It’s critical to ascertain whether your balcony has been built properly.
This is not simply a matter of understanding structural performance – in many apartment buildings, understanding efficacy or otherwise of balcony construction extends to waterproofing systems and their design and application.
One way to understand your balcony 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.
- If it leaks into the building – your apartment or one under yours there is likely a design and waterproofing issue. Expert assessment is essential.
Don’t wait, if there is anything suspicious about a balcony’s stability or efficacy, avoid the area until an Architect is able to determine the full scale of the problem.