Who doesn’t love our vast and diverse Aussie bushland? The birds, the beasts, the noisy white wash silence of cicada song. We even grew up singing about living among gumtrees. It is no wonder that so many Australians choose to build their houses amidst eucalyptus forests.
But living so close to nature in Australia can have it’s problems. This summer we are all too familiar with the devastation that bushfire can wreck on our homes. As it stands an unprecedented 2000 homes have been destroyed, not to mention the catastrophic and tragic loss of human and animal life. With this in mind, and our yearning to live close to nature, how can we make our Aussie homes more bushfire proof?
When first building a home you need to know the potential bushfire risk of the property. The higher the risk is the greater the fire protection you need. The standard name for this risk is BAL or ‘bushfire attack level’. The BAL of your property is determined by its location, its vegetation, and how close the building would be to vegetation, and its slope.
There are six bushfire attack levels: starting at level 1 which is low, and ranging through the next five levels of 12.5, 19, 29 and 40 to level six FZ (flame zone).
The Bushfire Proof Home
People often assume that flames are the initial cause of house destruction during a bushfire but it actually most often begins with an ember attack from a nearby firefront. So it surprises many to find out it is not just homes built in BAL-FZ or BAL-40 that benefit from being fireproof. Needless to say, the outside of a building is the most vulnerable to ember attack and should be made from materials that don’t burn. Steel fabrication frames, brick and rammed earth are good places to start when planning the bones of your home, although timber is still acceptable due to it being clad and insulated.
Windows and Doors
Window and doors and their frames may be made of timber but have shutters that can fully enclose them like these insulated aluminium or stainless roller shutter slats. Some home builders don’t want the school canteen-look of metal shutters. In this case they need to supply steel frames with bronze or corrosion-free steel flyscreen mesh.
Luckily good ol’ corrugated steel roof sheets are perfect in keeping out embers. These need to be combined with a high performance foil faced insulation blanket to reduce heat transfer to the timber frame. Roof tiles or shingles are also fireproof when used with a thermal tile sarking.
Obviously the outside materials of your house need to be non- combustible but they must also have no gaps. Hardie has a wide range of fibre cement cladding and flooring. Decking and any external flooring supports must also be fireproof like concrete or the highest quality RHS steel (rectangular hollow section).
1. Shade. Clearing vegetation away from eaves is a great way to fireproof your home but it does take away all your shade. Consider installing galvanised steel posts and fix shade sails to provide you and your home with passive insulation and the perfect place to entertain and view the surrounding bushland.
2. Weld. Your new bushfire proof home most likely has a steel frame. Consider becoming a welding boss with Bossweld equipment so that new additions to your house don’t just end with bent nails and broken hammers.
3. Get friendly with your local stainless steel supplier. Because they will help you get sorted with plenty of non-combustible metal products to keep you and your home among the gumtrees.