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Renovating your home to prepare for bushfire season

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Renovating your home to prepare for bushfire season

New homes that are constructed in designated Bush Fire Prone Areas (BPA) are required to comply with AS 3959 (Australian Standard) “Construction of Buildings in Bushfire Prone Areas.” The BPA is a building control, and specifies construction solutions to reduce the impact of fire on your home. This could include protecting the underneath of your house, covering your windows with metal screens and providing appropriate weather stripping to your doors.

There is no retrospective legislation for houses in BPA. Therefore existing homes need to be renovated, or modified in some way to protect them against bush fires. Most houses burn down through ember attack, so reducing the path of embers into the home is critical. Decks, windows, doors and the roof are areas where a fire may gain access to the home.

Embers can penetrate through gaps in the roof. Sarking will prevent this, but is usually installed when the house is originally built. Ensure any new extensions have sarking in the roof. In an existing home, seal the gaps with compressed mineral wood.

Embers enter through windows if they become broken by debris, or through combustible windowsills. If you are building your home, then consider not having windowsills at all. In an existing home, install metal screens over the window and frame. Seal any gaps with a fire retardant sealer.

Screens in all doors will prevent an ember attack through a doorway. Seal gaps around the doorframe, and seal combustible doorsills. Close under floor spaces and seal gaps in the floor.

Build decks away from the house, with gaps between the planks to allow the embers to fall through. Consider building a deck out of non-combustible materials.

In all these situations, sprinkler installation is another way to fight an ember attack, however the sprinklers must be installed so that water covers every aspect of the access point. This should be in addition to other ember attack methods mentioned above such as sealing. Consider how they will be activated, the water source, and the equipment. Any fault in these aspects will cause the sprinkler to be useless.

What about your water systems? You may not be able to reply on mains water during a fire as water pressure may drop. Electrical pumps may be unreliable if power is cut off. Install alternative water supplies such as tanks, or install access to dams or swimming pools.

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