Common Balcony Problems

Posted on Posted in Balconies

Balconies are popular additions to homes. Balconies give the homeowners additional living areas especially to those who live in apartment buildings and condominiums where space is at a premium. Balconies also give houses a unique charm that is pleasant to see and be in. Homeowners need to be aware though of the common balcony problems and take a proactive stance to ensure that their balconies remain safe for a long, long time. Awareness is a benefit as well for lessors or landlords to avoid litigation that may arise should balcony accidents happen in their rentals.

(Photo from balconette.co.uk)
(Photo from balconette.co.uk)

A balcony is an elevated platform projecting from the wall of a building supported by columns or console brackets, surrounded by balustrades or railings and may be accessed through a door or window in the upper floor of a building. Balcony problems may arise from many factors such as shoddy workmanship, the use of improper materials, obliviousness to construction law or poor design. These problems may be categorized broadly as construction defects, moisture problems, and structural deficiencies.

Construction defects. According to the International Risk Management Institute, a construction defect is “a deficiency in the design or construction of a building or structure resulting from a failure to design or construct in a reasonably workmanlike manner, and/or in accordance with a buyer’s reasonable expectation.” Examples of construction defects in balconies are: using the wrong type of wood or fasteners; failure to add flashing or using the wrong concrete mix; and improper connection of deck to building.

The balcony blueprints and design may be fine but somewhere along the process of constructing it, something was built or installed incorrectly. Construction defects may also result from contractors who fail to use the proper materials required or fail to adhere to blueprints, design standards or worse, abide by the building code.

Moisture Problems. Moisture problems can exist in balconies whether they are made from wood or concrete. Ignoring moisture issues can lead to serious stability problems. Excess moisture in balconies happens when there are failures in installing or sealing decks, waterproofing, and sloping deck away from building properly.

Inadequate or improper flashing (thin pieces of impervious material installed to prevent the passage of water into a structure from a joint or as part of a weather resistant barrier system) to where the balcony attaches to the building will allow water to enter the wall and cause serious structural damage over time.

The balcony should also be sloped in such a way that it directs water away from the building it is attached to. Water cannot be allowed to go behind the balcony framing or it will rot the wood or rust the framing to the point where it is no longer safe.

Balcony supports are also affected by repeated water exposure and can cause serious structural problems. This type of support erosion or rot is exacerbated on taller buildings such as condominiums. If each story has a balcony and the water is funneling to the same direction or support on every level, the entire length of that support will wear out from the top most floor to the ground level. Even more concerning, the effect is cumulative. That means supports on the lower levels will have more exposure and more damage than those on upper levels. Not only do these lower levels have to bear moisture exposure from their own deck or balcony they are exposed to the moisture coming off every balcony above them, too.

Structural deficiencies. These may develop over time and not necessarily inherent in the balcony design or construction. Structural failures may result from water damage or rot that take time to develop. Cantilevering may also lead to structural deficiencies. Cantilevered decks are built on concrete that extends out from the main structure of the building. There are no direct supports underneath this type of balcony and sometimes the weight of a cantilevered balcony may cause stress fractures, cracks, or even breaks in the concrete support, making the structure unsafe.

Regularly checking up on your balcony is a very important factor in safety. Check out all the parts of your balcony regularly. The most important things to watch out for are rotting, rusting, corrosion and loose or unstable parts. Examine bolt, brackets, handrails, balustrades and all metal parts and fasteners for rust. Pay close attention to loose rails and balustrades even if there is just a slight movement as this may already signify a problem.

For wooden balconies, take particular attention to places where two pieces of lumber join together as these are places where wood generally rots. If your balcony is concrete, check if there is deflection (the degree to which a structural element is displaced under a load). The presence of spalling or where chunks of concrete are flaking off may indicate a serious problem as well.

If your balcony is already showing these signs, now is the time to call professionals to make the necessary repairs and/or maintenance steps. Aside from conducting a thorough balcony inspection, a professional contractor is well equipped to determine the full scale of the problem as well as providing you with the solutions.

If you live in the Los Angeles area, Westside Company can provide you with this invaluable service regardless if your property is a residential or commercial building. With over two decades of experience, Westside Company has seen every type of balcony problem. We are committed to giving our clients the best possible experience and will work on you balcony until it is in perfect condition.

Call us 310 994 4626 or e-mail us at westsidewaterproofing@gmail.com for a free consultation. If your balcony is already showing symptoms, keep yourself and your loved ones safe by getting in touch with Westside Company ASAP. We also provide our services in Anaheim, Beverly Hills, Inglewood, Santa Ana, and Fullerton, among others. For Westside Company, “No place is too far and no job is too small.” Don’t be a statistic in the news. Keep you balcony safe and call Westside Company.