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Building a Deck in a Bushfire Zone: What You Need to Know

The backyard deck is central to Australian outdoor living culture, and is integral to creating a strong relationship between the indoors and outdoors and fostering a connection with nature. In certain contexts, however, constructing a deck is more complex than merely constructing a timber or metal outdoor structure; specific standards and guidelines apply to different installation environments.

In bushfire prone areas, decks must comply with the fire safety requirements set out in AS 3959-2009 – Construction of Buildings in Bushfire Prone Areas. Section 2 of the same Standard establishes the Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) metric, which measures the degree of risk of a building’s exposure to ember attack, radiant heat, and direct flame contact. BAL is measured in increments of radiant heat, which are expressed in terms of kilowatts/m2 (kW/m2). 

Understanding BAL Ratings

The six different BAL levels, in ascending order of risk of exposure, are:

BAL-LOW environments have zero risk of exposure to fire, ember, or radiant heat.

BAL-12.5 environments are at risk of ember attack, but not of exposure to radiant heat or direct flame contact.

BAL-19 environments have an increased risk of ember attack and exposure to burning debris with a heat flux of up to 19kW/m2.

BAL-29 environments have an increased risk of ember attack and exposure to burning debris with a heat flux of up to 29kW/m2. 

BAL-40 environments have an increased risk of ember attack and exposure to burning debris with a heat flux of up to 40kW/m2, in addition to increased likelihood of exposure to flames.

BAL-FZ environments are at risk of ember attack, direct exposure to flames from the fire front, and heat flux greater than 40kW/m2.

The Department of Fire & Emergency Services (DFES) Bushfire Map is a public resource that can be used to check if your property is in a bushfire area. For specific BAL construction requirements, contact your local council or governing authority.

What makes a deck bushfire safe?

Decks constructed in environments rated BAL-19 and higher must comply with the following requirements.

In BAL-19 environments, they must have an enclosed sub-floor space and be non-combustible or bushfire resistant within 200mm horizontally and 400mm vertically of a glazed element. 

In BAL-29 environments, decks must have an enclosed sub-floor space or bushfire resistant supports. Non-combustible or bushfire-resisting materials must be used.

In BAL-40 environments, decks must have an enclosed sub-floor space or non-combustible supports. The decking itself must be non-combustible.

In BAL-FZ environments, decks must have an enclosed sub-floor space or non-combustible supports. The decking must be non-combustible and have no gaps between planks.

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DecoDeck by DECO

Approved for use in the most demanding BAL-FZ environments, DecoDeck aluminium decking system is the ideal alternative to timber in bushfire prone areas. Marrying the natural beauty of timber decking with the outstanding strength and durability of aluminium, DecoDeck allows you to build your dream deck with peace of mind that it will withstand the risk of ember attack and direct exposure to flames with ease.

DecoDeck is designed and engineered to last. From its 2.5mm thick ribbed aluminium profiles to its DecoWood Super Durable powder coating finish, the innovative decking system provides a high degree of durability and design flexibility that is unmatched by natural timber. The sublimation process ensures that the DecoWood Super Durable powder coating will not show wear and provides a realistic, detailed wood grain that is available in over 150 different DecoWood timber finishes. Backed by a 12-year warranty, DecoDeck will not warp, twist, rot, or splinter with age or exposure, and its marine grade powder coating provides resistance to corrosion in any environment. 

Click here to learn more about DecoDeck.

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