March 29, 2024
How to Protect Your Home from Wildfire: A Comprehensive Guide

Wildfire Defense Best Practices from around the World

There are a number of best practices that have been established through years of knowledge-building and experience amongst experts in Australia and the U.S, who have historically dealt with destructive Wildfires and have progressed their guidance and strategies to help people be better prepared and lower the risk of a building catching fire during a Wildfire.

This article will outline the best practices from the various fire authorities and experts to guide you through the steps you can take to protect your home from Wildfire. 

Understanding The Threat from Wildfire

First, let’s start by understanding a little more about how Wildfire results in the loss of homes and buildings. Did you know that 90% of homes and buildings are destroyed during a wildfire attack by embers or firebrands? These tiny embers can travel up to 40km from the firefront, meaning you don’t need to be very close to the fire for your home to be at risk. These embers can enter gaps as small as 2mm or 0.0787”, igniting the home from the inside out. A critical step for homeowners is to identify any gaps, vents, and openings that could allow embers to penetrate and either block them or install an ember-resistant mesh. Check out ABC 7’s great coverage on how Wildfire can ignite structures and the importance of mesh screening. 

What to consider when Home Hardening against Wildfire

The most important thing to do is to prepare against the threat of Wildfire. Preparing for wildfires should consider the two zones that you are trying to protect:

  • Zone 0 – Your Building through Home Hardening
  • Zone 1 – Your Property through creating a Defensible Space

The below summary of best practices for Home Hardening and Defensible Space are quick DIY actions that should see immediate results and will help protect homes and communities. Following these practices will not guarantee your home will not be damaged, but they will reduce the likelihood of your home being affected. Not only can these protective measures potentially prevent your home from igniting during a Wildfire, but they can also, importantly, give you and your family precious time, allowing you to either evacuate safely or take reactionary measures to protect your home. You can also see our top 5 tips for creating a wildfire-ready property  and watch a quick explainer video featuring David Shew, a Cal Fire veteran, and expert in Wildfire defense.   

Zone 0 Home Hardening (Last line of defense to protect your home)

Home Hardening” means to modify the building materials and design features of the home against the number one threat from Wildfires - Embers and then Radiant Heat and Direct Flame.

Choosing the Right Materials
It is critical that when you take steps to harden your home, you use products that will survive the environment and wildfire attack. There is no silver bullet, so it's best to create a barrier approach with a combination of products and solutions. Where “Mesh,” “Screens,” etc is stated, it is best to use the following:

  • Material: When noncombustible, corrosion-resistant metal is referenced, Stainless Steel outperforms other materials significantly. While Hot Dipped Galvanized may last for the immediate purpose, in the long-term, it is not corrosion resistant and, therefore, not built to last in the changing environment and Wildfires. While stainless steel is corrosion resistant, you’ll also want to make sure it is kept clean and maintained so as to be optimal for Wildfire defense. 
  • Mesh sizing: The current IWUIC code state a maximum of 1/8” (0.125") or 3.175mm (which is often referred to as Rodent protection), with fire authorities and best practices recommending 1/16” (0.063") or 1.5mm opening. Australian Standards suggest a mesh opening size of less than 2mm (0.078”) to cover a 2mm (0.078”) gap, as research from the US showed embers can enter a 2mm (0.078”) gap.

Low-Cost Retrofit Solutions 

A simple and effective Home Hardening Low-Cost Retrofit List is offered by the Office of State Fire Marshall (OSFM) at CAL FIRE (California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention). These best practices are separate from the California Building Code and are recommended in California for retrofit purposes. There is much cross-over from the Australian Bushfire Authorities, IBHS, etc, as it relates to best practices. We have added Timing of Actions to this list so homeowners can see what immediate actions can be performed with little cost.


No. Application California Fire Low-Cost Retrofit List  Timing of Action
1. Roof When it is time to replace your roof, replace with a fire-resistant Class A roof material.

Immediate – look for any cracked tiles or gaps in your roof and fill them

Long-term – replace for class A fire rated 

2. Roof and Sheathing Block any spaces between your roof covering and sheathing (bird stops). Immediate - Use Stainless Steel Mesh to easily cut and fit into the gaps. The Stainless Steel Mesh should have an aperture less than 2mm (0.078”)
3. Gutters Install noncombustible corrosion resistant metal gutter covers on gutters to prevent the accumulation of leaves and debris in the gutter. Immediate – Most effective Stainless Steel Mesh should have an aperture less than 2mm (0.078”)
Chimney Cover your chimney and stovepipe outlets with a noncombustible corrosion resistant metal mesh screen (spark arrestor), with 3/8-inch to 1/2-inch openings. Immediate – Typically already in place 
5. Vents Cover all vent openings with 1/16-inch to 1/8-inch noncombustible corrosion resistant metal mesh screens. Immediate – Most effective Stainless Steel Mesh should have an aperture less than 2mm (0.078”)
6. Rafters Caulk and plug gaps greater than 1/16-inch around exposed rafters and blocking to prevent ember intrusion. Immediate
7. Siding Inspect exterior siding for dry rot, gaps, cracks and warping. Caulk or plug gaps greater than 1/16-inch (1.5mm) in siding and replace any damaged boards, including those with dry rot.

