Preserving the integrity of a balcony is one of the most important steps that you can take. Whether you have recently purchased a complex or have been managing one for years, this feature is crucial on so many levels. Residential properties are not immune to structural safety and should be included, as well.
One of the most common problems that occurs in faulty balconies is from moisture build-up. If shortcuts are taken in the construction of a balcony or unskilled labor is used, water can collect behind the components used in building. This most often occurs when wood is the main building material for a balcony floor. Joints can also be affected by inadequate caulking or caulking in the wrong areas, leaving wood vulnerable to weather. Concrete can also begin to fail from exposure to the elements. Corrosion in joints can become weakened and crack, causing unstable load bearing qualities. Steel joints that are exposed from surrounding concrete pours can collect water and begin to rust. Without proper sealing, there is no protection to materials used and deterioration is destined to occur.
Deterioration from Age
It is often impossible to tell what type of deterioration has taken place until a balcony is removed. Exposing the prior construction of a balcony can give you a clear view into how much damage years have had on the structure. Rotted wood, rusted metal and crumbling concrete may all be hidden underneath the flooring and joints. Also, a building that is in excess of 30 or 40 years may not be up to the building codes of today.
Frequency of Inspections
It is the job of a state building inspector to look for unhealthy situations in regard to structures. They will be able to determine how a balcony is mounted, the approximate age and any moisture build-up. Yearly inspections are common and can often catch a problem with a balcony before it has to be replaced. Their job is to determine the safety of the structure to avoid any accidents.
Troubling Signs That You Can Look For
The news of balcony collapses is always troubling. It can also bring suspicion to the entire structure. A reputation can be shredded in a matter of minutes when a balcony gives way from improper construction, too much weight or wearing away of structural components. To perform your own self check, here are some concerns to look for:
- Creaks in the deck
- Wobbly rails
- Loose nails or screws
- Displacement of support posts in concrete
One or more of these signs may be present and indicate that you have an unhealthy balcony.
Replacing a Balcony
The steps in replacing your balcony may be quite different than what was done in the past. Flashing, membranes, ducts and other waterproofing devices are more critical to the building process than the actual construction. Placing these safeguards into your new balcony will prevent you from facing repair costs down the road. Make sure that the contractor that you choose has prior experience in building balconies and be sure to follow the regulations of your local building inspector.
There are new methods and techniques today to insure safety from balconies. Once all safety and quality building methods are implemented, the right maintenance and repair will keep your balcony sustainable for many years to come.
Some states have added new regulations on the frequency of inspections of balconies. Be sure to check with your local authorities before constructing a new balcony. Different areas of the country may call for unique rules to address such things as snow and ice and blowing sea salt.