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By Kim Murphy
Murphy & Murphy Southern California Realty 

Real Estate Round-Up: H is for home hardening


Last updated 3/24/2021 at 1:11pm

How many of you have heard the term “home hardening?” It has nothing to do with making the structure harder. Afterall, how would we do that? Pour concrete over the structure? Or overlay it with brick and mortar?

No. Home hardening refers to preparing your home against potential wildfires. In the case of home hardening, it means, prepare.

It took some searching to find why this term was chosen. I found it within the framework of computing systems. Read below and I think you’ll agree that the term hardening makes a lot of sense when you apply this standard to preparing and protecting your property from fire.

In computing, hardening is usually the process of securing a system by reducing its surface of vulnerability. A system has a larger vulnerability surface the more that it does; in principle a single-function system is more secure than a multipurpose one.

Reducing available vectors of attack typically includes the removal of unnecessary software, unnecessary usernames or logins and the disabling or removal of unnecessary services. It made me realize how technology continues to be at the center of our lives, even the words we use to communicate.

Hardening as it relates to real estate requires an examination of the vulnerable areas of a property and shoring up the areas that would make the property prone to embers and fire.

If you recall the fire of 2007, the fire jumped Interstate 15. The embers flew under eaves, into air vents, and onto dried vegetation. If homes had been better prepared or “hardened,” some of those structures that perished could have been saved.

The fires that occurred across the state in 2019 and 2020 prompted the topic of home hardening to take center stage.

Eaves, soffits, and roof ventilation where the vents have openings in excess of 1/8th of an inch are not flame and ember resistant and are key areas to address.

Roof coverings that are dried out can lead to exposure that will allow embers to start fires. Bird-stops and flashing are important components to protecting embers from getting into your attic. Combustible landscaping or debris within 5 feet of the home, or under a deck, can open your property up to undue exposure.

Rain gutters need to be free of debris or have mesh covers to keep the debris out. Chimneys should have a non-flammable screen or spark arrestor. Dual pane windows will stand up to higher temperatures so investing in new windows is a great item in helping protect your property. Garages should have weather stripping around and under the garage door, and always have a fire extinguisher on hand.

Not all fires start as wildfires. Many fires start with flammables inside garages, that under the wrong conditions will ignite. For example, automobiles use gasoline or diesel which is highly flammable and can ignite and start a garage fire. Another high budget property improvement is the addition of stucco or replacing siding with fire cement wall-siding such as “Hardyboard.”

Evaluate the approach to your property. Is the street wide enough for a fire truck to have passage? Is there landscaping that prevents easy access to your home? Is your property address clearly visible? Do you have lengthy hoses at all your home’s spigots? If you have a well or a pool, do you have a pump that can be activated to provide gallons of water at a moment's notice?

There is no way any of us can guarantee that our property won’t succumb to a raging wildfire, but we can do our part to help stave off that horrendous disaster. Homeowners are required to disclose to prospective buyers if their home has home hardening features in place or if a home has vulnerable characteristics. The addition of effective home hardening adaptations to your property will be an important feature for insurance companies.

Acquiring new hazard insurance for a new purchase can be challenging. Being able to provide insurance companies with home hardening improvements is a strong first step.

For those of you that own your home and do not plan on selling soon, understand that due to COVID-19, there is a statewide moratorium on the cancellation of existing policies. Take this time to evaluate your current needs and fix them now. Home hardening is here to stay. We all need to do our part.

Kim Murphy can be reached at [email protected] or 760-415-9292 or at 130 N Main Avenue, in Fallbrook. Her broker license is #01229921, and she is on the board of directors for the California Association of Realtors.


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