Everyone loves a timber backyard deck, but what happens when you are in a bushfire zone and can't build one? The 2009 Black Saturday bushfires left more than just destruction in their wake. They gave birth to new, stricter Australian Standards outlining what can and can’t be built in bushfire prone areas, to reduce the threat to your home. A new bushfire rating was born out of this standard revision: Flame Zone (BAL FZ) – the most extreme level of bushfire rating. If your property is in a BAL FZ area, there are strict regulations to set out what materials you can use on your home...and for your deck.
How do I know if I’m in a Flame Zone area?
Australian Standard AS3959: Constructions of Buildings in Bushfire Areas sets out the regulations for homes in each bushfire zone. Areas are classed into different bushfire zones based on their level of risk from burning debris, embers, heat and flames, and range from BAL LOW – where there is minimal risk of a bushfire – to BAL 40, where there is high risk of attack from burning embers and debris, and BAL FZ, where your property is likely to be exposed to the flames of a fire front in the event of a bushfire. The lower your BAL rating, the fewer modifications you will need to make to your property to keep it fire safe. Your BAL rating will be calculated according to:
- •The likelihood of a bushfire occurring in your area
- •The proximity of your property to classified vegetation (the closer you are, the higher your BAL rating)
- •The slope of your property or the land around it (fire travels faster uphill)
If you are not sure of your BAL rating, you can arrange a BAL assessment from an accredited bushfire consultant or building inspector.
Building a deck in the Flame Zone
If your property has been given a BAL FZ rating, you will need to ensure everything you build on it – including your deck – are compliant with AS 3959. According to this standard, your deck must:
- •Not be spaced
- •Be non-combustible, a fibre cement sheet or a decking system compliant with AS 1530.8.2 (meaning it has passed simulated bushfire attack testing), or a combination of any of these. This includes not only your decking boards but your stair treads, ramps and landings
- •Have an enclosed subfloor space or non-combustible supports
Because of the requirement that Flame Zone decks are non-combustible, some materials – including timber – cannot be used. Your council may also place further restrictions on which products can be used in Flame Zone areas. This can present a problem for many homeowners – for their decking to be non-combustible, they often end up using concrete, tile or fibre cement products, losing some of the natural, beautiful look of a classic deck.
DecoDeck: beautiful, non-combustible decking
Don’t compromise on aesthetics with DecoDeck. Both attractive and fire-resistant, DecoDeck is a solid aluminium decking product that replicates the natural appearance of timber. Made from solid, powder coated aluminium, DecoDeck is non-combustible in compliance with AS 1530.1 and AS 1530.3. By inserting DECO’s colour-matched aluminium cover strips between the boards, your DecoDeck becomes an unspaced deck, which complies fully with AS 3959 in BAL FZ areas. DecoDeck can be screwed down to non-combustible steel frame, such as Spantec, with specially-designed screws, ensuring your subfloor is also fire-safe. DecoDeck offers 17 beautiful woodgrain finishes, allowing you to build an elegant deck with a natural aesthetic that complements the beautiful bushland surrounding your home. DecoDeck is the perfect solution for all your Flame Zone decking needs – an attractive yet fire-safe alternative to the traditional timber deck.
Visit DECO’s stand at the 2019 Bushfire Building Community Day this Saturday 7 September to find out more about our range of fire-safe products.