Hardening Your Home Means Hardening Windows, Too

If you’ve ever seen a glass-blowing demonstration, you know what the heat in a glass blower’s furnace does to glass. It breaks it down. The same goes for the extreme heat of wildfires. When it comes into contact with glass, it goes right to work on weakening it. So, when hardening your home against fire, you can’t be too careful about making sure your windows are as strong as possible. 

Heat is enough to do damage.

It doesn’t take active flames to break windows. Just the heat from an approaching fire is enough to make it happen. While glass might not burst into flames like other parts of a home, heat can make it burst into shards, creating an open invitation to embers that ignite flames.

Heat is like an advance team trying to soften an enemy’s defenses before the larger offensive moves in; that’s why hardening (i.e., strengthening) your windows is so important.

Here’s how to harden windows.

Again, we can’t stress enough how important strong windows are during a wildfire event. A broken window is, literally, a hole in your house that will suck in dangerous embers. Here are some steps you can take to protect against window breakage:

  • Replace single-pane windows: Single-pane windows are highly vulnerable. Reduce the risk of fire-related breakage by replacing them with double-pane windows that include at least one pane of tempered (a specially strengthened safety glass that breaks into cubes instead of shards) glass. Be especially careful about large windows; the larger a window, the more susceptible it is to breaking during a fire. If you already have large windows, make them as strong as possible.
  • Install screens: Should a window break during a fire, having a fine-mesh screen in place can sift any embers being drawn toward the opening, reducing their size and making them less likely to ignite once inside.
  • Plan windows wisely: If you’re building a new home or remodeling, consider reducing the number of windows facing, 1) a lot of plant and tree growth, 2) the prevailing wind direction. Vegetation fuels fires, so reducing the proximity of glass to those fuel sources is a wise move. Should a window break, it’s better for it to be facing away from the most likely direction in which embers would travel during a fire.

Let’s close with one that seems like common sense but could easily happen wholly by accident. Don’t leave windows open when you’re away; just as you wouldn’t leave a door open as an invitation to robbery, don’t leave your home vulnerable to embers you won’t be around to see. 

And here’s a bonus tip on skylights—if you have them, make sure they have dual-pane tempered glass, and be diligent about keeping leaves and other vegetation from collecting around them where they could fuel flames.