Balcony Safety Inspections


Raised Timber Framed - Balcony’s – Decks - Verandah’s and patio’s.

In Australia, as well as other countries with warmer climates, outdoor living facilities such as balconies, patios, decks, verandah’s are prominent and a common feature amongst residential buildings. These outdoor facilities are regularly used for outdoor activities, entertainment and relaxation purposes.

Contemporarily building standards in Australia are specific about structural integrity and the minimum load bearing capacity requirements for balconies that are positioned 1.0metre (3’ 3.5’’) or more above ground. The minimum load bearing requirements for these raised balconies are significantly greater than those required for residential internal floors.

When constructing balconies and the like it is essential to ensure that sound and industry acceptable construction methodologies are applied, and that construction is only carried out by qualified licensed builders. Note: Metal fixings must always be of corrosion resistant type, i.e. nails, bolts, proprietary fixings, etc. Note: Inspections often reveal the use of incorrect fixings.

Issues

Balcony failure can be catastrophic and can cause serious personal injuries, or even fatalities.

Decks, balconies, patio’s, verandah’s and similar structures with exposed to the external elements are conducive to weather induced deterioration, a condition which has the ability to initiate and promote: fungal decay, termite activity, corrosion of metal fixings (nails, screws, proprietary fixings, etc), as well as chemical delignification of structural and non-structural building components and elements.

The level and speed of deterioration is dependent of a number of factors including, the extent of exposure, orientation, the durability and quality of incorporated building materials, the quality and durability of incorporated fixings, the applied bearing and joining methods, surface preparation and protective treatment of structural and non-structural timbers including supports and joints, water proofing membranes and sealants (when applicable), flashings, type of decking, and draining ability of the deck, etc…

Some balcony type structures are poorly designed and constructed, and as a consequence are more conducive to premature and sometimes rapid deterioration.  Other similar well designed and built structures are more robust and less conducive to premature deterioration.

Because balconies and similar structures are used for various every day activities, including entertainment, when they are often loaded with numbers of people as well as a variety of goods, e.g. barbeque, tables, chairs, flower pots, gym equipment, storage, etc, it is essential that they are and remain of sound condition.

Recommendation

All raised balcony type structures, especially those that have been and are weather exposed, should be inspected at regular intervals.

Without considering the durability of building materials and construction methodologies, weather exposure and time are considered to be primary factors that directly influence the extent of deterioration of balcony and similar structures. This gradual deterioration will have a direct impact on the load bearing capacity, stability and integrity of the structure. As time passes and deterioration increases the load bearing capacity and structural integrity of balconies can substantially diminish, and without your awareness.

We urge that home owners take a positive approach to balcony safety by having the structure inspected by a licensed professional building inspector. Home owners are also urged to implement a proactive maintenance program, preferably in consultation with the building inspector, targeting current and future maintenance needs, for the purpose of keeping balconies functional and safe.

What should I do?

By contacting a Professional Building Inspector who is well experienced and qualified is a good start.  An experienced Building Inspector would be able to assess the condition of your balcony or similar structures with confidence and provide you with sound information on the status of the structure, repairs needs, as well as ongoing maintenance recommendations, and future inspection needs.

If in doubt about the safety and condition of your balcony or other similar structures, we recommend that you contact a professional Building Inspector for a full condition and safety assessment.  The self checklist below is not intended to render the structure in question safe or sound.  The check list is provided to improve self-awareness of the importance of having balconies and similar structures inspected at regular intervals, by a professional building inspector.

There are a number of regular quick self checks that you can do on your balcony, including:

Timber balconies and similar structures

  •  Are there signs of decay, rot, pest attack, e.g. wood borers, termites, fungi?
  •  Is the decking spongy when stood on or probed?
  •  Are there any loose or dislodging floor boards?
  •  Do post supports and connections look sound?
  •  Is the floor structure fully supported at floor joist and bearer supports?
  •  Are there any signs of sagging of deflection?
  •  Are there any signs of timber warping, bending, splitting, rusty nails and bolts, etc?
  •  Is there any evidence of corrosion to post supports, brackets, bolts, nails, proprietary fittings?
  •  Does rain water drain away from the building structure rather than towards the building structure?
  •  Are there any areas that look unsound or are of concern? 

Concrete Balconies

  •  Is there any evidence of concrete breaking away?
  •  Is there any evidence of exposed reinforcement?
  •  Is there any sign of concrete deflection or sagging?
  •  Is there any evidence of cracking or corrosion of balcony support elements?
  •  Is there any evidence of cracking of concrete?
  •  Are there any areas that appear unsound or hazardous? 

Handrails, Balustrades and Stairs

  •  Are there signs of decay, rot, pest attack, e.g. wood borers, termites, fungi?
  •  Are there any signs of instability, looseness, or corrosion?
  •  Are step there any step treads not fully and firmly supported by support stringers?
  •  Are handrails and balustrades firmly secured and firm?
  • Are there any areas of concern which appear unsound or hazardous?  

Email: enquiries@inspectionsqld.com.au 

Website:  www.inspectionsqld.com.au