing OSB, the panels boast strength and easy installation. They also offer design freedom—structural design values are not reduced, which provides flexibility for designing wall openings, frames and bracing. Ultimately, LP FlameBlock panels exceed expectations, bolstering a home’s fire-resistance capabilities.
“With the right assembly approach, LP SmartSide siding is a great solution for homes in WUI areas,” Chen adds, “especially when combined with LP FlameBlock Fire-Rated Sheathing, the primary contributor to fire resistance.”
“When builders are choosing materials, they are considering all the elements—not just fire,” says Chen. There are a few reasons building professionals can be confident in choosing engineered wood products for projects in WUI areas.
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