Gutter guard vs. ember guard :
Key differences explained
Under the Standard (AS3959:2009 Amdt 2011) and building regulations all newly built buildings in bushfire prone areas need to be guarded by using an ember guard. Ember guards and gutter guards are two different things and are not interchangeable terms. Their reference is in regard to different applications and should not be confused in determining compliance with the Australian Standard and Building Code of Australia.
+ A gutter guard is designed to minimize the access of debris and leaf litter to the gutters of your home. In a bushfire-prone area zone, it is not mandatory, but if you are installing one it must :
- be non-combustible
- except for being non-combustible there is no other requirement of a gutter guard product
+ An ember guard is designed to limit access of embers into areas of risk, like the roof cavity. It must :
- be non-combustible
- have a maximum aperture (or gap) of 2mm
- be made of corrosion-resistant steel, bronze or aluminium in BAL 12.5 – BAL 29
- be made of corrosion-resistant steel or bronze in BAL 40 & BAL FZ
How Blue Mountain Mesh complies
An ember guard is not specifically designed to act as a gutter guard, but some gutter guards – e.g. Blue Mountain Mesh 2mm Super Fine Mesh, are not only a high quality steel gutter guard, but also meet the requirements to act as an ember guard for your gutters stopping access of embers to the roof cavity.
Blue Mountain 2mm Superfine All Steel Mesh has been specifically designed to meet the new Australian Standards requirements for the ember guard protection of sheet roofs for all Bushfire Attack Levels (BAL-12.5 clause 5.6.3; BAL-19 clause 6.6.3; BAL-29 clause 7.6.3; BAL-40 clause 8.6.3; BAL-FZ clause 9.6.3-2011).
The 2mm aperture is the prescribed opening to restrict burning debris from entering gaps and igniting buildings. The products have also undergone rigorous, independent testing by the CSIRO to certify that the materials used meet the definition of non-combustible prescribed in the Building Code of Australia, achieving Spread-of-Flame Index of ‘0’. (CSIRO,2009)
Builders have found that the benefit of installing 2mm mesh as an ember guard is it is able to act as a gutter guard as well as an ember guard ensuring gutters are kept free of leaves and debris whilst preventing ember attack.
Benefits of installing a gutter guard for bushfire protection
There are other benefits to installing a compliant gutter guard as an ember guard (e.g. such as Blue Mountain Mesh). As well as preventing embers from entering the roof cavity and gutters, gutter guards keep gutters clear of leaves and debris, reduce gutter cleaning and maintenance and prevent native animals and pests entering the roof space (see BMM Information Guides – Pest Control or Household Savings).
Furthermore, gutter guards also help prevent blocked gutters that can also cause flooding and damage to the home in the opposite climate events – severe rain and storms (see BMM Information Guide – Storm Damage Protection). In cases where rain water collection systems are installed, the gutter protection also improves rain water quality by preventing leaves and debris from breaking down in the gutter.
Property owners can get all the benefits of gutter protection and ember guard protection by ensuring that the gutter guard they select meets the ember guard requirements.
The risk of using non-complying gutter guards
The key feature of any leaf guard installed in bushfire prone areas is that it must be NON-COMBUSTIBLE. Some plastic gutter guard companies claim their product is fire resistant, that is, made with plastic that has been treated with flame retardant additives that will extinguish a burning ember. However, plastic is not fire proof like steel. It’s likely that there will still be a hole in the gutter guard where the ember has landed, making the gutter vulnerable to further ember attack. Any holes in the gutter guard will also affect how well it can keep leaves and other debris out of the gutter, reducing its effectiveness overall.
Plastic gutter guard goes up in flames
“Our house isn’t surrounded by bushland, but there is a nature reserve down the road. On this particular day, a fire had started in the reserve and a howling easterly wind was carrying embers hundreds of metres away,” recalled Alan.
The embers caused spot fires along his street, including one in Alan’s gutters. Here, they found plenty of fuel where the large holes in the plastic gutter guard he was using had failed to stop leaves from building up in the gutters.
“Luckily my wife woke me up. I ran outside and saw the gutters on the main house were on fire. The plastic gutter guard had actually ignited and the whole thing could’ve gone up had I not caught it in time.”
Alan later discovered that his ‘protected’ gutters were full of leaves, just sitting there waiting to burn. He has since replaced the plastic guard with a steel gutter guard and has been very pleased with its performance.
“Sure you can buy a roll of plastic gutter guard very cheaply but it will not protect your home. If the same thing happened to us again, the steel mesh gutter guard would prevent the embers from getting into the gutter, and there would be no leaves in there anyway, as they just blow off the roof. It’s well worth the investment,” he said.
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