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Yes, Austin Homeowners, With Archadeck You CAN Have The Outdoor Living Space Of Your Dreams If You Live In A WUI Area

To respect our natural surroundings here in Austin, Texas, our City of Austin adopted the 2015 International Wildland-Urban Interface Code – WUI Code – effective January 1, 2021, and began reviewing permit requests for compliance in April of that year. As such, all new construction must comply with the WUI Code as adopted by Austin.

WUI stands for Wildland Urban Interface, and the code is intended to proactively take measures to reduce the risk of fire spreading from heavily timbered areas to homes and igniting structures either on the home, attached to the home, or detached. The code originated in California and in force in several western states.

Why Did Austin Texas Enact The WUI Codes?

Austin, Texas, like many other regions in the United States, faces the challenge of balancing urban development with the preservation of natural areas and the mitigation of wildfire risks. The Wildland Urban Interface codes were enacted in Austin to address these concerns comprehensively. The primary goal of these codes is to enhance the safety of residents, properties, and natural resources in areas where urban development meets wildland areas prone to wildfires.


What Do The WUI Codes Say?

The WUI codes in Austin outline specific regulations and guidelines aimed at reducing the vulnerability of structures to wildfires. These codes typically cover various aspects, including landscaping, building materials, defensible space requirements, and access for emergency vehicles.

For example, the codes may specify the types of vegetation allowed near structures, the use of fire-resistant building materials, and the creation of defensible zones around properties to prevent the rapid spread of wildfires.

How Can Homeowners Comply With These WUI Codes?

Homeowners in Austin can comply with WUI codes by following the guidelines set forth by local authorities and fire departments. This may include:

1. Landscaping: Maintain a defensible space around your property by clearing dead vegetation, maintaining a proper distance between trees and structures, and using fire-resistant plants.

2. Building Materials: Be sure to use fire-resistant building materials for roofs, siding, decks, and fences to reduce the risk of ignition from embers and flames.

3. Access and Egress: Ensure that your properties have adequate access for emergency vehicles and that driveways, roads, and pathways are clear and easily navigable.

4. Fire Prevention Measures: Implement fire prevention measures such as installing spark arrestors on chimneys, maintaining gutters and roofs free of debris, and having a wildfire evacuation plan in place.

What Must Archadeck Of Austin, The Expert Professional Builder Of Outdoor Living Spaces, Be Mindful Of In Complying With These WUI Codes When Designing, Specifying Building Materials, And Constructing New Spaces?

As Austin’s #1 preferred builder of outdoor living spaces, we remain mindful and diligent of several key factors to comply with WUI codes effectively:

1. Building Design: We methodically design outdoor structures such as decks, patios, and pergolas with fire-resistant materials and features that minimize the risk of ignition during wildfires.

2. Building Materials: Our team specifies fire-resistant building materials for outdoor structures, including composite decking, metal roofing, and non-combustible siding materials. The published list of approved materials can be found here (note that Fire-X or other fire retardant treatments on pressure treated structural lumber are not possible ).

3. Landscaping: In recommending ideas and solutions for softscaping within and around our outdoor living areas, we always stress fire-smart landscaping practices, such as creating defensible space around structures, using fire-resistant plants, and avoiding the accumulation of flammable debris.

4. Construction Techniques: Our dedicated team employs construction techniques that enhance fire resistance, such as using fire-rated assemblies, sealing gaps and joints to prevent ember intrusion, and installing fire breaks where appropriate.

5. Compliance with Codes: To protect you, as well as the Austin environment, we ensure that all of our outdoor living spaces comply with local WUI codes and regulations, including setback requirements, fire access routes, and emergency egress considerations.

What Kinds Of Outdoor Living Spaces Are Most Impacted By These WUI Codes?

Outdoor living spaces that are most impacted by WUI codes in Austin include:

1. Decks and Patios: These areas may use combustible materials and are located close to the main structure, making them susceptible to wildfire ignition. For example, cedar is no longer acceptable as a building material in Austin unless it meets the definition of “Heavy Timber” per the International Building Code – IBC.

For decks, there are really only 2 options 1) a steel frame, which can be considerably more expensive than wood, or 2) a wood frame with a noncombustible skirt, like Hardi board (fiber cement) or stone. This effectively creates a fire break stopping embers from reaching wood components. All decking must be Class A fire rated. There are a short list of decking material that are Class A rated. This is a good list of ClassA fire rated decking material. link Do not assume all synthetic decking is Class A, only a few are. Ipe is acceptable but is the only wood product that is acceptable. To that end, any railings will need to be metal to comply with the WUI Code.

Please note that there is material marketed as “fire rated” wood for external use. This is NOT acceptable for external structural applications. This material is not treated for rot and termites only fire. As of this writing, the chemical treatment for rot and termites commonly referred to and “pressure treated” or “Yellawood” is NOT compatible with the fire-retardant chemicals. The word “treated” is easily misused and consumers should carefully research the topic.

2. Porches: All columns must be metal, wood wrapped in Hardie Plank Fiber Cement Siding, stone, or stucco. If a porch is attached to the house, it must meet exterior wall requirements. Gutters require metal screens as leaf guards and the roof overhang must be closed with Hardi Plank. If it is vented, there must be a wire mesh installed behind the Hardi. All roofing materials must have Class A fire rated shingles.

2. Pergolas: Pergolas are the most commonly requested shade structure and we build really beautiful pergolas. The WUI requirements basically end the use of cedar, which of course will burn. Instead, pergolas must be made of metal, either steel or aluminum. They can still be covered but cannot be made from wood. An unenclosed accessory structure attached to, or within 10 feet of, the house must comply with requirements for habitable spaces and projections.

3. Outdoor Kitchens: Outdoor kitchens with built-in grills, appliances, and combustible materials require careful design and construction to minimize fire hazards. Safety first – at all times.

4. Fire Features: Fire pits, fireplaces, and outdoor fireplaces are popular additions to outdoor living spaces here in Austin; and we always design and install them with fire safety in mind, including proper clearance from combustible materials and spark arrestors.

Archadeck Of Austin Is The Pro At Dealing With Properties Within The WUI Area

Virtually any building project you want can be made WUI compliant as long as you are diligent about what materials are used, how they are used. Some projects will bear additional cost such as decks and pergolas, but more porch covers will not have a premium. As such, Archadeck can custom design, specify and build your Austin family a space that will fulfill your needs, wants, desires and make your outdoor living dreams come true. Just ask our clients.

By honoring the Wildland Urban Interface codes in Austin, Texas, our professional team plays a crucial role in mitigating wildfire risks and ensuring the safety of residents and properties in areas where urban development interfaces with wildland areas.

Find out more about how Archadeck can deliver the outdoor living combination space you’ve been long dreaming of. Call us at 512-886-8367 for a complimentary design consultation; or click this link right here to connect with us now.

Jim Odom, owner Archadeck of Austin.