Rules and Regulations of Wildland Urban Interface (WUI)

Wildfire. One word that causes panic for many homeowners. Especially those in dry, fire-prone areas.

There’s a way to ease some of that panic. If you live in “hot spots” throughout the country, then you need to know about Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) products and codes. 

What is WUI?

Awildland urban interface productsWUI is the transition between undeveloped wildland (unoccupied land) and human development. This includes houses, retail, schools and other development. An interface fire can “jump” from a man-made structure to natural materials. This would include trees and shrubs. The opposite can also occur. A wildfire can “jump” from a forest to man-made buildings.

The basic requirement of WUI is that the exterior of a structure be ignition-resistant. In addition, it must be able to resist the entry of flying embers and fire radiation during a wildfire. This is especially important for roofs.

What does this mean to homeowners and roofing installers? Most importantly, you should check local WUI code requirements and rules. You want to know which approved Wildland Urban Interface products are best for a home exterior.

Am I in a WUI Risk Area?

You may be surprised at the number of wildfires happening right now across the country. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) tracks those fires. NFPA maintains a WUI zone map. The map gives details on where wildland fires are occurring within the USA right now.

In addition, NFPA has a FireWise USA® program. This helps communities reduce wildfire risks. You’ll find locations of those current programs on the map. FireWise USA helps people learn to live in wildfire risk areas. Similarly, it helps neighbors work to prevent infrastructure losses.

Products Versus Systems

You may already know there are code requirements for fire-resistant roofing in some areas of the country. Class A is the highest rating. Class C is the lowest. Understanding the ratings is important for everyone.

For example, our DaVinci Roofscapes composite roofing is all Class A rated for fire resistance. This means it has top ratings. Above all, it has passed three important tests. These are the Intermittent Flame Spread Test, Spread of Flame Test and Burning Brand Test.

Here’s what you may not know. Meeting WUI standards is about more than just having a Class A rated roofing product. It’s system specific. And, it’s also two-pronged.

First, there are the fire-resistant roofing and underlayment materials. These create the total roof system. Second, WUI rules and regulations take into consideration the site where a structure is built. This includes the distance of the building from forests, trees or even shrubs. In other words, it’s about creating a safe zone around a structure.

Farewell to Real Wood Products

In recent years we are seeing restrictions on types of building materials used in many West Coast states. These regulations help builders and roofers create homes that can stand up to flame spread. However, the materials can only help so much.

In the big picture, building materials are fragile. Many are also potentially flammable. Especially wood products.

That’s a key reason why real wood products get the thumbs down for so many projects. This includes roofing, decking and siding.

Even when treated, real wood can burn. That’s one reason why many insurance companies do not want to offer homeowners insurance to people with real shake roofs. In addition, it doesn’t take a wildfire to be right next to a cedar shake roof to make it burn. Flying embers from up to a mile away can land on a cedar roof. When that happens, it can start a fire.

What Do I Need to Know?

If you are getting a new roof (or installing one), check first with your local building codes. And, if you’re in an area with WUI code requirements, check on those.

You may have a real cedar roof right now. Perhaps you were just planning to replace it. However, codes may tell you differently. You could be “grandfathered” with a real cedar roof now. But, when it comes time to get a new roof, code requirements may stipulate you install a WUI compliant roof.

You should also know about costs. A Class A fire-resistant roof may cost more than other roofs. However, in the long run it’s an investment to keep your home safer. And, you may discover that some composite roofs, like those we offer from DaVinci, feature a Lifetime Limited Material Warranty. This gives you a solid return on investment.

Tips for Homeowners

If you are looking for Wildland Urban Interface products for your roof, consider these tips:

Tip #1 – Go to the roofing manufacturer’s website. Look for details on product fire ratings. Search for Wildland Urban Interface products information and flame resistant details.

Tip #2 – Remember, the roof is a system. Have your roofer explain the entire proposed roofing system to you. Ask about underlayment and its fire rating. Get a complete picture of fire ratings for every part of your roof system.

Tip #3 – Contact your insurance agency. Do this before purchasing a new roof. Ask about restrictions and discounts. Some homeowners can gain a discount on homeowners insurance with a fire-resistant roof.

Tip #4 – Create a safe zone around your home. Cut back shrubs, trees and vegetation that can serve as a dangerous fuel source. Maintain a defensible space between your home and vegetation.

Tip #5 – Once installed, inspect and clean off your roof regularly. Get rid of built-up debris on the roof. And, do the same with the gutters. Remove tree branches overhanging your roof. Even with Wildland Urban Interface products, these are all potential fuel for wildfire spread.

What Else Can I Do?

Get educated!

If you’re a roofer or contractor, watch, listen or read the “When Design Meets Safety” podcast on RoofersCoffeeShop. And, read up on WUI codes and standards for the county of your specific project.

Similarly, if you are a homeowner, study up. Visit the U.S. Fire Administration online site dedicated to WUI. Take time to understand how to protect your home.  In addition, there’s also a comprehensive “Living Fire Safe” WUI compliant guide put out by the Town of Hillsborough, California. You don’t need to live in that city to benefit from details in the free online guide.

After that, both homeowners and businesses can benefit from wildfire preparedness details from the Insurance Institute for Building & Home Safety.  “Preparing Homes for Wildfire” from NFPA offers great tips.  In addition, DaVinci offers an online blog on “What You Need to Know About Wildland Urban Interface Code.”