It’s critical to ascertain whether your balcony has been built properly. One way is by checking council records for proof of a building approval. Another way is by having it checked out by a structural engineer or an Archicentre Australia trained architect.
The following tips may also be useful:
- Identify the species of timber. Oregon is not considered appropriate for external structures. It is distinguishable by a broad softwood grain pattern and by a pinkish colour when fresh surfaces are exposed, like during a split, for instance.
- Observe for any compression or deformation of the structural members.
- Test the timber by probing with a sharp object like a screwdriver. Decayed timber may feel soft and spongy.
- Gain access underneath using a ladder. Check connection points at the beams with a screwdriver for deterioration. Timber generally rots where two pieces of timber join together. Examine brackets and bolts to make sure they are not rusted.
- Make sure the timber balcony is properly fixed to the house or that the members run into the house.
- Check bases of timber posts for rot and again check brackets and bolts for signs of rust.
- Posts need to be securely anchored into the ground and not just bolted into the paving.
- Check handrails and vertical balustrades to make sure they are not rotted and unstable.
- Look for signs of deflection. If the balcony leans, there is a problem.
- Examine the underside of the concrete balcony. Rust stains on exposed steel reinforcing are signs of a serious problem.
- Check handrails and balustrades to make sure they are not rotted, loose or unstable.
- The presence of spalling, where chunks of concrete are flaking off, may be a serious problem and needs to be inspected by an expert.
Don’t wait, if there is anything suspicious about a balcony’s stability, avoid the area until an Architect is able to determine the full scale of the problem.