10 Feb What BAL ratings mean for your Gutter Guard.
Do you live in a bushfire prone area? If so, then it is important that you understand what the Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) is, how your home is rated and what you can do to protect it. BAL is a scale that is used to determine a building’s risk of catching on fire is, particularly in relation to bushfires.
When constructing new homes and buildings in these areas, the BAL scale is used to assess the suitability and safety of the construction and building and there are six ratings overall. Each level dictates the construction methods and materials used and their aim is to not only prevent a bushfire from destroying the building, but also prevent it from spreading on to other areas.
With each increase in level, it is assumed that it meets all the risks from the previous rating alongside the additional ones at the new level.
So what are the six Bushfire Attack Levels?
BAL Low – No significant risk. No construction requirements.
This is the lowest level on the scale and suggests that there is almost no risk from embers, radiant heat or flames. These means that builders do not need to meet any construction requirements, although if you are worried about your home then it is advisable to follow the BAL 12.5 requirements to protect your home.
BAL 12.5 – Ember Risk
BAL 12.5 is the second level on the scale and is issued when there is sufficient enough risk of fire from either embers or burning debris. This level indicates that construction will need to meet the set criteria laid out under BAL 12.5 and you should take steps to protect your home too. This level includes measures such as ensuring roof ventilation openings including gables should be covered in an ember mesh. It also specifies that all gutter or leaf guards used be non-combustible so if you are thinking of fitting a gutter guard system make sure it has a CSIRO flammability index of 0.
This was enforced on new homes built after 2013 so it might be worth checking if you have an older home to see what Bushfire protection measures where built in during construction. You can find the full list of measures needed to comply with BAL 12.5 here.
All our gutter guard products comply with this standard.
BAL 19 – Increased heat flux and possibility of debris igniting due to increased embers
The third level indicates a moderate risk of the building catching fire and means that there is sufficient enough cause for concern. In particular, the two main factors to be aware of are increased radiant heat and ember attacks, so buildings should be constructed to prevent damage from these and also help to stop the spread of the fire. It is possible to reduce BAL 19 by removing the elements that increase the risk of radiant heat. The main difference in this level is the specification for thicker glass to be better able to withstand increased radiant heat.
All of our Metal Gutter guard products comply with this standard so you can choose from our Guttermesh Aluminium or Tuffmesh Range
BAL 29 – Increased heat flux, burning debris and risk to building integrity.
BAL 29 indicates that there is a high risk of the building catching fire because of either burning embers or increased heat flux. When construction begins on a property, the building must meet all required elements of BAL 29 to protect against embers, debris and heat and this level also indicates that there is a risk of the building being exposed to open flames. This means that the walls of the property must be bushfire resistant and clad in cement, steel or bushfire resistant timber of a higher thickness as well as increased thickness of the windows.
For this level both our Guttermesh and Tuffmesh metal range are compliant, but we would advise most homeowners that Tuffmesh may be the better option as a BAL 29 rating often means that there are tress in close proximity to the property and the Tuff mesh is better able to withstand large falling branches over a long period of time.
BAL 40 – Increased exposure to flames
BAL 40 is the penultimate level on the scale and carries all of the risks of the previous levels but now also indicates that the property is now facing a significantly higher risk of exposure to flames. BAL 40 means that construction of the property will need to meet all requirements of this level, including the use of materials that are highly resistant to flames. Each property should also be actively preventing the spread of flames, embers and radiant heat. Wooden cladding is prohibited at this level and materials used must comply with AS 1530.8.1 and air conditioning units cannot be mounted to the roof.
For BAL 40 our ember guard product both Tuffmesh Ember and our steel ember guard meet this rating.
BAL FZ or Flame Zone – Direct contact with flames
The highest level on the Bushfire Attack Level scale is FZ or Flame Zone and indicates that there is a direct threat to both the property and the residents. When this level is reached, there needs to be significant protection put in place to reduce the threat from fire. These include introducing things such as radiant heat barriers within the construction and also making modifications to the building and surrounding area.
The threat of Flame Zone is so severe that it is actually recommended that you do not build your home in a designated FZ zone and instead seek a new area to build the home. If you do live in an FZ area our Tuffmesh ember and our steel ember guards are rated for this level.
If you are unsure which category your home falls into, you can typically find out at your local council office there is also this handy online quick calculator which may give you an idea but it is always best to check with your local council as they will be able to help.
If you are unsure of anything, please get in contact with your local council office who will be able to advise you on the BAL requirements needed. At Aussie Gutter Protection we stock a range of products which are suitable for the different BAL requirements so we can keep you home as safe as possible.
Bushfires are a major threat to many homeowners across Australia and if you are unsure what precautions you should be taking to protect your home from burning embers, we have a wide range of Ember Guards available for your property.