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Portola Valley/Woodside: Should shake roofs be banned?

Original post made on Jan 28, 2014

Wood shake roofs are vulnerable to wildfire. Should Woodside and Portola Valley ban them? Both town councils will discuss it with firefighters at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30, in the Community Hall at 765 Portola Road in Portola Valley.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, January 27, 2014, 6:11 PM

Comments (8)

Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Jan 28, 2014 at 12:00 pm

The article itself is inflammatory. Fire retardant roofs are not significantly more expensive. I can say that because I just replaced a roof, after getting several estimates for different types of materials.

Fire resistant roofs should be required in new construction and remodels.


Posted by chad Sefcik, a resident of another community
on Jan 28, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Yes they should be banned on all new construction permits issued in San Mateo County. These two communities are in an extremely dry environment. If a house fire breaks out, depending on its local, it could be a fire storm. Tops of trees could "Blow up" sending fire balls on to roofs of neigbors. If the neigbor's roof is shake, watering it down will not save it.


Posted by Will, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jan 28, 2014 at 12:52 pm

First, there are wood shakes with a Class A fire rating due to the retardant impregnated in them that allow the covering to survive the same fire test as a composition roof covering. Second, when the Red Flag warnings go up, the have not yet included the lower Peninsula due to the perpetual damp forest conditions and marine layer that soaks the coast all Summer.
Worried? Simply install roof top rain bird style sprinklers that can be operated by a ball valve for instant deployment by a home owner or even a neighbor if someone is worried. Slow news day?


Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Jan 28, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Will -- I think this issue is pertinent to a community situated in a high fire danger zone. I live in a neighboring community, but a fire in the hills will not care about municipal borders.

Hazard mitigation is not a "slow news day" subject at all -- unless you think that the usual acrimony that appears on these pages is appropriate "news." Maybe it's more entertaining, but I maintain that community safety is more important.

I applaud the Almanac for bringing this important topic forward.


Posted by who cares, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Jan 28, 2014 at 11:14 pm

When I had my shake roof replaced with a Class A composition roof the cost was about a third less than replacing with a shake roof. When I asked my insurance agent if my fire insurance would cost less answer was no.
So if the insurance companies do not care why should the city?


Posted by Will, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jan 29, 2014 at 6:48 am

The entire premise of 'high fire danger zone' is false. Yes, lots of fuel BUT it is damp-perpetually. Even with an ignition source, fires don't get very far thanks to prevention efforts and expert first fire responders (which is what this is most likely about). Too many comparisons are being made to the Sierra Nevadas, Los Angeles desert and Oakland Hills which are different micro climates, and contain vastly different fuel sources. Keep in mind shakes also absorb dew on foggy nights, all Summer long due to the canopy.

San Mateo county has not allowed 'combustible' wood shakes to be installed east of 280 since 1984. With the average useful life of 20-25 years, they have been most likely replaced with Class A non-combustible/fire resistant wood shakes, so the 5-10% combustible wood shakes is most likely an overstatment.

Ignition resistance slate? The would be great in volcano country.


Posted by Dave Boyce, Almanac staff writer
on Jan 29, 2014 at 11:07 am

Dave Boyce is a registered user.

If what Will says is accurate, it's likely that such a rule would affect properties on unincorporated land only. The county's jurisdiction has limits. Such a rule may well not apply to incorporated communities such as Woodside and Portola Valley.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on Jan 29, 2014 at 1:45 pm

I know when we replaced our wood shake roof 2 years ago in Woodside that if we did wood shake it had to be fire resistant treated and we would have needed another layer of fire resistant material under the shake as well (can't remember what that was called). After looking into it we went with what our contractor called "architectural" shingles, asphalt but about as thick as wood shake and put on in the same pattern so our roof's appearance didn't change much. The cost was roughly similar between the two materials.

I certainly didn't want a wood roof, treated or not, from both a longevity and a fire safety point of view, but if it's only 5-10% of homes max, and most new construction or major remodels aren't using wood anyway (that's what I see in my neighborhood anyway), maybe this just isn't a big problem.

I do have a problem seeing the arguments in favor of treated wood shake, though. Aesthetics, I suppose?


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