Whether you are entertaining on a balmy night, or the outlook from your property to the bush is simply spectacular, a timber deck connects indoor living with the outdoor environment.
A home on Bushfire Prone Land is no exception. You can enhance your abode by adding a timber deck overlooking the backyard, pool, or the nearby bush.
With careful planning, specified materials and construction, a timber deck may be possible in certain circumstances.
The possibility of a timber deck depends on several factors. You may require a Council DA or a CDC application for your deck. Determining factors for this are:
- your proposed deck’s size
- its location
- its height above ground
- the Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) rating of your property
Seek advice from a designer before you take up this option, as there are many requirements.
The first step in making your plans is to have the correct parameters examined to ensure you will have a compliant deck. You may only need to make a few small modifications and your deck will be a reality. However, you may need to reconsider the materials and construction.
Naturally, an experienced designer can help you navigate these parameters. However, for the highest BAL ratings, BAL-FZ and BAL-40, you will find the most accurate and up-to-date advice from a designer with extensive experience in designing homes and renovations on Bushfire Prone Land with these ratings.
Bushfire Prone Land
A property is identified as Bushfire Prone Land because the land may be subject to bushfire attack. In Ku-ring-gai, Lane Cove and Willoughby Councils, for example, the assessment of a property on Bushfire Prone Land includes the following factors:
- surrounding vegetation type
- the distance of the vegetation from the site
A Section 10.7 Planning Certificate will confirm whether your property is on Bushfire Prone Land. Your local council issues this certificate. However, a Section 10.7 Planning Certificate will not tell you the BAL rating of your property.
To obtain a BAL rating, which is specific to your property, you will need a recent Bushfire Risk Assessment Report. This report is prepared by a Bushfire Consultant, qualified in Bushfire Risk Assessment and authorised by the NSW Rural Fire Service.
In the interest of saving time and money, prior to requesting Bushfire Risk Assessment Report or speaking to a builder, ask your designer for advice. They can advise on the type of approval required, the type of materials and construction required and what is possible. As part of the design service for this specialised area, it is likely they will have a preferred and experienced Bushfire Consultant and builder who they can recommend.
Types of approvals for a deck on Bushfire Prone Land
The options for approvals are relevant to the BAL rating on your property.
- You require council approval for decks on properties with BAL-40 and BAL-FZ ratings, regardless of other parameters. The DA (Development Application) for BAL-FZ ratings will be referred to the Rural Fire Service for consideration as part of the DA assessment process.
- You need a DA or CDC (Complying Development Certificate) application for most decks on properties up to and including BAL-29.
- There are limited circumstances where a timber deck can comply as an Exempt Development for BAL–Low and BAL-12.5. The proposed deck must meet several criteria including the size and location of the deck and the height above the ground.
Special construction and materials for a deck with a BAL rating
The purpose of the special construction is the protection of human life and to minimise the impact on property from the threat of bushfire.
Depending on the requirements of the relevant BAL rating, materials include:
- treated and untreated timber decking boards
- sheet products
- and ceramic tiles.
Timber decking boards considered as bushfire-resisting materials are only: appropriately treated timber products, and many high-density Australian hardwoods, for example Blackbutt and Spotted Gum.
Developing a property on Bushfire Prone Land must comply with bushfire protection regulations as well as the Australian Standards for fire safety. Your designer will integrate these conditions for your home to comply with regulations and receive approval. This applies to any deck or a major extension on Bushfire Prone Land.
Is a timber deck possible for my home on Bushfire Prone Land?
As you can see, based on the BAL rating of your property and the size and location of the deck, it may be possible in some circumstances.
In BAL-Low and BAL-12.5 it is possible, but in BAL-FZ it is not possible to have a timber deck.
In between these BAL levels, it may be possible, subject to a detailed investigation.
Employing and integrating the multiple sets of regulations to determine whether a timber deck is feasible can be a challenge.
When it comes to developing properties on Bushfire Prone Land, it’s still best to “Seek advice first”. See also my article “What You Must Know Before You Renovate on Bushfire Prone Land“.
Let experts guide you in bringing your ideal home into reality.