A fire-smart home remodel

How to make your house safer for fire season

Fire-safe house

Fire-smart charm

Noted technology forecaster Paul Saffo lives in a Bay Area neighborhood designated as a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone—fire-resistant construction is mandated for all new houses, but existing ones are grandfathered in.

When his generations-old Craftsman needed a new roof anyway, Saffo decided to try to make his home as safe as he could.

Saffo replaced his shake roof with Class A fireproof composition shake. On the walls, he opted for fire-resistant treated shingles. Class A cap sheet under­layment helps protect the framing from flying sparks.

Click ahead for more of his fire-safe home ideas.

House number

Clearly mark the house number

You need simple digits that are easily visible from the street. This way, whether you’ve called 911 or a firefighter is radioing for backup, anyone looking for your house can find it.

Roof vents

Upgrade roof vents

Instead of enclosing (“boxing”) the eaves with noncombustible material, Saffo removed eave vents in favor of two in-roof options: wildfire-rated vents to help repel embers and screened “mushroom” vent fans to cool the house.


Strengthen windows

Wildfire can crack glass, letting flames invade the house. Saffo replaced his windows and skylights with double-paned, tempered glass with low-e glazing, which reduces heat transfer through windows.

Foundation vents

Reinforce foundation vents

These near-the-ground vents are another place embers can get in. There are no fire-rated foundation vents on the market yet, so Saffo had some made—basically, by stapling metal screening on the existing vent from behind.

Interior sprinklers

Install interior sprinklers

Building codes in this San Francisco Peninsula town require whole-house sprinklers for new construction. Since his roof was already off, Saffo took the opportunity to add sprinklers as well.

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