Rising property prices in major cities across Australia are encouraging many families to consider building their homes in the countryside. While living in the bush has its own appeal, there’s always the risk of bushfire in the great Australian outdoors.

If you are planning to build or renovate a house in an at-risk area, ensure you choose the most appropriate external cladding product because it represents your first line of defence against bushfire. The national launch of MaxiWall, a new, cost-competitive Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (AAC) product from Big River Group, has expanded the choice in fire-resistant masonry materials for builders and consumers.

Jim Bindon, Managing Director of Big River Industries, explains that MaxiWall can be used in the highest Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) areas: Flame Zone. Featuring an external render finish, MaxiWall is classified as a 100 per cent non-combustible building material, and can resist fire up to 1,200°C temperature as well as achieve a two-hour fire rating when installed with approved systems.

According to Bindon, homeowners needing to build a house rated BAL 29 or higher have to bear the additional costs involved in construction due to several design, specification and construction requirements that cannot be ignored. However, they are only made aware of this additional cost at the planning stage, which affects their building or renovating budget.

One of the greatest contributors to the building cost is the national energy rating requirements, as bushfire prone areas are both quite cold in winter and very hot in summer.

MaxiWall saves costs significantly for the homeowner not only during construction but also in the long-term. An entire MaxiWall exterior can be completed in a fraction of the time compared to rendered brick or block, which helps reduce construction time and site costs. With four times greater thermal resistance than standard house bricks, MaxiWall reduces the amount of energy required to heat or cool the home, providing long-term savings to homeowners.

The lightweight MaxiWall additionally reduces the amount of structural steel required in a two-storey home, further saving money. Savings can also be expected with reduced footing costs.

Bindon says MaxiWall’s contemporary rendered finish offers a more stylish and sustainable alternative to traditional brick and concrete, while still providing that solid feel of traditional bricks. MaxiWall can be finished in a multitude of different rendered finishes, ensuring any design choice can be accommodated.

MaxiWall’s national launch followed Big River Group’s acquisition of Adelaide Timber & Building Supplies (ATBS) earlier this year, ensuring the availability of the product in every region across Australia.

Australia’s building standard for bushfire-prone areas, the AS3959 covers everything from sub-floor supports and floors to roofs as well as verandahs and gas pipes, and sets the standard for each of the five BAL ratings:

  1. BAL 12.5: Low
  2. BAL 19: Moderate
  3. BAL 29: High
  4. BAL 40: Very High
  5. BAL FZ: Flame Zone

To determine a home’s BAL rating and any special requirements for building in a particular area, builders and homeowners must consult their local council, government or local fire authority in their state.

Top tips for fire-proofing your home

  • Select exterior housing materials and fencing for fire resistance
  • Keep gutters clear of debris and install a metal mesh guard
  • Install fine metal mesh screens on windows and doors
  • Attach a fire sprinkler system to gutters
  • Fit seals around doors and windows to eliminate gaps
  • Undertake some serious gardening to cut back trees and shrubs hanging over buildings, clean up leaves and twigs around the property, and keep lawns short
  • Repair any damaged or missing tiles on the roof, or gaps in external walls

MaxiWall is a pollutant-free building material, sourced from world class production facilities using German technology and automated processes to ensure every panel is of optimum quality and consistency. By using reduced raw materials, it helps reduce around 30 per cent of environmental waste compared to traditional concrete and 50 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.

MaxiWall also assures a more comfortable home living experience due to superior insulation and soundproofing qualities – up to seven decibels greater per surface area than other solid building materials of the same weight.

MaxiWall is fully compliant with current Australian Standards and has Australian Codemark Certification. The registered brand is wholly owned and exclusively distributed in Australia by Big River Group.