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Hot, dry Australian summers are a recipe for bushfire disaster. However, there are several precautions you can take to protect your home when building in a bushfire prone area.
First determine the Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) of your property. Australian Standard AS 3959 splits bushfire prone areas into six BAL categories from very low risk to extreme risk.
Each category has its own set of building requirements, particularly around what types of materials can be used, but here are some general tips you should follow when building in any bushfire risk zone:
Opt for aluminum or steel roofing
If the BAL of your property is 40 or higher, you must avoid using exposed timber in the construction of your home. Instead, opt for aluminum cladding, roofing and pergolas to protect against embers. If your BAL is under 40, you may use fire retardant timbers.
Install gutter guards
All properties with a BAL of 29 and higher require gutter guards. These stop leaf litter building up in your gutters, which can spell disaster for your home if a floating ember from a nearby fire lands in your gutter.
Use stainless steel or bronze insect screens
While the use of stainless steel or bronze insect screens are only compulsory for properties with a BAL of 40 or greater, they are nonetheless a great option for any homeowner who wants to reduce the risk of an exterior fire creeping inside. And aluminium shutters are a great way to add another layer of fire protection to your home.
Choose metal framed windows and doors
Timber window and door frames may be an attractive option, but they can be a magnet for fire. Instead, choose metal window and door frames that will help your home resist fire — as well as termites and other environmental impacts that will speed up deterioration.
Install toughened glass
While we’re on the subject of windows, it’s also vital to install toughened glass if you live in a bushfire prone area. Bushfire-rated toughened glass will resist shattering under high heat, unlike standard windows that are a serious safety hazard during a bushfire.
Add a water tank
If you live in a flame zone — the highest risk category — you’ll need to put a 10,000 litre water tank on your property. This must be kept full and reserved for fire fighting only — that is, it must be in addition to any tanks you use to supply your home with water.