Are Newer Homes Safer than Older Homes?


Now that Christmas is over, many of us will be breathing a sigh of relief. No doubt the fire departments will. A recent ABC News report stated that Experts claim house fires go up an average of about 300 percent during the Christmas season alone, just from burning candles.

However, the danger doesn’t end with the Christmas season, and we never want to become complacent about fire danger. With new technology, wired smoke alarms, CO detectors, and great efficient building materials, our houses are much safer today than in the past, right? Wrong! In fact, just the opposite is true. Side-by-side comparisons indicate a newer home can burn up to six times faster than the older home.

In one study, two homes were furnished and set fire. Three minutes after the smoke detector sounded, the newer one was engulfed in smoke and flames. If you weren’t out by then, you probably weren’t going to make it out. In the one with older materials, the house became fire and smoke filled 10 minutes after the alarm sounded. Those seven minutes could literally be a lifetime.

The reason for this is mostly attributed to materials used to build the home, and the materials that are used to furnish it. Older homes were likely built with solid lumber and other bulky materials. They were built with quality and longevity in mind. Newer homes are built with speed and price in mind, so they are built with lighter materials like particle board and synthetic components, which are easier and faster to handle, which ultimately makes them more cost effective, but are more hazardous when considering a fire. Some are built or furnished with petroleum-based products, which is great fuel for a raging fire.  Older homes and furnishings were mostly made of natural materials, which have a longer burn rate,  giving the emergency crews more time to control or extinguish a fire, but more importantly, giving your family more time to get out.

The report also points out that fire-resistant technology doesn’t keep pace with the rapid growth of new products entering the market, with the exception of mattresses. Many newer ones deliberately set on fire will only smolder or self-extinguish. While some of this can be seen with newer insulation and furnishing materials, most elements in a modern home are more dangerous than in older homes.

If you’re renovating, look for lower burn rate products, and those with lower rates of fumes and gases when heated. An example is solid plank flooring versus veneer. Many who are renovating are tempted to use materials that only mimic the real thing to save money and effort. Solid wood may cost more and be more difficult to install, but provide a measure of safety and peace of mind these newer products can’t offer, and they ultimately look better.

Finally, remember that most house fires begin when furniture is ignited. Furnishing your home with solid woods and other “old fashioned” materials rather than particle board or synthetics will be pleasing to the eye and offer a little more security.

Please furnish your house with smoke detectors, check their operation monthly, and replace the batteries twice per year. The life you save will be yours or a loved one.