If you've decided to have your new home custom built, you can pick and choose the materials and features that will make the structure as fire-resistant as possible. Fire safety will become increasingly important in the coming years due to climate change -- summers are already noticeably hotter and dryer in many parts of the country than they were a couple of decades ago. Here are four ways that you can significantly reduce the risk of fire in your new dwelling:
Use Fire-Resistant Landscaping Plants
Fire-resistant landscaping is an essential component of protecting structures from brush fires. Using fire-resistant plants such as sumac, succulents, rhododendrons, and verbena. Avoid planting conifer trees -- their sap contains resins that are highly flammable. Hardwood deciduous trees are a far better choice, but make certain that they aren't planted in such a way that their branches will eventually hang over the roof. If you will be building in an area where large trees are already present, have any overhanging branches cut back.
Create a Defensible Space Around Your Home
Along with using fire-resistant plants, you should work with your landscape designer to develop a defensible space around your house. Use low-growing vegetation like lawn grass or ground covers for at least 100 feet in all directions from your home, and forget about having foundation plants installed -- if you want a visual break between the house and the yard, consider using sculpture created from nonflammable material. Many people are also encircling their homes with concrete as an added fire safety precaution.
Have a Metal Roof Installed
Because many home fires get started by airborne sparks landing on roofs, metal roofing materials are the top choice of smart consumers who want to reduce the risk of fire as much as possible. Wooden shakes should be avoided at all costs -- even the ones that are treated with fire-resistant chemicals do not offer the same level of protection that a metal roof does. the five metals most commonly used for roofing are:
- Coated steel -- Although sturdy and long-lasting, steel has to be coated with thick paint or zinc to keep it from becoming corroded when regularly exposed to wet and damp conditions.
- Stainless steel -- this is a great choice for those who live in rainy climates because stainless steel is designed not to rust!
- Aluminum -- lightweight and rust-resistant, aluminum is another good roofing choice for those who live in locations that receive regular precipitation.
- Copper -- this is an excellent roofing choice for luxury homes, but the cost may be out of reach for the average consumer.
- Various alloys -- different types of alloys are available for varying climate conditions and aesthetic preferences -- copper alloys, for instance, might be an option for those who want to add a touch of luxury to their homes without the hefty price tag.
Use Fire-Resistant Drywall
Fire-resistant drywall can slow down the rate at which fire spreads, providing you and your loved ones with more time to evacuate in the event that your home catches on fire. You can remove the Chinese Drywall and invest in the latest advancements. Drywall also offers insulation properties that alternatives such as plaster or paneling don't have, and this will help prevent your heating unit from becoming overtaxed -- many home fires are the result of furnace malfunctions, and a well insulated home can guard against that situation.
Always remember that nothing beats regular fire drills and fire awareness education for all members of the family when it comes to staying safe from unexpected fires. Practice escape strategies with your family often, and plan out different evacuation routes for all possible fire scenarios -- for instance, there may be a better way to get out of the house quickly when a fire that starts in the kitchen than there is for a fire that begins in the living room.