Bushfires are a natural part of the Australian landscape and remain a threat to communities built in areas that are prone to fire. Building a timber deck in one of these places sounds like a bad idea, but there are ways to minimise the danger.
Bushfires can be caused by both natural and human activity. About half of these fires that occur in Australia are the result of natural sources of ignition such as lightning strikes. Humans are responsible for the other half, whether accidental or deliberate.
Regardless of their origins, they are a threat to your life and property and your timber deck is essentially a potential fuel source sitting in the path of a raging bushfire. Here are some things to think about if you live in a bushfire-prone area and are thinking of building a timber deck.
Allow Firefighters Easy Access To Your Home
The idea here is to allow firefighters to easily get into and out of your property and move around to extinguish the fire. The best-equipped and best-trained firemen will hardly matter if they cannot get into the right position to do what they do. So here are some guidelines.
If your home is located more than 30 metres from the nearest public road then make sure that the access road is at least 3 metres wide with a steepness of not more than 16 degrees at any point. Lay out your access road away from hazardous vegetation. As much as possible, provide the necessary curves and loops around buildings so that fire trucks do not need to back up when manoeuvering through your property.
Provide a Water Source
Some states require new homes to build a water supply specifically for fire protection. And that’s a good idea, too, because that stash of water may just come in handy when a fire does start to rage within the vicinity of your property. So even if you have built your home prior to this requirement, think about building a fire protection water supply anyway.
Build your water storage facility in a convenient place, preferably near the main house and the timber outdoor extension. The amount of water you should store depends on the level of bushfire risk in your location and may range from 2000 litres if connected to a mains water supply to 5000 litres if not connected. In areas where the risk of bushfire is extremely high as much 22000 litres of water may need to be stored.
Fire-Resistant Building Techniques and Materials
Build a timber deck using techniques and materials that make it more resistant to bushfires. It may not seem to make sense to use timber, in the first place, but species do exist that resist fire. Consider building your deck using Blackbutt, Merbau or Ironbark, which have been demonstrated to resist fire even without applying special treatment.
In high risk bushfire areas it’s recommended that you use steel posts for most outdoor applications, however you can potentially also use timber to build supporting posts, columns, stumps, piers and poles for your deck or pergola. Just make sure these are mounted on metal stirrups that are raised at least 75mm above the paving level. Flying embers are another danger, as these can lodge between decking boards and ignite the timber. To avoid this provide 10mm gaps between decking boards.