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What is the Best Roof for Fire?

Wildfires are growing in size, speed and frequency. California, for example, experienced its second-largest fire on record last year when the Dixie fire burned nearly 1,000,000 acres.

Wildfire frequency is also surging in regions that haven’t historically been at risk. Ivan O’Neill, co-founder of Madronus Wildfire Defense and NFPA Certified Wildfire Mitigation Specialist, warns that “many people think of wildfires as a western U.S. problem, but we’re already seeing wildfires become larger and more frequent in the Southeast and upper Midwest, which is just the beginning of what will happen over the next 10 years. Studies conclude that large wildfires will become more frequent and threaten homes in places like Georgia, North Carolina, Maine, New Jersey, Texas and Minnesota. We see fire-resistant roofs being a required feature for new and old homes, and it’s important that homeowners begin planning for the new normal now.”

Since the roof plays a vital role in protecting a home from fire and embers, it’s important for homeowners to know what to look for in a fire-resistant roof and what steps to take to protect their home, including:

What to Look for in a Fire-Resistant Roof 

The UL790 (ASTM E 108) tests are considered the national standard for how a roof assembly performs against fire when exposed to fire sources originating from outside the building.

Testing is specified by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), a not-for-profit organization that tests and certifies building materials.

To meet UL standards and receive a fire Class A, B, or C rating, roof coverings (a.k.a. the roofing material) must provide a degree of protection against flame penetration to the underlying deck and the attic space without producing flying embers or slipping from their installed position. Roofs that are unable to meet this standard are considered unrated.

The best type of roof for fire resistance will have a Class A rating.

Class A

Class A roofing materials have proven themselves effective against the most severe fire testing. They provide the best protection against flame penetration as stand-alone roofing products with excellent resistance to surface flame spread without the need for chemical treatments or additional underlying roofing materials.

Class B

Class B roofing materials have proven themselves effective against moderate fire exposure. Some roofing materials may be infused with fire-retardant chemicals to meet Class B requirements.

Class C

Class C roofing materials have proven themselves effective against light fire exposure only. Class C materials include reconstituted wood products and untreated wood shakes.

Unrated

Unrated roofing materials are unable to meet any of the above classifications and would not be recommended for homes in fire-prone areas.

How Common Roofing Materials Perform Against Fire

When it comes to fire, not all roofing materials are created equal. In addition to looking for a Class A-rated roofing material, consider the pros and cons of common roofing materials when searching for the best roof for fire.

Asphalt Shingles

Many asphalt shingle products come with a Class A fire rating. However, as a petroleum-based product, asphalt is extremely flammable. To achieve a Class A fire rating, asphalt shingles are coated with granules that give them surface-level fire resistance. If flames come in contact with the underlying asphalt, it’s more likely to catch on fire than a non-combustible roofing material, such as metal.

Most insurance companies prefer metal roofs to asphalt shingle roofs due to their longevity and durability. Scott Johnson of Marindependent Insurance Services explains that “many insurers will not accept homes that have asphalt shingle roofs older than 20 years, however, they will often insure homes with much older metal roofs due to their longevity, durability and superior resistance to fire. As an insurance agent, I certainly feel more confident shopping for a client's policy when they have a metal roof in place.”

Clay Tiles

While clay tiles are fireproof, the curved shape of tile can create voids between the roofing material and the underlying roof deck. Bird nests, debris, twigs or dry leaves can accumulate in the voids beneath tiles, creating the perfect kindling for flying embers.

Wood Shake or Wood Shingles

Most wood shake or wood shingle roofs need to be treated with fire retardant and are not recommended for fire-prone regions. Similar to clay tile roofs, wood shake and shingle roofs can accumulate debris in the gaps and voids of cupped shingles and warped wood shake roofs. Devon Bullard, owner of Bullard Exteriors, mentions that “builders in fire-prone regions are using more metal roofing products rather than traditional wood products for this reason.”

Metal Roofing

Metal roofing is considered one of the best roofs for fire. DECRA Metal Roofing products, for example, are made from non-combustible stone-coated steel and achieve the highest Class A material rating for fire. Additionally, the protective interlocking panel system of DECRA stone-coated metal roofs greatly reduces the risk of the roof deck and framing igniting from flying embers.

Non-combustible materials are absolutely a point of consideration when it comes to the evaluation of whether or not an insurance company will consider insuring a risk they are underwriting. With each fire season, it becomes increasingly more difficult to procure favorable coverage and deductibles for these risks,” states Christen Losey-Gregg, CPRIA and member of the Private Risk Management Association, an organization of insurance advisors that focuses on high-net-worth homeowners insurance needs.

Fire Prevention Tips to Protect Your Home

It’s important to note that Class A, B and C fire test ratings are for external fire resistance–they have no direct bearing on how a roof will withstand a fire that occurs inside of a building.

While a Class A-rated roof is critical for withstanding fire, there are other property conditions that homeowners should consider to protect their home.

Clean your roof regularly.

Regularly clear any leaves, bird nests or debris from your roof and gutters. Hardy Selo of Property Guru adds that “homeowners in fire-prone regions can benefit from securing vent openings with protective screens and closures to prevent burning debris or embers from entering the home.”

Clean your chimney at least once per year.

Debris from frequently-used fireplaces, known as creosote, can accumulate in the chimney. Creosote is extremely flammable, so it’s important to have your chimney cleaned annually if you use your fireplace often.

Check the electrical wiring in your attic.

Electrical wiring is one of the top 3 causes of attic fires. If your home is older or you’re noticing flickering light bulbs or electrical switches that suddenly stop working, you may have faulty wiring that can create sparks in the attic that quickly turn to flames. If you suspect an issue with the electrical wiring in your attic, contact an electrician immediately.

Protect Your Home from Fire with DECRA Metal Roofing

Since 1957, DECRA Metal Roofing products have withstood the elements in some of the harshest climates around the world. Our stone-coated metal roofs have the highest Class A fire rating and come standard with a comprehensive Lifetime Limited Warranty.

Ready to see and feel the DECRA difference? Order a complimentary sample today.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2020 and has been updated with current information.

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