Immediate – fill exterior gaps, cracks, etc.

Long-term – Replace siding with non-combustible materials 

8. Garage Door Install weather stripping to gaps greater than 1/16-inch (1.5mm) in garage doors to prevent ember intrusion. The stripping must be compliant with UL Standard 10C. Immediate
9. Windows When it’s time to replace your windows, replace them with multi-paned windows that have at least one pane of tempered glass.  Immediate – a more cost efficient solution is to replace window and door screens with Stainless Steel Mesh with an aperture less than 2mm (0.078”)
10. Deck When it’s time to replace your siding or deck, use compliant noncombustible, ignition-resistant, or other materials approved by the OSFM.  Immediate – enclose the outside of your deck or patios with Stainless Steel Mesh with an aperture less than 2mm (0.078”)

Zone 1 Creating a Defensible Space 

Defensible Space is the buffer you create by removing dead plants, grass, weeds, and other combustible materials from around your home. This buffer helps to keep the fire threats of Direct Flame and Radiant Heat away from your home. While these threats contribute only 10% of Building fires during Wildfires, the small amount of effort to create a Defensible Space is strongly encouraged. Especially when creating further barriers to prevent spot fires and the creation of more embers. 

Defensible Space Actions

  1. Clean gutters, decks, roofs, and the base of walls to avoid the accumulation of fallen leaves, needles, and other flammable materials
  2. Make sure there is nothing that is combustible within 5 ft of a building. This is known as the 0-5 ft non-combustible zone. This includes the entire footprint of an attached deck. 
  3. ~Remove vegetation or combustible materials that are within 5 feet of windows, doors, and siding 
  4. ~Add non-combustible material like dirt, gravel, or stones to the 0-5 ft but not wood mulch
  5. Remove all dead or dying grass, plants, shrubs, trees, branches, leaves, weeds, and pine needles within 30 feet of all structures or to the property line.
  6. Remove any wood stacked near your house
  7. Talk with your neighbors and understand what they are doing to prepare – often, the ignition source in a wildfire is the building next door, and if they are not prepared, then this may impact your building

*Sourced from best practices from IBHS Wildfire Prepared Home, CAL FIRE Low Cost Retrofit List, etc.

DIY Wildfire Preparedness

The Do-It-Yourself (DIY) approach to wildfire preparedness involves taking practical steps without significant financial investment. These may include sealing gaps, retrofitting vents, and installing ember-resistant mesh – all actions that align with the recommended best practices. Wildfire Defense Mesh has created a number of helpful instructional DIY videos on its YouTube channel to help demonstrate how you can retrofit your home yourself. 

The Benefits of Wildfire Resistant Mesh

Wildfire-resistant mesh goes beyond standard mesh options, offering enhanced durability and resilience against the harsh conditions posed by wildfires. Investing in such mesh screens provides an added layer of protection for your home.

Find Mesh that is tested and used by Fire Departments and Fire Authorities 

Mesh screens that are tested and used by Fire Authorities carry significant credibility. These organizations rely on mesh products that are rigorously tested to ensure they meet the highest standards for wildfire protection. Opting for mesh approved by such reputable entities ensures the reliability and efficacy of the chosen protective measures.

What is “Chapter 7A Approved” Mesh?

Chapter 7A approved mesh refers to mesh screens that comply with the California Building code by being Tested to ASTM E2886 and Listed. These screens play a crucial role in preventing ember penetration, thus reducing the risk of internal ignition during a wildfire. When seeking mesh solutions, it's imperative to choose a mesh product thats been tested to CBC Chapter 7A requirements and proven effective. 

Wildfire Insurance Issues

Understanding the nuances of wildfire insurance is a critical aspect of comprehensive wildfire protection for your home.

Navigating Wildfire Insurance Challenges

While insurance is a crucial part of risk management, navigating wildfire insurance can be challenging. Some insurance providers may have specific requirements regarding home hardening and defensible space measures. Ensuring your home meets these criteria is essential for seamless coverage.

Mesh Screens and Insurance Premiums

Installing mesh screens, especially those that are compliant with standards like CBC Chapter 7A,  can positively impact insurance premiums. Insurance companies often recognize and reward homeowners who proactively invest in wildfire-resistant measures, making mesh screens a valuable addition to your overall risk mitigation strategy.

Conclusion - A Multi-Faceted Approach to Safeguarding Your Home

In conclusion, safeguarding your home from wildfires demands a strategic and multifaceted approach. By combining home hardening strategies in Zone 0 with the creation of a defensible space in Zone 1, homeowners can significantly reduce the risk of their homes succumbing to the devastating impact of wildfires. The inclusion of affordable wildfire protection options, mesh solutions approved by reputable organizations, and a clear understanding of wildfire insurance issues further fortify your home against this formidable threat.

Staying informed, collaborating with local fire authorities, and implementing these practical measures not only protects your property but also provides valuable time for safe evacuation or reactive measures during a wildfire. In the face of an ever-present threat, proactive and informed action is key to ensuring the safety and resilience of your home against the unpredictable nature of wildfires.