There was a time, just a few short decades ago, that the composition of a home’s roof was largely to blame for a seemingly disproportionate number of house fires. Looking back, it’s not that difficult to understand why; commonly used building materials like wood wool, fiberglass, and bitumen laden shingles combine quite effectively to create a uniquely fire-friendly environment.
These days, building materials and safety regulations have come a long way, but that doesn’t mean that the risk of a home’s roof catching fire is completely eliminated. Your roof is still prone to fire under the right conditions – conditions that can be as innocuous as a simple errant ember from a neighbour’s barbecue, fire pit, or fireworks.
Torch Down Roofing: What Is It And Why Is It So Dangerous?
Torch down roofing is a method that comprises layers of modified bitumen (a by-product that’s manufactured when distilling petroleum) that’s bonded to fiberglass using a flame torch. Generally speaking, this type of roofing is only found on flat or low slope roofs and is still surprisingly popular with many roofing contractors (largely because it’s easy to install and adheres quite well to metal flashings) in spite of its inherent dangers.
One of the biggest problems with this roofing method is that it’s easy to damage the home during the installation process. There are many accounts of contractors accidentally overheating something in the attic – overheating, of course, leads to smoldering, and smoldering can quickly start a fire in a dry attic. Thankfully, there are many alternatives to this dangerous and somewhat controversial roofing method, many of which place a much greater emphasis on fire prevention.
Fire-Resistant Roofing Alternatives
It’s important to remember that when it comes to shopping around for roofing materials, it’s worth your time to take note of its fire-resistance rating. Materials that are highly fire-resistant will have a rating of “A”; materials that are slightly less resistant will be rated “B”, and so on.
Save Money, the Environment, and Prevent Fires
As you can imagine, recycled rubber tiles are obviously good for the environment as they’re made using re-purposed materials that might’ve otherwise ended up in a landfill. Conventional logic might lead you to think that rubber wouldn’t possess the greatest fire resistance qualities, but in truth, many such tiles are manufactured to include a proven fire retardant and a fire-resistant lining. If budget is an issue but you want to ensure that your home is protected, know that as far as synthetic roofing materials go, recycled rubber tiles are among the very few that boast a class A rating (depending on the manufacturer).
On the other end of the spectrum, there are metal tiles. Metal has the benefit over other materials by the simple virtue that it simply does not ignite when exposed to a flame; it’s also a material that is both lightweight and essentially maintenance-free. The use of metal tiles is often combined with an additional barrier of fire-resistant metal which quite easily accounts for its designation as a class A material.
Clay is one of the oldest building materials in the world. Durable and visually appealing, it’s also quite noncombustible.
And then there’s Slate…
Slate roofs look great and offer an aesthetic that’s reminiscent of the old world. Charming to look at, slate tiles are as indestructible as they come. Noncombustible, most slate roofs are rated to last for decades (some as long as 75 years) and are the material of choice for many roofing contractors. The only drawbacks of using this type of material for your roof is the cost and the not insignificant weight it will add. If slate is among the building materials you’re seriously considering, make sure that your home’s structure can withstand the weight. If you’re concerned about the weight, slate tiles can be purchased in varying thicknesses (like a thicker piece, a slightly thinner slate tile will also likely have a class A rating).
Fiber-cement is made by combining portland cement, sand, and wood. In spite of wood being one of its primary components, a fiber-cement roof is generally rated class A fire-resistant. This means that this material is capable of withstanding up to 4 hours of intense heat before igniting. As an added bonus, fiber-cement is quite economical when considering the peace of mind it provides.
Yes, wood – but not just regular wood. If wood shingles are the way you’re headed, make sure you look for those that are treated with modern fire-retardant compounds. While among the cheapest alternatives when it comes to using fire-resistant materials, this material comes with its fair share of upkeep; as the chemicals leach out over the years, this material will need to be retreated to maintain its fire prevention qualities.
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