Ongoing maintenance

Learn how to maintain the bushfire resilient properties of your new home

This section provides general advice on the management of new buildings.

Buildings are dynamic systems that constantly change, meaning there is an ever present need to maintain their bushfire resilient properties. Even appropriately designed buildings can become vulnerable to bushfire by a lack of regular maintenance. Remember that buildings follow a weakest link principle, where a single flaw in the management of the building can compromise the entire structure.

Care should be taken to ensure the bushfire resilience of your home is maintained and reflects the changing nature of the landscape. Be aware that new hazards may develop which warrant additional design or construction responses.

Follow these general management actions to maintain the bushfire resilient properties of your home:

  • Check for any damage to the buildings envelope. Pay close attention to the condition of doors, windows, vents, roof systems, and the buildings facades.
  • Clear dead leaves, twigs, bark, and other organic matter from around buildings, parking spaces and accessways. As a rule, aim to keep the area within 10 metres of the main building clear of loose, combustible materials. The frequency with which this maintenance is carried out will depend on your situation, for instance, more heavily vegetated gardens will require more frequent management.
  • Check that driveways and other accessways are in good condition and are free from bushfire hazards and other obstacles which may prevent or obstruct access.
  • Store movable objects, such as lawnmowers, caravans and boats away from the home and any secondary shelters.
  • Regularly clear fallen branches and leaves from around the home.
  • Ensure that home water pumps and water supplies (including hoses and fittings) are available and in good working condition. We recommend routine testing of all hoses, pumps and fire suppression systems before and during the bushfire season.
  • Update and refine your bushfire survival plan at least once per year. Note and adjust for any changes in the building’s condition, local bushfire hazards, road closures, accessibility (onto, through and adjacent to the property), access to water and equipment, and the health and mobility of occupants.

The integrity of walls and cladding should be maintained to retain their effectiveness as a barrier to radiant heat, wind, smoke, and ember attacks.

Follow these general management actions:

  • Keep all external walls clear of vegetation and other combustible elements.
  • Monitor external walls for cracks, gaps, and holes. Damaged surfaces should be repaired as soon as possible.
  • Damaged or missing panels, sheeting, and cladding should be repaired or replaced as soon as possible.
  • Monitor the condition of any exposed timber surfaces. Decaying timber is vulnerable to bushfire attack, as embers can become lodged within gaps. Gaps in the timber should be sealed and any fire-retardant treatments or coatings need to be reapplied.
  • Monitor painted surfaces for damage. Flaking, cracked, or chipped surfaces need to be repainted and any fire-retardant treatments need to be reapplied. Loose, flaking paint can readily ignite and create fine fuels which may also spread as embers.

It’s important to maintain the integrity of floors and underfloor spaces – poorly managed underfloor spaces are very vulnerable to bushfire. For new builds, we recommend building on a solid concrete slab to partially ‘design-out’ this risk.

Follow these general management actions:

  • Where underfloor spaces are enclosed, cladding should be regularly checked for holes, gaps, or cracks. Any damage should be repaired.
  • Routine maintenance should be carried out to clear vents and weep-holes of debris.
  • Do not store combustible materials in underfloor spaces.
  • Floor surfaces should be kept in good condition. Repair or replace any damaged surfaces.

Damaged or poorly managed roof systems are vulnerable to all forms of bushfire attack: wind, heat, flame, and embers. As a rule, care should be taken to maintain watertight seals on all exposed surfaces to prevent embers from gaining entry to the roof cavity.

Follow these general management actions:

  • Routinely remove leaves, twigs, bark, and other combustible materials from rooftops, vents, and gutters.
  • Routinely check the integrity of gutters and gutter shielding. Damaged materials should be repaired or replaced.
  • Routinely check tiles and roof lines for broken or dislodged roofing materials.
  • Maintain the integrity of sarking materials. Damaged materials should be repaired or replaced.
  • Maintain the seal between the roof and wall junctions. Damage should be repaired, and any gaps should be sealed. It is very important to maintain the integrity of the buildings envelope.
  • Avoid storing combustible materials in roof cavities.

A hand removes dry leaves from a metal gutter

Install gutter protection or remove leaves and other combustible debris (source: xshot/Shutterstock)

Most building losses can be attributed to a failure in door or window systems. Faulty windows, doors, and vents providing a means of entry for embers or surface fire to ignite combustible materials inside the house or within wall, floor, or roof cavities. This risk can be reduced by following some general management principles.

Follow these management actions:

  • Routinely check windows and door systems for damage. Split, cracked, or broken door and window frames should be repaired or replaced. Pay close attention to timber frames as they are particularly vulnerable to bushfire attack.
  • Check for gaps in window and door systems (e.g. between the door and doorframe). Gaps should be filled using draught seals or close-fitting construction methods.
  • Cracked or broken glazing should be repaired as soon as possible.
  • Routinely check doors for damage and excessive wear and tear. Damaged surfaces should be repaired and repainted, and any fire-retardant treatments should be reapplied.
  • Ensure that screens on windows and doors are kept in good condition. Tears or holes in screens need to be repaired.
  • Where window shutters are installed, routinely check that they function as intended. Non-combustible shutters can enhance the bushfire resilience of buildings, so ensure shutters are properly maintained in order to retain their bushfire resilient properties. As a rule, shutters should be closed when the building is unattended, in case a bushfire occurs when occupants are away from home.
  • If timber window shutters are installed, ensure that fire-retardant treatments or coatings are reapplied at regular intervals as specified by the manufacturer.
  • Keep the area around doors and windows clear of vegetation and other combustible elements, such as free-standing timber structures, piles of garden waste, and outdoor furniture.
  • Regularly check the condition of door mats. Damaged mats should be removed or replaced as they can create a trip hazard. Ensure that mats are made of a non-combustible material to minimise the chances of them igniting and spreading fire.

Poorly managed verandas and decks can ignite and spread fire to buildings or other parts of the property. We recommend using solid, non-combustible decking to partially ‘design-out’ this risk.

Follow these general management actions:

  • Monitor decks and verandas for damage or excessive wear and tear. Pay close attention to holes, cracks or gaps in surface materials which may provide a point of entry for ember attack. Repair or replace materials as required.
  • Routine maintenance should be carried out to remove accumulated debris.
  • Check timber decking and support columns for damage. Cracks or gaps in the timber should be sealed, repainted or replaced. Fire-retardant treatments should also be reapplied on a regular basis as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Maintain artificial lighting or navigation aids for use during low visibility conditions. Be mindful of slip and fall hazards around the perimeter of decks and verandas.
  • Keep decks and verandas clear of excessive clutter. Maintain clear, open spaces, especially near to doors, steps, and stairways where clutter may form a trip hazard. Clear debris accumulating in corner and close to combustible elements.
  • Minimise the number of plants stored on decks and verandas. Ensure that any plants are well-maintained and are potted in fire-resilient containers (such as ceramic or concrete pots). Plants should be positioned away from doors, windows, vents and stairs.