Wood roofs are dangerous

Wood roofs are a major fire concern and dangerous for homeowners, families, and communities throughout the United States. Regardless of the way they are cut (handsplit, tapersawn, heavy shakes) if it is a wood-based material, it is a dangerous fire concern and homes are at risk.

The wood shake shingle industry developed wood roofing materials, which are labeled as ‘treated with fire retardant’, to meet increased building code requirements. Over time, the use of wood shake and shingles became very popular due to their rustic look and unique appearance. As fire concern and flammable conditions of un-treated wood became an issue, fire retardant chemicals were applied to help reduce fire risk of wood roofs. As fire resistance of treated and non-treated roofs came into question, some governmental agencies banned the use of wood roofs entirely.

Building codes have been established to protect homes within wildland urban areas from firestorms. Establishments such as Cal Fire and the Wildland Urban Interface help keep citizens aware and informed of the protection that can be taken to ensure proper safety. For example, Cal Fire is responsible for providing wildland fire protection and resource management for over 31 million acres throughout California. The objective of these establishments is to protect citizens and properties from fire. Fire resistance ratings have been established for building materials, there are three resistance ratings Class A, Class B, and Class C fire rated.

  • Class A - severe fire test exposure

  • Class B - moderate fire test exposure

  • Class C - light fire test exposure

Clearly it would be most beneficial to communities and homeowners if all roofs in fire danger communities were Class A fire rated. However, for homeowners that have a wood roof, a serious problem exists for firefighters to distinguish treated roofs from untreated roofs during a fire. In the event of a major fire, firefighters may need to perform a triage operation (which house to save first), and in some cases the distinction between treated and un-treated wood is extremely difficult. It is also important to know that burning embers from wild fires can travel and easily spark ignition on a wood roof as wood roofs are very susceptible to fire ignition from outside sources.

Pressure treated wood shakes and shingles receive a Class A rating when installed with a fire resistant underlayment. Fire protection is provided by pressure impregnating fire retardant polymers into the innermost cells of wood. However, many times there are no required inspections or tests after installation of wood roofs to determine the status of the fire retardant. Often times it is also difficult to tell when, or if, a roof was fire treated or when it has lost its original treatment by inspection.

At this point, you may be asking “well what causes these fires?”

While it is difficult to provide one simple answer, low annual rainfall, low humidity, dry conditions, and high winds all contribute to a disastrous situation for any fire. History has shown that high wind conditions can take a seemingly innocuous fire, even under control, and spread firebrands to structures with wood roofs causing great property loss. In the event of a fire, flames can rapidly spread to adjacent homes by means of flying embers landing on wood roofs.

The impact on an individual homeowner, when changing roof materials, may be negligible when all costs for the materials are amortized over the life of the roof covering. When you consider installation costs, life expectancy, and warranty, treated wood shakes can be four times the cost of concrete tiles, and twice the cost of coated metals and synthetic materials. The choice of a roofing product may also be influenced by insurance.

Insurance companies are now recognizing the inherent dangers of wood roofs and may impose a premium for such a roof, or simply refuse coverage. In California and many other states, many insurance companies provide a discount for homes without wood roofs.

So, what are my options?

The choice of products for a new roof is limited, and in many cases so is the cost. However it is best to analyze the long term benefits and safety benefits of certain products and materials. If you are in a fire danger community it is best to choose a roofing material that is not only Class A Fire Rated but has been tested and certified by a certified testing laboratory. The most notable testing laboratory for building materials is Underwriters Laboratories.

CeDUR specializes in synthetic cedar shakes. We do one thing and we do it better than anyone else. No one can replicate the authenticity and beauty of natural wood better than us. We also are the most fire safe roofing material available, our proprietary fire retardant formula is embedded within each individual shake and self extinguishes flame spread in the event of a fire. CeDUR is trusted by architects, distributors, contractors, home builders, property managers, and homeowners across the United States.

Below is our Class A burning brand fire test. During this test CeDUR shakes reach temperatures in excess of 1,400 degrees and do not allow flames to spread. By comparison, wood shakes ignite at 375 degrees and flames can spread rapidly.

In addition, our ICC testing report data is below. To see additional benefits of the CeDUR product and it’s extreme fire resistance click here.