• Written by Douglas Brown, Casual Academic, Western Sydney University
There are no guarantees in bushfires, but you can improve the odds your house survives a blaze. Photo by Edward Doody, courtesy of Arkin Tilt Architects, Author provided

Seventy-five years of Australian research into how houses respond to bushfire has identified 21 main weak points in houses and the area immediately surrounding them.

In recent decades this knowledge has been used to inform new building construction. But older houses are generally not built to the same standard, unless they have been significantly renovated.

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.


Read more: Where to take refuge in your home during a bushfire


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.


Read more: Curious Kids: how do bushfires start?


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.

Open sub floor spaces are vulnerable, especially if used to store flammable material. Douglas Brown, Author provided

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 advice given in this article is general and may not suit every circumstance.

Dr Douglas Brown is the 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.

Authors: Douglas Brown, Casual Academic, Western Sydney University

Read more http://theconversation.com/12-simple-ways-you-can-reduce-bushfire-risk-to-older-homes-122712

Travel Smarter: 10 Gadgets and Accessories to Bring on a Road Trip

Are you tired of staying at home due to the pandemic? Well, you can basically forget about classic travel, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hit the road in your personal vehicle. Road trips w...

Lilly Miller - avatar Lilly Miller

Tacloban- The Most Populous City in the Region of Eastern Visayas

Tacloban is a modern, urbanized city of Philippines, and also a regional part for the province of Eastern Visayas. As per the 2015 census, the population of this city is around 242,089, making it ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

let's understand what they mean before debating Australia's course

The current surge in community transmission of COVID-19 in Victoria has brought renewed discussion of whether Australia should maintain its current “suppression” strategy, or pursue an &ld...

Anita Heywood, Associate Professor, UNSW - avatar Anita Heywood, Associate Professor, UNSW

HIV testing people who spit at police or health workers won't actually protect them

ShutterstockPeople who expose a police officer or emergency worker to body fluids would be compelled to have their blood tested for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, under a proposed law in NSW. But t...

Nicholas Medland, Sexual health physician, epidemiologist, researcher. (President-elect and vice-president Australasian Society of HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine), UNSW - avatar Nicholas Medland, Sexual health physician, epidemiologist, researcher. (President-elect and vice-president Australasian Society of HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine), UNSW

How to Avoid Causes of Blocked Drains and Stinky Overflow

Have you ever experienced a blocked drain that overflows? If so, you already know how bad the smell is. When you're keen to avoid a repeat of your experience, you need to know how to treat your drai...

Samantha Ball - avatar Samantha Ball

how cities across the globe are going back to coronavirus restrictions

The World Health Organisation reported more than 230,000 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday — the world’s largest daily increase during the pandemic. The surge has forced governments in many pla...

Maximilian de Courten, Health Policy Lead and Professor in Global Public Health at the Mitchell Institute, Victoria University - avatar Maximilian de Courten, Health Policy Lead and Professor in Global Public Health at the Mitchell Institute, Victoria University

What is love?

ShutterstockFrom songs and poems to novels and movies, romantic love is one of the most enduring subjects for artworks through the ages. But what about the science?Historical, cultural and even evolut...

Gery Karantzas, Associate professor in Social Psychology / Relationship Science, Deakin University - avatar Gery Karantzas, Associate professor in Social Psychology / Relationship Science, Deakin University

We could have more coronavirus outbreaks in tower blocks. Here's how lockdown should work

The recent lockdown of nine social housing towers in Melbourne’s north to contain the spread of COVID-19 led to widespread concerns for residents’ welfare.Among the concerns was that imple...

Thea van de Mortel, Professor, Nursing and Deputy Head (Learn & Teaching), School of Nursing and Midwifery, Griffith University - avatar Thea van de Mortel, Professor, Nursing and Deputy Head (Learn & Teaching), School of Nursing and Midwifery, Griffith University

7 Tips to Get Your New Website Indexed by Google Quickly

So, you have just launched a new website; congratulations!! But then soon enough, you are confronted with the challenge of your website or some pages not showing up on Google. The dream of every...

Media Release - avatar Media Release



News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion