Defensible Space Spotlight: Non-combustible Fencing

When Robert Frost wrote a poem about a guy saying, “Good fences make good neighbors,” that guy probably never had wildfire for a neighbor. Fire gets past fences. And if you have a standard wood fence, spreading fire can turn that fence into a fuse for igniting your home. 

In places like Butte County, you need more than good fencing. You need smart fencing. 

Here’s how to have smart fencing:

Choose non-flammable fencing next to your home.

Don’t have any flammable fencing attached to your home, even if the attached part is a wood-and-metal gate that you don’t always keep closed. Any wood that’s close to the house is an invitation for flames to get that close, too. Fencing and gate wood is like an antenna for flying embers that can travel miles from a burning fire to land and ignite.

If you have a flammable fence, replace the five feet closest to the house with something that won’t burn, even if that section is a gate that’s part metal. Brickwork with an all-metal gate, brickwork alone, or a metal gate alone is great options for closing off the gap without adding to your fire risk. Another idea is to install a five-foot section of corrugated metal. While not the most attractive option, it’s cost-effective and can be painted to blend with your home and not call much attention to itself.

Check out alternatives to wood for full fences.

If you’re building or replacing an entire fence, here are some options to consider:

Brick or stone: Whether you prefer the tailored look of a brick wall, or the rugged look of fieldstone, either of these options is a great way to discourage fire from spreading.

Steel or aluminum privacy fencing: This sounds a bit industrial, but contemporary molding and laser cutting have made this an attractive and fire-smart option.

Wrought iron: The elegant rods and scrollwork of a wrought iron fence remain a classic and fire-safe option.

Molded concrete: You can’t burn concrete, and these fences are available in styles that mimic traditional materials like wood, brick, and stone.

Composites: There are various composite products on the market, so check the fire rating for anything you’re considering; just understandhaving a good fire rating is not the same as fireproof. Use another material for any 5-foot section connected to your home.

Vinyl: Flame retardant by nature, vinyl is harder to ignite than wood and, if it does ignite, the flames tend to stay localized and are easily extinguishable. On the downside, colors tend to fade over time and, since it can ignite, vinyl isn’t recommended for the all-important five feet attached to your house.

Corrugated metal: Again, this isn’t the best option in terms of aesthetics, but it’s inexpensive and paintable to blend in with its surroundings.

Today’s modern construction materials mean there are options out there that can lower your fire risk without breaking the bank. Which one will you choose?