Maintenance: Balconies

In this chapter we explain some building terms terms in relation to balconies, along with common problems. We also look at preventative maintenance.

Legislation - Strata Titles Act

Click on Legislation above, to view strata title legislation and hints.

Legislation - Community Titles Act

Click on Legislation above, to view community title legislation and hints.


Balcony Structure

The following picture is a view of a timber & steel framed balcony.

Balconies come as cantilevered (picture below) or supported on posts back to the building, or on footings in the ground. The cantilevered balcony relies on the joists running back someway into the building proper.

balcony components

Common Problems

  • Weathering - balconies are by their nature out in all weathers. The regular repainting of timbers and sealing of timber decks can help extend the life of a balcony.
  • Timber rot - rot is a very common problem in balcony timbers. This is caused by fungi developing where water settles into joints in the timber.
  • Rusting of steel work - a significant problem in seaside locations.
  • Concrete balconies - spalling of concrete, rusting of reinforcing in seaside environments

The following pictures illustrate many of the common problems with balconies, leaving them in a poor or dangerous state.

balcony_problems
Click on picture for large image
balcony problems
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Hint

If your balconies look like one of these make sure no one can use them until they are deemed safe by a structural engineer. We suggest fixing the access doors so that they cannot be used.


Best Practice

It's critical to ascertain whether your balcony was built properly.

Have it checked out by a structural engineer. The following tips may also be useful:


 

Timber Balconies

  1. Identify the type (species) of timber. Oregon may not be appropriate for external structures. It is distinguishable by a broad softwood grain pattern and by a pinkish colour when fresh surfaces are exposed, such as during a split, for instance.  
      
  2. Observe for any compression or deformity in the structural members.  
       
  3. Test the timber by probing with a sharp object such as a screwdriver. Decayed timber may feel soft and spongy. 
      
  4. 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.
      
  5. Make sure the timber balcony is properly fixed to the house or that the 'members' run into the house.
        
  6. Check base of timber posts for rot, and again check brackets and bolts for signs of rust.
      
  7. Posts need to be securely anchored into the ground and not just bolted into the paving.
      
  8. Check handrails and vertical balustrade to make sure they are not rotting and unstable.

 

balcony collapse

Outcome of failure to maintain a timber balcony


Concrete Balconies

  1. Look for signs of deflection. If the balcony leans, there is a problem. 
       
  2. Examine the underside of the concrete balcony. Rust stains on exposed steel reinforcing are a sign of serious problems. 
      
  3. Check handrails and balustrades to make sure they are not rotting, rusting, loose or unstable.
      
  4. 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 you are concerned about a balcony's stability, avoid the area until an architect or building engineer is able to determine the full scale of the problem.

balcony collapse

Example of spalling concrete balcony

Tools

The following tools may assist in the maintenance of your group's balconies.

Top 10 maintenance tipsbalcony maintenance

Maintenance brochure

balcony maintenance

Caring for concrete

maintaining concrete

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UnitCare Services thanks the Archicentre for the use of their information.

For more information on renovation and design, including fact sheets, visit www.archicentre.com.au