How to Build a More Fire-Resistant Deck

By January 25, 2024 February 7th, 2024 Uncategorized
Black clouds from a wildfire hover over a housing development

In 2022, 835 wildfires burned in Colorado, destroying 45,732 acres. The thought of another wildfire season has motivated many homeowners to research ways of mitigating possible threats to their property. There are numerous building products on the market for new home construction, but there are ways of upgrading your current home to help. One of the best ways is to remove an existing wood deck, which has a considerable risk of combustion, and install a composite, steel-framed deck.

 

COMPOSITE DECKING

Using composite decking materials does not mean your deck will be fire-proof, but it is non-combustible.  When the embers from a forest fire land on a wood deck, that deck will burn, adding fuel to the existing fire.  With a composite deck, the embers will not burst into flame.  They will melt the material, but the deck will not become fuel for the fire.

 

Below is a picture from an El Paso County study done on the wildfires we have suffered over the years.  If you look on the right, the entire house is gone. But the composite deck and metal railing have not burned.

Shows what is left of a house destroyed by wildfire, but the composite deck is still whole.

Composite decking materials do have different fire ratings, from Class up to Class A.  If fire mitigation is a concern for you, make sure to check the rating when choosing a decking material.

 

STEEL DECK FRAMING

 

Building with a steel deck frame is another prime way to mitigate your fire risk.  You can use any type of decking material with a steel frame – composite, PVC, hardwood, or wood.  The majority of homeowners choose to use composite material, but there are hardwoods available with a Class A fire rating, making them an excellent choice for fire-prone areas.

 

Choosing a steel deck frame offers other benefits to homeowners besides fire mitigation:

  1. Steel deck beams are stronger and more accurate than wood.

The beams used with steel frames are galvanized steel sheets pulled through a die. The steel is then U-shaped and cold-formed (known as cold-rolled forming). This process creates lightweight, stronger, and straighter joists than wood.

 

  1. Steel allows for spans of longer length than wood.

Using steel framing will open up the length of spans that can be used, resulting in almost unlimited design options. It makes squaring the deck easy and straightforward, and the rim joist construction is always plum.

 

  1. Steel products are more sustainable than wood.

Conservation is an essential factor for many consumers when making a purchase. Steel is one of the most recycled materials on the planet. Even recycled steel has the same high quality as it did in its first use.

 

  1. Steel framing will not rot.

Pressure-treated wood is susceptible to a fungus known as brown rot. This organism will cause the wood to decay and soften, eventually turning it into rot. Severe cases of brown rot in beams and joists can result in unsafe decks.

 

  1. Steel is strong enough to support the “popular deck amenities.”

Building a deck that is truly an outdoor living space has become very popular. These types of decks usually involve much more weight on the frame. Customers install outdoor kitchens, fireplaces, steel or wood pergolas, etc.  With a wood deck frame, much more material will be used in order to support the weight. Using a steel deck frame eliminates this problem.

 

WILDLAND URBAN INTERFACE

Colorado Springs has adopted code requirements that require wildfire mitigation measures for all new construction.  This also includes deck building, whether it is a brand-new deck or just a like-for-like replacement.  An inspector will have to visit the site and determine if the area is up to code before a permit can be closed.  For more information on the new requirements, please visit: https://coloradosprings.gov/fire-department/page/wildfire-risk-reduction-requirements-within-wildland.

 

If you are considering building a new deck, there are many reasons why you should strongly consider using a steel deck frame. The number of decks built using steel continues to grow every year and is only becoming more popular in wildfire-prone areas. If you would like to discuss building your new deck and whether you should use steel, don’t hesitate to call Doug at 719-440-6966!