Protecting your home: Fire-resistant design

Protecting your home: Fire-resistant design


Bushfires are a constant threat to anyone living in rural areas and on the metropolitan fringes. The devastation created by the Black Saturday bushfires, in February 2009 made the Building Commission suggested ways Victorians can better protect their homes from fires. 

Fire Resistant Design 1    

Here are some ways home-owners can reduce the danger of bushfires by implementing as many fire-protecting measures:

A new building standard: The Victorian Government has implemented a new residential building standard based on the “bushfire attack level” of an area. In the Guide to building in Victoria after the bushfires, the Building Commission outlines the new Australian Standard (AS 3959). Specific construction materials and features are now required for the 20 percent of Victorian homes that fall into bushfire attack levels higher than the standard “low” level. 

The new residential building standard does not include mandatory retrofitting. According to Building Commissioner, Tony Arnel, “This will be a decision that you will need to make. It will be wise to take into consideration recent events, your home’s current level of protection, your location and home site.” 

Here are some of the measures the building commission has put together. Find out how you can create stronger, more fire-resistant home. 

Windows and doors: Creating a well-sealed home is effective in helping to withstanding a fire. By placing seals around doors and window frames, we can help reduce the risk of embers entering the home. 

The new Australian Standard states in the areas with higher Bushfire Attack Levels (BALs), the need for installation of non-combustible fire shutters made out of steel, bronze (or aluminium in low-fire-risk areas) on all doors and windows. 

Walls and internal frames: It is also advised that external walls be constructed from non-combustible materials such as steel, fibre cement, brick and stone. Not only are these materials often easy to assemble and favourably priced, they also have much more resistance in a fire situation. 

Roof and home design: When it comes to building in bushfire-prone areas, the new standards also outline the need to choose a simple roof design. Complex roof shapes can potentially more places for embers to lodge. To help those retrofitting their homes to withstand bushfire it’s recommended to minimise areas on or around your roof that could trap embers by “sealing, lining eaves and installing non-combustible gutter guards”. 

Guttering: Leaves, seeds and plants are carried by the wind and can naturally fall on your house or roof. These natural materials are highly flammable and become embedded in cracks and guttering. Placing a non-combustible mesh over gutters can help to avoid flammable decaying foliage build up in your gutters. 

Decking and pergolas: Most decking and pergolas are made from traditional timber making them a highly flammable. To reduce the chances of the timber igniting during a fire, treat these structures with a fire-retardant paint. It is also recommended that these structures are built separate from the home to ensure protection in fire prone areas. 

Gardens and Landscaping: Plant species that are high-water-bearing and fire-resistant are ideal for gardens as they have higher levels of moisture and prevent fire from spreading quickly. Keeping plants moist by wetting surrounding ground areas and using mulch, groundcover and plants with wastewater is essential. This can all help to reduce fire approach intensity. 

Routine maintenance: Routine maintenance is essential for bushfire protection. Ensure all fire-resistant fittings are in working condition to ensure the protection of your home, out-buildings and garden.