You can see the bush from your back door or you’ve heard from ‘Bill’ down the road, who thinks that the street might be classed as being within a bushfire zone – so what now?

The bushfire zone & processing can all be a little confusing at first, especially if you haven’t tackled it before; but relax, there IS a way through it.

Building even in the highest level bushfire zone doesn’t stop you from building, it just impacts & limits what your material options are.

Have a look at this outdoor living, deck & patio cover we created at West Pymble. This construction actually ticked pretty much every box.

  • Development Application through Ku-ring gai Council
  • There is an easement running right under the deck
  • The property is classed as BAL FZ – to put it simply that means we couldn’t use any timber within the construction

So can you tell? Does the finished result look so far different to what you had in your mind? Being classed as a BAL Flame Zone (FZ) doesn’t mean the end of your outdoor living dream.

To learn more about this particular deck/patio cover outdoor living area in West Pymble, click through here to go through to the case study. 

Essentially there are 3 first steps that you need to take to find out IF you are in a BAL zone & if you are, what zone you actually are.


Step One – Confirm if you are in bushfire prone land

This can be done quickly & for free a number of ways.

If you have recently bought the home, dig out all of your paperwork/contract of sale etc & look for a council document titled ‘149 (2)(5) Certificate’. This will have a section which advises if you are located in bushfire prone land.

Alternatively, check online via the NSW Rural Fire Service website. Just plug in your street address & it will come up a yeah or a neah. Easy; however & remember that this is only step one.


Step Two – Confirm your BAL Zone

Huh?? What’s a BAL Zone I hear you ask? This is the biggest piece in the puzzle & without this we really don’t know where we are heading.

For instance, it might be obvious that you are in a BAL Zone, but there might be a house between you & the bush, so the level could be either BAL 29 or BAL 40.

In terms of construction this could be the difference of timber vs no timber for your deck or being able to use light panels or not within your patio cover. So this changes the aesthetics, feel, materials & cost of your project.

BAL = Bushfire Attack Level & it is a calculation based upon the amount of radiant heat which may affect your property. The higher the level of radiant heat, the more protection you will need when you construct.

So what are the BAL zones? Have a look at the table below. BAL LOW is the lowest bushfire risk & BAL FZ the highest.


BALDescription of the risk
BAL LOWLowest risk form a potential fire
BAL 12.5Risk is primarily from potential embers during a fire
BAL 19Moderate Risk
BAL 29High Risk
BAL 40Very High Risk
BAL FZExtreme Risk

Your BAL Zone is determined by a number of factors where you live including, the vegetation surrounding you, the distance of this vegetation from your home & the slope of the land.

Whether you are planning the construct via a Development Application through your local council or via  CDC (Complying Development Certificate) through a PCA you will require a written BAL report.

Some Local Councils can provide this service or even local private bushfire consultants are available as well. If you are putting it into the too hard basket, we are here to obtain this report for you, so don’t stress.


Step Three – Material & Design Selection

You have now found out your BAL zone, so you can understand what material options are available to you & get the best design for your outdoor living area. This blog will help you understand your design options.

Essentially, the higher the BAL level, the greater the risk, thus the more limitations there are on the materials you can select for your patio cover or deck outdoor living area.

We’ve created the tables below to try & keep it simple & clear to understand – however, keep in mind that this is very generalised & you will need to seek further advice prior to proceeding with any construction. 

Patio Covers:

BALMaterial Options
BAL LOWNo special construction requirements! Bingo, nice & easy.
BAL 12.5All four roofing options are an option & yes you can include natural lite panels
BAL 19Roofing must be non combustible.
Options available/include:
‘Premium Series’ Colorbond - no natural lite strips
Insulated patio cover material
Lined ceiling
BAL 29As per BAL 19 detailed above - last opportunity to include natural light srips within the ‘Premium Series’ Colorbond & Insulated materials.
BAL 40No timber framing
‘Velux’ skylights are still an option here where you are looking at a lined ceiling option.
Last opportunity to use Insulated materials, however no natural sky lights are an option
BAL FZOptions available are:
‘Premium Series’ Colorbond - no natural lite strips
Lined ceiling but not in timber - no sky lights
‘Eclipse’ Opening/Closing louvers


BALMaterial Options
BAL LOWEasy. No special construction requirements!
BAL 12.5Hardwood decking is available
Framing can still be treated pine
BAL 19This is where it can get a little tricky…..
There are no requirements for decking materials IF:
The decking is more than 300mm (measured horizontally at deck level) from glazed elements (ie a window or glass door) that are less than 400mm (measured vertically) from the surface of the deck.

In other words, if you have a window or door on the deck, that’s when you will need to consider a non-combustible material or bushfire resisting timber.
BAL 29You can still use timber however it must be ‘bushfire-resisting’ timber or a non combustible material.
For framing we move to our ‘Colorspan Exterior Flooring System’
BAL 40No timber
Tiles or aluminium decking boards
Framing: ‘Colorspan Exterior Flooring System’
BAL FZAs per BAL 40 detailed above

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