So useful and practical in the history of human progress, fire is nevertheless a double-edged sword. In fact, homeowners pay, on average, between $2,500 and $15,000 to remediate fire and smoke damage. Haggling with insurance companies, arranging temporary quarters and getting quotes from contractors are a few of the tasks imposed upon them. Between the bureaucratic red tape and the stress of displacement, most owners wish they had beefed up their preventive measures, including investment in fire resistant house siding material.
Types of Fire Resistant House Siding Material
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) advises homeowners that the likelihood of fire damage from surrounding combustion is largely dependent on the composition of exterior walls and on the ignited materials on the outside. Given the fact that off-property fires are beyond the control of a homeowner, reducing the probability of damage rests upon the protection afforded the house. In other words, how well the structure is hardened directly affects its survival. This highlights the question: what is a fire resistant house siding material?
Among the many kinds of fire resistant house siding material, fiber cement is highly celebrated by home improvement experts. The very properties that make this siding non-submissive to heat and flame also give it strength against wind, cold, termites and rot. Composed of cement, wood fibers and sand, this substance can endure multiple hours of intense heat before it gives way. This is more than enough time for first responders to be on the scene. Better still, many fiber cement brands carry a Class A rating in fire resistance according to materials testing industry standards. Fiber cement will resemble wood or masonry when painted properly.
In terms of imperviousness to heat and flame, metal sheeting – often aluminum or steel – stands second to none. It will neither ignite nor foster the spread of flames. Like fiber cement, this fire resistant house siding material weathers the elements well and calls for little maintenance. In addition, metal cladding absorbs no water, keeping fungi and molds at bay, and is a hostile habitat for pests. Once unsightly exteriors, metal panels are fire resistant house siding that have come a long way in appearance and aesthetics. Whereas steel is harder to dent than aluminum, it is also more costly. Metallic thickness is inversely proportional to the visibility of dents. Consumers must also consider the prospect of oxidation and rusting over time.
Brick and Stone
Nothing beats brick or stone for a stately and august appearance. Fronting wooden frames with this type of fire resistant house siding material also defends the internal walls and stud cavities—stealthy entry points for insidious flames. If high-quality mortar joins the bricks, they can stand up to 1,200˚C heat. Stone cladding is somewhat more variable: some, like sandstone, do fairly well at withstanding fire while granite disintegrates rapidly. Other stones bear up under flame but then come apart when cooling. Economic considerations are also important as stone masonry can be expensive. Repairs for brick are also financially significant.
Plaster cladding, or stucco, is also highly rated in the pantheon of fire resistant house siding material. Stucco siding—when competently established – will last an hour before giving way to the hotness of fire. Having a look of clay or cement, stucco hearkens back to the classical architecture of ancient Greece or Rome. A mixture of sand, water and Portland cement, stucco is durable and affordable. Moreover, the smoothness of its texture is variable, as is its color. This makes stucco an extremely versatile fire resistant house siding material. It should be noted that stucco does better in dry climates than in humid ones since oversaturation reduces its effectiveness.
Wood Treated with Flame Retardant
Wood cladding may not qualify as a fire resistant house siding material but treating it chemically can slow the penetration of fire. Known as fire-retardant-treated wood, this is not a product that simply has a chemical coating. In fact, the wood is infused with a chemical solution in its very fibers under high pressure. This compound inhibits the speed of flame penetration and the amount of smoky byproduct. The primary weakness of this siding is in the stud cavity at the siding joints, where flames can aggregate and make their way to the interior.
Is Vinyl a Good Fire Resistant House Siding Material?
For all of its reasonable pricing and versatility, vinyl siding is not an optimal fire resistant house siding material. For one thing, as a synthetic plastic, it rapidly liquefies under the high temperatures imposed by external fires. At that point, the internal structure is exposed to all of the ravages fire can bring. This is why FEMA specifically advises against vinyl in areas prone to wildfires. Opposing this, vinyl advocates cite studies showing that the vast majority of house fires start from the inside. All the same, residents of dry, wooded regions might find small comfort in such statistics.
Like wood, vinyl siding can be improved to be more fire resistant. Gypsum boards of about 5/8 of an inch, lain beneath the house wrap and siding with taped joints, can provide a modest barrier that slows the conflagration. After all, every minute counts when trying to save a home. While the polyvinyl chloride substance does show itself to be flame-retardant, its weakness for high heat makes it a less than desirable fire resistant house siding material.
External fires pose threats to homes every bit as ominous as internal combustions. While they may be less frequent, the damage done can be devastating. This is why the choice of siding is so crucial. Improvements in technology are yielding new forms of fire resistant house siding material, as well as improving older methods of repelling flame and heat. Each material has strengths and weaknesses. Vinyl, for all of its assets, may not be a good option if fire resistance is a priority.
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