Readers of this column know my opinion of wood shake and shingle roofs: I hate them. They support combustion and help turn brush and house fires into major disasters.
I've lobbied in print for legislation banning combustible roofs and I've written about alternatives to wood shakes and shingles.
I'm realistic enough to know that the hundreds of thousands--maybe even millions--of wood roofs in California aren't going to disappear overnight. But readers deserve advice on protecting their roofs and homes.
For the past five years, I've been searching for a product or process that gives wooden roofs some protection from brush fires or embers from nearby house fires. The search has been in vain, until now.
Coast Roof Savers, 4314 Birch St., Suite 211, Newport Beach, has developed what could be the first system that's worth the expense.
According to the firm's president, Peter G. Van Schultze, the two-step process--using chemicals developed by Mor-Gard of Gardena--beautifies wood roofs and protects them from both the elements and fire. Coast Roof Savers is the exclusive distributor for Mor-Gard in Orange County. Mor-Gard manufactures flame retardants for fabrics, carpets, papers, plastics, etc.
"After inspecting the roof and repairing it where needed, we clean it with pressure washing, using high-pressure hoses to remove years of debris, moss, fungus and mildew," Van Schultze said. "We then pressure-spray the roof with Mor-Gard WW 790, a high-potency, water-based flame retardant. After this is dry, we spray on Mor-Gard FR400 polyurethane-based sealant."
The sealant step is vital; without it, the flame retardant would leach out of the wood after a few months, he added.
The process costs about 69 cents a square foot, typically about a quarter of the $8,000 to $12,000 to replace a roof, according to his son-in-law and employee William T. Fernandez.
"As far as we know, this process is the only one that has passed Standard 52 of the Los Angeles Fire Department," Fernandez said.
Standard No. 52 requires that a deck of cedar shake roofing material 52 inches by 40 inches be treated with a flame retardant, allowed to weather 42 days and survive 25 burning particles. As if this isn't enough, a 12-mile-an-hour simulated Santa Ana wind wafts across the test deck during the attempt to destroy it.
To pass the test, none of the burning particles can fall from the surface, nor must any alteration of the shape of the shingle take place.
In a 1984 test conducted by Ramtech Laboratories Inc., Paramount, the deck treated with the Mor-Gard compounds "satisfactorily" passed Standard No. 52.
The Coast Roof Savers process is certainly worth investigating for homeowners whose wooden roofs still have useful life.