Reduce Bushfire Risk To Older Homes + Preparing Your Yard For Bushfires
In 2017 a page on Bushfire Season Preparation: Home and Outdoor Areas, offered some tips on making your home a little safer during bushfire season. The NSW Rural Fire Service recommends the following checklist to prepare your home and property.
- Clean your gutters of leaves and twigs
- Install metal gutter guards
- Repair damaged or missing tiles on the roof
- Install fine metal mesh screens on windows and doors
- Fit seals around doors and windows to eliminate gaps
- Seal all gaps in walls including the underfloor area, under eaves, and around windows and doors
- Enclose the areas under the house - also ensure you have no gaps under decking if this adjoins the house
- Repair or cover gaps in external walls
- Ensure that roof vents or skylights are sealed
- Attach a fire sprinkler system to gutters
- Keep lawns short and gardens well maintained; remove lawns from 1m of the house or ensure your lawns are watered and mown on high fire danger days
- Cut back trees and shrubs overhanging buildings; cut back or remove shrubs near to or touching wooden or glass features of the house
- Clean up fallen leaves, twigs and debris around the property
- Have hoses long enough to reach around your house; store a hose within your home in case it is needed after a fire front has passed
- If you have a pool, tank or dam, put a Static Water Supply (SWS) sign on your property entrance, so firefighters know where they can get water
- Check and maintain adequate levels of home and contents insurance. Ensure it is up to date.
- Remove flammable materials from around your home (e.g. wood piles, mulch, leaves, paint, BBQ gas bottles); remove doormats from entrance to home on high fire danger days
Older homes make up the majority of buildings in bushfire prone-areas. There are some simple things that can improve the performance of an older house in a bushfire. Here are 12 suggestions: six simple projects that could be done over a weekend or two, and six low-cost things you could do in a single afternoon.
Six weekend projects:
1. Remove some garden beds next to the house
This is particularly true for garden beds near timber-framed windows and doors. For timber and fibro homes, garden beds adjacent to the house should be avoided entirely. At the very least prune dense bushes close to timber-framed windows back hard.
2. Sand and repaint weathered timber door and window frames
Over time, paint peels and cracks appear in the exposed and weathered timber. During a bushfire, embers can lodge in these cracks and ignite.
3. Enclose the subfloor with a metal mesh
Flammable items are often stored underneath the house. If this area is not enclosed these items will catch, often due to ember attack, and pose a threat to every room in the house. The exposed underside of timber floors can be protected with a lightweight, non-combustible layer.
4. Repair or replace weathered timber decking
Just as embers can land in cracks in door and window frames, the same can also happen to weathered timber decking. Most decks are right next to the house and if they go up fire easily spreads to the home.
5. Have a 1-2 metre non-flammable area immediately around your house
Think of it as an additional protective defence area. You could use gravel, paving tiles, bricks, concrete, or ground rock such as scoria.
6. Get a professional roof inspection
Roofs gradually weaken and require maintenance. A professional roof repairer can check that tiles are in place, repair damaged ridge tiles, and ensure that skylights, air vents, evaporative coolers, and solar panels are in good order and are free from gaps where embers could enter.
The product specifications for timber door and window frames, metal mesh, and decking materials can be found in the relevant Australian Standard and steel construction standard. Actual requirements for houses vary according to the bushfire attack level associated with a specific block of land.
Six easy afternoon projects
1. Replace natural coil doormats with synthetic
While they appear harmless, natural organic doormats can cause a fire to grow if they ignite. Due to their density they burn for a long time, and can spread flames to timber door frames. A synthetic mat will only flare up for a short time.
2. Remove organic mulch from garden beds next to the house
Burning embers can easily ignite dried-out organic mulch, setting fire to surrounding plants. If garden beds are near the house, particularly timber door and window frames, the danger is increased. Either remove mulch in garden beds next to the house or – if the mulch is suitable – dig it in deeply.
3. Store firewood in an enclosed metal container
It is best to store wood well away from the house, but no one wants to walk metres in cold winters to get that wood. So some firewood is often stored close to the house on a burnable deck, and often it’s left there over summer. Putting it into a large metal container can remove that fire risk.
4. Remove flammable material from the front porch, roof cavity, decking and underfloor area
When embers enter the roof cavity and underneath the house, flames can rapidly spread to every room. It is vital to keep these areas clear of flammable materials.
5. Replace timber benches on timber decks with synthetic ones
A timber bench on a timber deck next to a timber house is an unnecessary risk, similar to having a wood pile on a timber deck.
6. Turn pressure relief valves on outside gas bottles away from the house
Both the 2003 Canberra and the 2016 Wye River bushfires showed the danger of having gas bottle valves facing the house. In both fires, houses were destroyed when either the gas plume flamed or gas bottles exploded.
While these projects will improve the bushfire protection of your home, they can’t guarantee your home will survive a bushfire, especially during catastrophic bushfire conditions. It is also crucial to upgrade your home insurance so you can meet the higher costs of new building standards, in the event you have to rebuild. And in all cases, act on warnings given by your state or territory fire authority.
The above suggestions for Older Home Bushfire Preparations were made this week by Dr Douglas Brown, Principle of Bushfire Architecture, a consultancy which researches how we might improve the design of buildings and subdivisions in bushfire-prone areas. From 2010-2013 he received a PhD scholarship from Bushfire CRC. He is a member of the International Association of Wildland Fire.
Tools And Products To Help You Get It Done - Some From The Johnson Brothers Mitre 10 'Spring Into Summer' Catalogue
All sale items run from November 13 - 24th - access fill sale catalogue online HERE
Gardena 15m Highflex Hose: $49.80
• 13mm x 15m. • Powergrip. Also available: 30m - $88.90
EARTHCORE GARDEN HOSE 12MM X 30M: $30.00
3 layer super braided reinforcement. PVC inner core. UV resistant PVC outer layer. Includes hose end connectors.
Makita 140cc Lawn Mower: $369.00
• Briggs & Stratton 140cc engine. • 4-Stroke. • Mulch & catch. • 60L catcher.
Yard Force 16" 129cc Lawn Mower: $199.00
• 129cc engine. • 16" steel deck. • 200mm rear wheels. • 45L catcher. • 7 adjustable height positions.
Built Galvanised Wheelbarrow 80L: $99.00
Also available: 100L: $129.00
Werner 1.8 - 3.2m Dual Purpose Ladder: $124.00
• 120Kg domestic rating. • Aluminium. • Versatile 2 in 1 design. • Easily converts from an A-frame step ladder to a straight ladder. • Double riveted construction. • Anti-slip feet for added safety & stability.
Johnson Brothers Mitre 10 Trade Centre at Mona Vale - everything you need under one roof.
Johnson Brothers Mitre 10 New Store
73 Bassett Street
Mona Vale - Online Store: Jbhmv.Com.Au
Products advice is available from the trained friendly staff at Narrabeen, Mona Vale and Avalon Johnson Brothers Mitre 10.
Click on logo to visit Johnson Brothers Mitre 10 website
Johnson Bros Mitre 10 - Avalon (02) 9918 3315
Johnson Bros Mitre 10 - Mona Vale (02) 9999 3340
JBH Timber & Building Supplies (02) 9999 0333
JBH Fencing & Landscape Supplies (02) 9970 6333
www.johnsonbros.com.au Online store: jbhmv.com.au
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