A Leaking Balcony, Should I Be Worried?

Insurance companies report waterproofing is usually less than 1% of building costs but water leaks and subsequent damage represent approx 80% of building defects!

The hot weather also means plenty of parties and outdoor entertaining. But before you invite friends and family around for a barbecue, check that your balcony, deck and balustrades are designed to bear the additional load of people and equipment.

With more people entertaining outdoors over the holiday period, it is important that balconies and decks are inspected for deterioration (particularly in coastal areas, where salt and rain can be damaging) and, where applicable, to ensure such structures are properly fixed to buildings.

‘Chaotic’: Two women dead, 17 injured after balcony collapse at Doncaster East

The collapse of a balcony in Doncaster East on December 16, 2017, was a tragic reminder of the importance of regularly maintaining your balcony or deck.

https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/balcony-collapse-at-doncaster-east-20171216-h05xkk.html

Some things that homeowners and tenants should look out for include:

  • Puddles of water at the base of posts or on the deck or balcony surface
  • Rotting or lose balustrades/handrails and loose or rusted brackets and bolts; and
  • Cracked concrete or signs of leaning and cracked or weak mortar, or dislodged brickwork/masonry.
Thermal Camera Revealing Ponding Water on a Balcony.
Cracked Concrete to the Balcony

The VBA also recommends using a registered builder or a structural engineer to conduct maintenance checks and repairs to balconies and decks, including balustrades.

Please contact Site Inspections (1300 906 980) for any queries or to book an inspection.

The VBA’s Executive Director Operations, Mark Rossiter, said the annual inspection and upkeep of balconies, decks and balustrades is an essential part of everybody’s home and property maintenance routine.

Balconies, decks and balustrades can be dangerous if not properly built and maintained,” Mr Rossiter said.

“Take the time to give your outdoor areas a thorough inspection. If you see anything unusual or you’re unsure about the structural integrity of your balcony, deck or balustrading, avoid the area and contact a registered builder or structural engineer.”

What can affect balconies, decks and balustrades?

There are many things building owners should be aware of that can affect the structural adequacy of a balcony, deck or balustrading.
These may include:

Termites

Balcony with termite damage

Timbers can be affected by insect attack. In areas of termite risk, the appropriate timber and treatment are needed, regardless of whether the council has declared the area likely to be subject to termite attack.

Wet rot

Balcony with rotted beams

Timber is affected by water. Wet rot occurs when a timber member is in constant contact with the ground or another timber member in the presence of moisture.

Seaside and corrosive effects

Corrosive environments can affect unprotected steel structures, reinforcing steel and fixings, such as bolts and fixing plates, particularly in areas near coastlines. Corrosion will show up on metal as staining/rusting or bubbling.  When this occurs, it means that water has penetrated the metal and is beginning to eat away at the material.  If unchecked, it can spread to welds and cause them to break apart – putting the entire balcony structure at risk of collapsing.

Loadings 

Groups of people, large pots, barbeques, water features and the like, provide additional loads for a balcony to support. The balcony may not have been designed to support the extra weight and if overloaded, can cause the balcony to collapse.

Concrete Cracks

Cracks in concrete are a clear indication that stress and/or water have undermined the integrity of the material.  Depending upon the depth of the cracks, the structure may or may not pose a risk to those using the balcony.  In all instances where concrete cracks are visible, immediate evaluation by a Registered Builder is recommended.

Please contact Site Inspections (1300 906 980) for any queries or to book an inspection.