In Australia we are no strangers to bushfires. In cities and regional towns alike, they’re an ever-present threat as we are surrounded by the beautiful bushland of our many national parks and the tinder-dry grass of fields and pastures. Our climate is one of our biggest international drawcards, attracting tourists from around the world who are keen to soak up the sun on our stunning, world-class beaches, and to see our unique flora and fauna. Unfortunately, our climate is also one of the biggest threats to the safety of our families and homes, being prone to regular bushfires and grass fires.
When is bushfire season in Sydney?
While bushfires can occur at almost any time in Australia, there is an acknowledged “bushfire season”. Because of the size of our continent and the vast range of climate zones (believe it or not, there are eight climate zones in Australia), bushfire season varies from region to region. In the northern regions the danger period is winter, while southern regions are more at risk during the dry summer months.
Here in Sydney, the greatest bushfire danger period occurs following a dry winter and spring. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, Sydney homes are more at risk from spring to mid-summer. Particularly dangerous conditions are produced by deep low-pressure systems near Tasmania that force strong, hot and dry westerly winds into vulnerable coastal regions.
The return of more moist conditions, often brought about by the development of tropical cyclones off the coast Queensland, typically signals the end of “bushfire season”. However, our climate being what it is, with ever-changing weather patterns and significant periods of drought, the risks of bushfire never disappear completely.
How do homes get damaged during a bushfire?
While authorities can try to control the threat by employing backburning and other coordinated fire prevention strategies, there are actions that homeowners can take to minimise the damage to their properties.
Damage caused to homes by bushfire can occur in one of three ways:
- Ember attack
- Direct contact with flame
- Radiant heat.
Research has shown that most bushfire damage to buildings is caused by embers or sparks being blown through unprotected openings. However, if flames ignite vegetation or flammable materials close to the home, there is greater risk of flames making direct contact with the home.
6 ways to prepare your roof before bushfire season
One of the most effective bushfire protection strategies that homeowners can use to reduce the potential risks posed to the safety of their home and families, is to ensure their home’s roof is well-prepared. We’ve put together a list of things you can do to ensure your roof is ready for bushfire season.
1. Ensure trees are properly trimmed back
It is recommended you keep at least a 2m gap between your roof and any trees or tree branches to reduce the danger from radiant heat and sparks. Ensure all trees on your property, particularly those close to your home, are properly trimmed and don’t allow any branches to hang over your roof. Remove lower branches on large, established trees, to provide a vertical fire break and reduce the risk of grass fires reaching into the treetop leaf canopy.
2. Clean leaf litter and other debris from your roof and guttering
It is recommended you pay particular attention to removing leaves and debris from your roof valleys, gutters, and downpipes. This task can be made much easier by installing gutter mesh to your gutters, however it is recommended that any such materials have a flammability index of no more than 5.
3. Routinely check your roof and ensure it is well-maintained
It is recommended you routinely check your roof and perform roof maintenance where necessary. Take particular care to ensure that gaps in your roof are blocked, to help prevent sparks and embers from entering your roof space. This involves checking that:
- flashing is intact.
- sarking has a flammability index of no more than 5.
- pointing on tile roofs is in good repair.
- roof tiles are intact, properly bedded and secure.
- metal roof cladding is secure and undamaged.
4. Ensure any openings or gaps in your roof meet requirements or guidelines for fire safety
Gaps underneath the corrugations in metal sheeting should be sealed or protected by sarking, mesh, use of a profiled metal sheet, a neoprene seal or compressed mineral wool. Tiled roof should be fully sarked. It is recommended that any openings or gaps in the roof, through which embers may enter the roof space, are protected and have been constructed in accordance with fire safety recommendations or requirements. This includes:
- Roof vents and ventilators
- eaves and fascia
Roof vents and ventilators
Typically, these should be constructed of non-combustible materials with openings protected by corrosion-resistant steel or bronze mesh with a maximum aperture size of 1.8mm, and penetrations through the roof to accommodate vent pipes and ventilators should be sealed with a fire-retardant sealant or non-combustible collar.
These should be sealed with a non-combustible sleeve or lining. Ventilated skylights should have openings protected by corrosion-resistant steel or bronze mesh with a maximum aperture size of 1.8mm.
Eaves and fascia
Gaps between rafters should be sealed with a non-combustible material at the line of the wall, or the junction between the roof and walls should be sealed by a fascia and eaves lining.
5. Ensure roof insulation is fire-resistant
If you live in a particularly fire-prone area it is highly recommended that any roof insulation you install should be fire resistant, to provide an additional layer of protection. Products like Bradford Fireseal roof batts and Gyprock Fyrcheck both have excellent fire resistant properties, being specially constructed for fire separation and use in fire rated wall and ceiling systems.
6. Consider a roof sprinkler system
Roof-mounted sprinkler systems work to cool the area around the home and extinguish embers. There are a range of roof-mounted and gutter-hung systems on the market – some are specially-designed hoses that attach to a garden hose and rely on gravity to drop a curtain of water that protects the home; others are high-volume, high-pressure systems that use pumps that can be connected to a water storage tank or swimming pool to deliver large amounts of water via long-range sprinklers.
In addition to creating a protective wall of water in front of your home these systems also work to keep your roof and gutters wet, as protection against any debris that may have been blown in by the bushfire front and ended up on the roof or in the gutters and downpipes.
Contact Sydney Roof & Building Supplies for all your roof protection and maintenance needs
Sydney Roof & Building Supplies carries a wide range of high-quality roof materials and roofing supplies, including hand tools, roof primers and paints, flashing, cowling, gutter mesh and roof insulation. Our fantastic team of knowledgeable staff are committed to providing all our clients with superior service – expert advice, fast delivery, and wholesale prices. For more information, call the team at Sydney Roof & Building Supplies today on (02) 8090 3483 or click here for further contact details.