Summer bushfires are a dangerous but unavoidable fact of life in many parts of Australia. Even a small bushfire can tear through an average home, leaving a smoking ruin in a matter of minutes. After the particularly devastating fires that occurred during the 2019-2020 season, many homeowners are making sure their homes are as fireproof as possible.
If you are having a custom home built on your land, or as part of a knockdown-rebuild project, you have a great opportunity to create a bushfire-resistant home from the ground up. To ensure that your newly built home is as resistant to bushfire damage as possible, work closely with your chosen builders during the design process, and keep the following guidelines in mind:
Choose A Fire-Resistant Roof Design
A fire-resistant roof is a must for any bushfire resistant home and constitutes your home's first line of defence. If your home's roofing materials catch fire, the roof can collapse suddenly, instantly demolishing the contents of your home. A roof with gaps and cracks can also allow hot ash and burning debris to be carried on the wind and into your home, potentially starting a fire even when the bushfire itself is miles away.
A fire-resistant roof should be made from non-flammable materials that either provide continuous coverage or overlap with no gaps between individual tiles or shingles. Concrete or fibre cement tiles, standing seam metal roofing and fibreglass-asphalt composite shingles are all excellent choices. You should also opt for a relatively steep angle for your roof, as burning material can settle on flat and low-slope roofing.
Avoid Timber Framing
Timber-framed homes are cost-effective and quick to build, but they are also vulnerable to bushfires. While structural timbers are impregnated with fire-retardant chemicals to make them less flammable, they will still ignite if exposed to open flames for an extended period. Larger bushfires can cause them to catch fire through heat convection alone.
Steel framing is excellent for creating a bushfire-resistant home, and will often remain standing even if the rest of the home burns to your ground. It is also immune to termites and rot. However, it is considerably more expensive than timber framing. Steel framing also takes more time to assemble than timber framing, which can be awkward if you need to move into your new home as soon as possible.
Insulated concrete forms (ICFs) are another fireproof alternative to timber framing. These fireproof building blocks are made from rigid polystyrene blocks filled with concrete and reinforced with steel ties. They are also more expensive than timber framing, but less expensive than steel framing, and can be assembled more quickly than either option by builders who work with ICFs.
Don't Skimp On Windows And Screen Doors
Inexpensive single-glazed windows and screen doors are very vulnerable to bushfires and can shatter when exposed to the heat of a large fire, allowing burning embers and debris into your home. Double glazed windows and doors are more expensive, but well worth the extra investment if you are building in a bushfire-prone area. Double glazing made from thermally or chemically tempered glass is ideal.